IN a sometimes regrettably beige Australian indie-rock scene, Sydney's Johnny Hunter stand out from the pack.
Both in a musical and visual sense.
Despite the two-year drain of COVID-19, the post-punk glam four-piece have continued to build a reputation as one of Sydney's most exciting and flamboyant young bands.
Their use of mascara and frontman Nick Hutt's androgynous look, complete with make-up, lipstick and a Spandeu Ballet-style flowing mullet, create a theatrical and cabaret mystique.
But Johnny Hunter have also been backing up the hype since the release of their first single One Of A Kind in 2018 and the anthemic follow-up, 1995, with the call-to-arms chorus of, "I am a millennial/ I am indestructible."
The pandemic overshadowed the release of their debut EP Early Trauma, but it whet the appetite for more '80s inspired post-punk and new romantic material.
On Friday Johnny Hunter release their debut album Want, described by Hutt as a "journey of self-actualisation."
"The record itself is us basically saying, 'This is how we've come to develop, take it or leave it. We'll be all that you want'," Hutt says.
Johnny Hunter wear their influences proudly.
Hutt says it was the discovery of Joy Division's era-defining album Unknown Pleasures which first switched him onto the power of post-punk.
From there he discovered New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies and David Bowie's Station To Station.
"It's just the genre that's really sat with me beyond all music genres and one I can relate to in terms of musicality and songwriting," Hutt says.
"Punk can lend into that cheese element a little bit, a little corny, because everyone wants to be destructive and anarchic.
"I feel post-punk isn't afraid to delve into the emotional side of things as well as having that angst."
Joy Division and New Order's influence is readily heard on the synth-heavy Fracture, while the pure pop of Dreams leans more closely to new wave acts like Simple Minds.
Hutt's deep baritone also borrows from Ian Curtis.
In Australia the post-punk flag has been waved by disbanded Melbourne act City Calm Down and Tasmania's A. Swayze & the Ghosts.
"It has a lot to do with the cycles and trends of music," Hutt says of post-punk's recent revival. "But also it has to do with the angst and imbalance the world lies on at the moment.
"All the events and everything that's happening, we're a world spinning of its axis with a lot of pressure and intensity."
Johnny Hunter formed in 2017 when guitarist Xander Burgess met Hutt on a drunken night out in Wollongong, where the singer was studying commerce at university.
They were soon joined by Nick Cerone (bass) and Gerry Thompson (drums).
Hutt initiated wearing mascara on stage, before his bandmates reluctantly agreed.
"I feel like it's very easy to slip through the cracks as a band who wear t-shirts and bucket hats; I feel that's the majority of the Australian music scene," he says.
"We wanted to do something kind of different so we'd stand out and be remembered and also be representative of how we feel and the music we make."
Johnny Hunter's flamboyance isn't restricted to their androgynous style. Hutt's a charismatic performer, who frequently pouts and roams the stage.
"I've always been quite the attention seeker, so I guess that comes down to it," he says.
"It's also just looking at the bands I like and what they were doing and seeing stuff from going to other gigs.
"Looking at a band standing there doing nothing, I thought there's so much room to be loud on a stage.
"Especially in Australia, not many people lean into it. So I thought what else do I do?
"I can't stand on stage with my dick in my hand and just hope people will listen. I have to really sway people."
Want sees Johnny Hunter adopting a more melodic pop approach than the harsher post-punk of their EP, Early Trauma.
Issues of toxic masculinity, human connection and vulnerability lie at the heart of Hutt's lyrics on Want.
The anthemic tracks Endless Days and Dreams poetically search for love and a higher meaning, while Cry Like A Man challenges the stereotype of men abusing themselves to conceal their feelings.
"Stand down face your fears and cry like a man," Hutt sings.
There are also far darker moments on the industrial rock burst of The Floor, where Hutt addresses the issue of self-loathing with the lyrics, "I am the rat/ I am the creep/ I am the scum/ Dance to the sound of the confession song."
Hutt has written and read poetry since he was a teenager. Famous poems such as John Milton's Paradise Lost, Dante Alighieri's Inferno and The Waste Land by T.S Eliot were inspirations behind Want.
"In order for me to write lyrics, I have to start reading and until it comes to me," he says.
"The finest form of lyrical inspiration, besides experiencing the world for yourself, is reading other people's words and experiences."
Johnny Hunter hope to embark on their maiden European tour later this before their attention turns to writing and recording album No.2.
"Want is more ballady and hooky, but I definitely want to go and revisit the post-punk influences we had on Early Trauma," Hutt says.
Johnny Hunter release Want on Friday. Catch them live at Vinnies Dive, Gold Coast (July 1); The Gal, Newcastle (July 7); Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (July 8) and Uni Bar, Wollongong (July 9).