Interview: Hunter Park of She Returns From War

Interview: Hunter Park of She Returns From War
She Returns from War at St. Pat’s 2015

Charleston folk band set to take the stage at River Rocks Music Festival on Saturday 

She Returns From War began their journey into the South Carolina music scene in 2012. Since then, the Charleston based band has grown from a duo to full band performances and has released two EPs with a strange, haunting variety of folk music. The band’s first release in 2012, Coyote Soda, presented a band far from amateur. Recorded in Charlie Kings house in Charleston, the album dropped in the summer of last year and received positive feedback. Shortly after, the band headed to the Jam Room in Columbia to record their self-titled EP, which was released in November of last year.

The EP featured four tracks of more progressive folk music with emotional storytelling. Hunter Park sings in “Taylor Made”, “Taylor made, looking kind of thin these days, that’s right my eyes don’t go away from all the nights not seeing you.” It’s songs like these that bring the best out of the trio. Park sings over a myriad of finger picked acoustic progressions with silent, yet catchy drum patterns courtesy of Charlie King. And not to mention Jesse Ledford’s vocal harmonies, which meld perfectly with the band’s music and Park’s vocal lines. Another highlight from the album is Dancing On Your Grave, which stresses Park’s ability to write strong lyrical content, while still maintaining catchiness. The band performed the song on Balcony TV, where Park called the song a “warning to someone who fell out of taste” with her. And that message rings true, as Park sings, “I wrote this dear in hopes that you might hear that I’d appreciate some notice before you die and disappear, so I can say ‘dancing on your grave.’”

Now that the band has several releases under its belt, they are looking to release a full length album that is due out sometime this summer via 10 Foot Woody Records. We talked with Hunter Park about the band’s upcoming performance at River Rocks Music Festival, the new album, and more.

Andrew: So how did it all get started?

Hunter Park: I was living in New York and I was doing music stuff up there independently and I came back to Charleston. And I wanted to still be involved with the music scene here, but I didn’t really know where to start. So I started going to my friend Charles’ little gathering and that’s where I first met Stefanie Santana and a bunch of different people. I met Jesse one day and said, “Hey, I would love it if you started singing some harmonies with me,” and she started doing it. We had a couple of out of town shows and I really wanted to pick a band name. So that was the very beginning of it.

Andrew: You describe your music as “abandoned house folk” on social media. What does that mean exactly?

Hunter Park: I’ve kind of been playing around with it lately on my Instagram as a joke by changing it everyday. And I guess it’s like a progressive, folk-Americana sound. I love folk music and I’ve always loved everything folk encompasses. And it really does encompass a lot of genres. I grew up on a lot of different stuff like bluegrass and you know, just southern sounds I guess. I love Americana because of the aesthetic and just the way you can say things. So I guess it’s like taking what I knew and what I know now and what I’m kind of latching onto and I’m kind of trying to make a new sound for folk by maybe refreshing it.

Andrew Moore: What is the writing process like for you? And has it gotten more difficult to pen songs down as quickly as you did with the past two EPs?

Hunter Park: You know, I’m going to be honest with you. I have discovered recently that I have been building songs slower than I used to. I remember a few of the songs off that self-titled EP where I just kind of sat down and wrote them out. But recently, I don’t know if it’s because I have more on my plate or I’m just drinking too much. I can’t just spin them out anymore and I have to think about where the song is going. I’m now working on songs for weeks at a time and I never really allot a specific time for songwriting because I think mucks up the creativity process. But I randomly sit down and start working on something.

Andrew Moore: The band released its self-titled EP not that long ago. What were your motives for that album and how has the response been since releasing it last November?

Hunter Park: It’s been great. I think with the EP I released in November, I wanted to make something solid and I think Zac (Thomas) from The Jam Room agreed that we just wanted to have a solid base line, no pun intended, that we could build off of. I think he approached me with the idea of having four songs that we could make solid sounding and release them. And the writing is the most important part for that EP. I think everyone responded to it very well because we got some accolades from it and that was really cool. We definitely appreciated that people responded so well to it.

Andrew Moore: So you’re signed to 10 Foot Woody Records. What has it been like being signed to an independent label and recording with the Jam Room in Columbia?

Hunter Park: The thing that I love about local labels is that we’re all a part of this music community. And that’s the main thing that is so incredibly important to me. We’re all like this weird, fucked up family. And every single person that I come across, who is a musician in Columbia or Charleston or the upstate, are all amazing people in their own right. It’s a family thing. So when Zac approached me about recording … we were really looking to record an album. We got up there to record it and he presented me with the idea of being a part of what he was doing and I really latched onto that because it’s really good to have somewhere to put your seat down every now and then.

