"HAUNTER, for me, is almost an overcorrection," Enoma Asowata says of his new band.
A seasoned guitarist, Asowata boasts a long history in the Houston music scene. Since the age of 21, he has played in a plethora of bands, most recently serving as the guitarist for Otenki, an outfit that saw quite a bit of regional success and even landed spots on the likes of Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos.
But the self-described former sadboy eventually decided it was time to quit sulking, so he set out to write some music that was a bit more experimental and less self-absorbed.
"The idea of the band started years ago," Asowata says of HAUNTER, a synth-pop leaning quartet of musicians from different backgrounds. "I had met our producer Tyler (Smyth) because he working with Dangerkids, this super amazing rap metal kind of band. They would come into town and stay at my place, and he and I would talk pretty much all night about music."
Smyth eventually invited Asowata to Los Angeles to record with him, even though they were both unsure of what exactly they were trying to accomplish. But they were certain that they couldn't do it on their own, which is when Asowata contacted Lucy Lenoir, the front woman of Apothica.
"Progressive metal is all I've ever done," Lenoir says. "(Apothica) is the only other band I've ever been in, so it's different for me to be singing so much. It's challenging, but I really enjoy it a whole lot. It's probably one of the more fun things I've done in my life."
Her performance history notwithstanding, Lenoir says she loves all types of music, from R&B and pop to classic rock, opera and even reggaeton. Which is when Asowata interjects to suggest that HAUNTER just might write a reggaeton track one day.
"Fuck labels, fuck genres," Asowata says. "Whatever we think is gonna' sound cool, we want to do it."
HAUNTER came about by chance, he says. Otenki shared a stage with Apothica a few years prior, so Asowata and Lenoir had met in passing. Which was enough for the infamously outgoing Asowata to consider her when he and Smyth were looking for a singer.
"I reached out like, 'Hey, I know you don't know me very well, but do you want to hop on a plane, travel across the country and write music with someone you barely know?' And she said yes."
Inspired by the infectious anthems of Chvrches, HAUNTER got to work writing music in Los Angeles. With Smyth at the helm - contributing as both a songwriter and producer - the band eventually recorded 10 tracks, and there are already plans to return to the City of Angels later this year to make even more music. But there are no plans to release an official album any time soon.
"The game plan for us is releasing singles," Asowata says. "I don't think there's going to be a true album release.
"The idea of an album with this generation doesn't make a whole lot of sense," he continues. "Because you put out all the songs at once then everyone's like, 'All right, cool. What else ya' got?'"
Guitarist Mike Ray says HAUNTER's gameplan is to release a steady stream of content, though he thinks it's likely that all of it will eventually be assembled into a proper record, without all the fanfare.
"The subsequent singles we have are not in the same lane," Asowata says. "We're genre-hoppers, and every song is its own island."
"I feel like 'Love You Better' has a little bit of everything," Ray says of the group's first single, released today. "They each have their own personality, their own space, but they could conceivably fit under the umbrella of synth-pop."
And despite being a local act, HAUNTER has no plans for any recurring gigs around town.
"Making sure that each show feels like an event goes a long way," Ray says. "Every band takes a long break between tours to redesign the set, the lighting and all that stuff. Which makes each show into a unique experience, and we think taking the time to craft something like that is a lot more valuable than just playing every month somewhere and hoping people show up."
Asowata attributes much of HAUNTER's most compelling aspects to his band mates: Mark Schroeder's driving bass lines, Lenoir's vocal abilities and Ray's guitar parts that are so good Asowata wishes he wrote them himself.
He goes on to emphasize that Schroeder and Ray keep the band focused and that all three of them come to Lenoir with solid groundwork for songs, allowing her to split her time between HAUNTER and Apothica.
"I learned a very long time ago that my strength is not as a primary songwriter," Ray says. "So I just try to take things that other people are doing and make them better."
The finished product will speak for itself, and fans will decide whether HAUNTER's music will have staying power. But for now, Asowata, Lenoir, Ray and Schroeder feel especially proud of the work they've done and the art they've created.
"We had no expectations. We just got in a room together," Ray says "And not having a structure or end-goal allowed the songs to become what they were supposed to be."
"Everything kind of happened by chance." Asowata agrees. "And so far, it's exceeded any expectations I had of what this project could be."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.