Alexa Hunter talks about the return of Disturbed Furniture

Formed in 1979, Disturbed Furniture were part of the arts and music scene surrounding downtown New York City’s Club 57. Fusing punk with elements of funk and other styles, they put out a well-received 45, toured the East Coast, and opened for bands such as The GoGo’s, The Psychedelic Furs, and The Stranglers. But within three years, the group was no more. Now, Disturbed Furniture has returned with a new EP, “Continuous Pleasures.”

The reunion came out of being featured in MoMA’s 2017 retrospective “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.” Lead singer Alexa Hunter contributed videos and cover art for the exhibition, and the positive response led her to pursue a reunion.  With original members Jorge Arevalo on guitar, Mick Oakleaf on drums, and special guest Shin Sakaino on bass, they began performing, writing, and recording again.   

How does it feel to be back with Disturbed Furniture?

Alexa Hunter: How does it feel? It feels wonderful. It feels very natural. It’s like “what took so long to get back to it?” I feel very fortunate the way it tumbled out with the show in New York and how a good friend who’s a film director had saved this video made in 1982. I didn’t even have a copy of that. We only played once at Danceteria. I never thought it was very good, but it was uncovered and the museum curators saw it and loved it. Then this idea was born: well, what about a reunion? So it was just happenstance and it just rolled out pretty naturally.

Why was the band so short-lived initially?

Alexa Hunter: I’ve had to sort of go back to that time and try to remember. Why did I end the band? Because we were doing well. We were about to play the 9:30 club and Washington DC. Things were okay. I think that I was very restless and ambitious and maybe wanted things to happen faster. I’m not going to mention names, but there was someone who came on board as a manager who screwed things up and pitted us against each other. There was the typical band ego-clashing going on. I think it was naivety to think other things would be better, like doing solo projects at that point. It was a bunch of different little things. That added up, so I just threw out my arms in disgust and ended it.

Had there been any previous thoughts of or attempts at a revival?

Alexa Hunter: Not with Disturbed Furniture. But when I moved to LA 30 years ago, I did try to get a band started, but it was very difficult. Back in New York, I was so much a part of a scene; we all knew each other, and everybody shared band members, as well as other things. But in LA, I was starting from scratch. I didn’t have a community of artists and musicians here. And the club scene was so spread out, and it didn’t work. I tried it for a couple of years with a new band. We played some clubs, and I wrote some songs, and then it just didn’t seem to be working.

Has anything surprised you about working together again, or the response?

Alexa Hunter: I thought it was going to be a one-time thing—just do one reunion show and it would be all about the nostalgia for the music from back in the 80s. I think what’s been most surprising is how the music from the 80s has stood the test of time and people are just responding to the here and the now, and we still sound good. We have an amazing drummer and an amazing guitarist. That has everything to do with the presentation of the band and the way the songs sound now. We’re all better at our craft. It’s not like people stopped doing music; they stopped doing Disturbed Furniture, but they went on and all had careers. So, I think what’s been very surprising as is how good the music sounds and how we are enjoying each other’s company again as grownups.

When recording the new EP, were you thinking about maintaining the identity of the band? Or did you do what came naturally, being back together?

Alexa Hunter: I don’t think I thought about that too much. We have a couple of old songs, so that identity was already in place. And then the newer songs, they’re a little different, but I think there was a sort of a pole, a sway toward the sound from the 80s. I wrote all the songs, with Jorge Arévalo Mateus co-writing two; there was a voice there that’s consistent all the way through. I think there’s something about the way I use language and the structures of songs. Some of the melodic stuff is a through-line in all my music.

Which of the songs on the EP were older?

Alexa Hunter: The song “Hit or a Miss” is kind of punky. That was sort of my first song with the band. So, that’s the oldest song. We had never properly recorded it, and we just thought it would be cool to throw in something that was so old. And of that 1980 moment, “Halo of Pain” was another old song of mine that the band didn’t do very often. I don’t know why nobody really liked it. I always liked that song, but the band didn’t like it back in the 80s. So we’ve gone back and put that down on vinyl. Those are the two oldest songs.

The song “In the Front” was an old song that the band did at several shows. But I wrote a whole new chorus and bridge in the middle that’s political. The song was originally conceived as one woman sort of being introspective. That could be taken as you’re in a band, you’re out in public, you’ve got a voice. But now it is even more relevant. I did my little rant about Anita Hill and Dr. Blasey Ford because I felt motivated to get back and talk about political issues, which was always an undercurrent in our band from the start. Our first lead guitarist, Phil Shoenfelt, lived in Prague and made many, many, many CDs. He’s been very successful with his career. He’s British and was always touching on political ideas. The song “Information,” which we play in our life set, is very much the voice of somebody being overwhelmed and disgruntled with the landscape of the Rupert Murdoch-ization of too much information coming at you. You’re just back in the line of history, you’re just a blob. It’s the individual who has been overrun with too much, too much technology, too much information.

Was it obvious that you wanted to do an EP rather than a full new album?

Alexa Hunter: We decided an EP was a first step back in the waters of recording. Five songs wasn’t too intimidating. I also want to mention that initially, the idea was to do an analog recording. We are an old-school band, and this would be the warmth of that era of analog. So, most of the record was recorded on analog. There were some overdubs of vocals and guitars. I live in California, and my bandmates live in New York, so we had to resort to a little bit of digital, but most of it was done analog.

What’s in the future for Disturbed Furniture? Will you be doing any touring?

Alexa Hunter: I don’t know; it’s a little premature because the EP is just out. I want to go back and do some tour in support of the record in the fall. I think that’s going to determine where we’re going. It’s kind of an unknown.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Alexa Hunter: Just that it’s really cool to be reinvestigating this music and singing in a band again with these guys at this age. It’s fun. It’s very stimulating, both mentally and physically.

Click here to watch Disturbed Furniture live at the Peppermint Lounge, January 15, 1981

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