Andrew Moore: I’ve kept up with the band recently and your Facebook page shows that you’ve recorded new music. And your label’s website says we can expect it this summer. What has been going on with that?

Hunter Park: We’re talking to Zac and I think the most unique thing about this album is that I’ve kind of crazily attempted to get as many people to work on it as possible without there being too many cooks in the kitchen. And so Zac with all of my wonderful, crazy, grandiose ideas, has paired up with a producer, Don Dixon, who is from Lancaster. He’s an amazing producer and he has worked with a bunch of amazing acts, but I think he kind of understood that this album was going to be a big production for me. So I think the difference you can expect to hear is that there is Don’s approach on the record and then I’ve taken it to people in Charleston to try and get the record popping in our own Charleston way. It’s really become a connecting thing for a lot of different people who haven’t worked together and I think that was the point for the album. I won’t say anything about what it’s called, but it’s all about making all of these little things from little pieces work together because that’s what drives us as musicians.

Andrew Moore: She Returns From War was featured on our sampler this year with the song “Silver and Gold.” Is that song going to be on the new record or are you keeping it in your back pocket for another day?

Hunter Park: That is a brand new song that I gave to David because I think he’s awesome. And I was working on the second volume of Coyote Soda. I may release it one day, but I’m kind of giving it to David for right now. I did that with my friend, Lucia Garcia, just one day randomly. I wanted to break out of the standard folk place that I was at, because I have a lot of emotions about this one particular thing. So I wrote that song and she helped me flesh out the idea for it. And it was awesome because I didn’t expect it. I was surprised by my own song. So I gave it to you guys to say that there is a broader range of things you can do with the music you use as a songwriter.

Andrew Moore: You’re opening up the River Rocks Music Festival in Columbia on Saturday. How did you hear about the festival and what do you think about sharing the stage with Blitzen Trapper?

Hunter Park: I was approached by Zac about the idea for it a few months ago before we even started recording the record. I was up in Columbia and he said, “Well what are your thoughts about playing a music festival in Columbia?,” and I said “Let’s do it.” I had no idea what it was, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Blitzen Trapper was headlining the whole thing, because I’ve been listening to them for a really long time. It’s an awesome festival and I’m excited about it!

Andrew Moore: I watched your performance on Balcony TV and it seemed like you were too confined. Are you the opposite of that on stage during a festival?

Hunter Park: I think I like to bring it a little. We’ve been having a little more fun on stage because we’ve really gotten songs down because we just recorded them for the album. So we’re slowly having a little bit more fun on stage. I think it’s awesome that Charlie is drumming with us because he’s insane to see live because he’s so good. Can you say that about your own bandmates? You can say that about your own bandmates. I love watching him onstage and it’s really cool. Jesse’s harmonies are so incredible and I just play guitar.

Andrew: You talk about everyone in such high regards and then we get to you and silence.

Hunter Park: I’m like … I’m pretty tall. But yeah, I think we’ve been trying to open up more to the audience. The lyrics are all pretty fucking honest and I think if we can play and make people really listen to the actual experiences I write about, I think they will find it pretty interesting.

Lightning Round: Get to know Hunter Park

Andrew: Favorite place to eat in Charleston?

Hunter Park: Oh man! What? When you say lightning round, can I have like 2 seconds to answer. Shit … Have you ever eaten in Charleston? It’s impossible to choose. I’ll say Fast and French, because Amanda Downey is an amazing cook.

Andrew Moore: Who are you listening to right now?

Hunter Park: I’m listening to all local stuff like The Royal Tinfoil album they just released. Also, Last Year, the new Hermits Victory stuff, and the new ET Anderson stuff. As far as not local, my friend Amber introduced me to this girl, Tristan, and she is pretty cool. So yeah, it’s usually local people.

Andrew Moore: Favorite venue in South Carolina?

Hunter Park: Damn! I’m afraid I’m going to say something and then someone is going to wish I said them. But I’ve been getting a lot of support and love from The Royal American recently because there stage is small but their presence is big. Size doesn’t always matter.

Andrew Moore: Favorite music festival?

Hunter Park: I know the Shaky Knees lineup is cool and I think people should get pumped about it.

Andrew Moore: This question is related to River Rocks. Which do you prefer, kayaks or canoes?

Hunter Park: I like canoeing because I feel like kayaks are awesome, but they’re the toothpicks of the boat world.

Andrew Moore

Andrew is a fourth year journalism student at the University of South Carolina. He has written for Deep South Magazine,, and a variety of other publications. Follow him @mooreap2 to keep up with the latest music news and more.

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