Hudson K chanteuse Christina Horn just wants you to feel something.
“We look for music that offers some kind of emotional content,” she says. “It’s all about making people have an emotional response, making them feel, anything, whether it’s joy or fear or intensity, or even a little sadness. Any of that makes me happy.”
Which isn’t to say that Horn’s music is lacking intellectual rigor. In fact, there’s an almost hyper-literate quality to many of the former conservatory pianist’s lyrical and thematic concepts. Hudson K’s latest album, Ouroboros and the Black Dove,for instance, references the ancient Egyptian symbol of the snake eating its tail—a visual metaphor for the cyclical nature of life.
But for all its high-concept grandeur, Hudson K’s music never fails to connect with the heart, and the gut. Horn believes that’s the case moreso now than ever, with the advent of the new record.
“I think the ideas [on Ouroboros] have been stripped down,” Horn says. “Coming from the classical world, sometimes I overcomplicate things. Now, it’s more about cutting away all the excess, getting to the key points in the melody.”
In approaching Ouroboros, Horn says she deliberately scaled back the band—this iteration of Hudson K features only herself on vocals, keys and synths, along with ace drummer Nathan Barrett—in conjunction with retailoring the sound. And in doing so, she looked to some of her formative influences in the realms of 1980s rock and pop.
“I pulled a lot from the simplicity of ‘80s synth lines,” she says. “Most ‘80s music was really catchy and repetitive; after three or four notes, you knew the melody. And I love ‘80s pop music.
“I think I consciously chose the things I like about that music, but I tried to do it in such a way that it’s not like, ‘There’s another throwback band.’ I tried to draw on a lot of different influences from that period, because I like so much of it. I like rock. I like punk. I like glam.”
And truly, Ouroboros and the Black Dove seems to hearken to any number of artists and genres of the era—with shades of New Wave, Goth, the Eurythmics, Sinead O’Connor, synth pop, Concrete Blonde—yet it does so in such a way as to avoid sounding derivative or dated.
Though there are a couple of classic, from-the-vaults-sounding post-New Wave pop nuggets, most notably the adhesively memorable single “Stuck on Repeat,” the video for which was shot upstairs at the Preservation Pub.
Built on a bouncy synth line and catchy chorus, the clip features Horn sashaying across the floor in front of the second-story bar, while club patrons sit impassively at the tables behind her, intermittently pumping their hands or waving their arms in unison with the music, and finally following her to the stage in an ecstasy of burbling synthesizer and cathartic dance.
Horn notes that the video—directed by Barrett—was filmed all the way through with a single tracking shot; a few dozen friends and fans showed up for the filming to serve as extras. “We had to teach people the moves, then run all the way through the song a few times,” she says. “In the end, we did eight takes, I think. That was good. I was afraid we’ve have to do 30.”
Right now, Horn is happy with Hudson K as a two-piece. She says that Barrett, her musical partner from the earliest days of the band, brings other elements to her own mélange of pop and rock styles; he also shares her fortitude and determination.
“Nate’s musical tastes are very different from mine,” she says. “He appreciates a lot of Latin and Afro-Cuban music, which brings a whole other dimension to what we do. We’ve also both got very positive attitudes. And you need that. So if we go to another town to play a show, and only two people show up, we don’t decide to shoot the horse.”
Eventually, though, Horn says she’d like to reach a point where she can afford “to get a few more members on the team.” That may mean adding new musical elements, she says; it will most certainly involve bringing in more help on the business end. “I do all the business right now, which sometimes means spending 40 hours a week on the computer,” she says. “I also teach piano, so it can get exhausting.
“But we’ve reached a point where we’re breaking even. Now we just want to keep playing, keep touring, keep getting the music out to people.”
Hudson K will play the Preservation Pub Smokeasy Oct. 31, Halloween night, along with The Theorizt and Hiding Scarlet. Show starts at 10 p.m.