Interview: HANA

Los Angeles electro-pop singer HANA is braced for success. She’s toured Shamir, Lana Del Rey and Purity Ring, and is self-proclaimed bessie-mates with Grimes. Last Friday she finally released her much anticipated debut HANA EP. In the wake of this release, we caught up with HANA before she’s makes it big.

You first came to IMPACT’s attention when you played in support of Grimes at Rock City in Nottingham in March. You don’t always expect to listen to closely to a warm up artist but your music and performance was instantly very captivating. How did you find your brief stay in Nottingham?

I loved it! The town was so charming – I made sure to take a rainy stroll around before our show. I walked to Nottingham Castle and admired the Robin Hood statue. The architecture in England is so intriguing to me!

Your stage set up was simple but effective: with some purple lighting and the parasols to either side – how did that come about, and what sort of image do you seek to present on stage?

Before I went out on tour with Purity Ring last fall, I was playing around with some LED panels laying around. I went and bought some parasols from Little Tokyo, which is down the street from where I live in Los Angeles. I knew that I wanted them as a stage decoration, but I didn’t know how. When I put them in front of the LED’s, something magical happened! I program my lights in Ableton to go along with my set, and the parasols soften the look of the LED’s and are a simple way of transforming any stage I’m on. I like that they really work no matter the size of the venue. In tiny places, they light up the entire room – in larger venue’s, they’re more of a small decoration for the stage.

You stuck around for the whole evening to dance and play guitar for Grimes: what’s it like on her stage?

It is SO much fun! I love performing with Claire. Her music is so infectious. I feel incredibly lucky to get to join the stage with her. Her songs are so incredible and it’s a joy to play and sing them.

How did you and Claire first come together, and how did it end up that you’d stay on stage for the duration?

We met a couple years ago. We were fast friends. Last year she asked me to come sing with her on tour while she opened for Lana Del Rey. It was such a blast. She let me sing one of my songs, “Clay,” the last two nights and it was the first time I performed it live! Then this tour came along, and she asked me to join her again in her band but also opening for her. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Getting to tour the world with one of my closest friends was a dream come true!

HANA preceding Grimes in Nottingham earlier this month

HANA preceding Grimes in Nottingham earlier this month

People who were introduced to you recently will be surprised to hear the sort of material you were recording as Hana Pestle in 2008 and 2009, which was guitar led alt-rock and pop music – do you still embrace that work now you’ve emerged as HANA and why did you make the change?

I don’t hate my previous work, it just feels like looking back at a journal that I wrote when I was 14. I was never very satisfied with how the end product sounded either. I got to a point where I was touring extensively, playing college campuses all over the US, and paying my bills doing what I love – music – but I realized that I wasn’t artistically flourishing like I wanted to be. I sold my tour van, stayed put in Los Angeles while I worked on learning to produce and writing new music that was 100% me. When I finally got to a place where I was making music I was proud of, I felt like a completely different person. It just made sense for this to be a new project.

You work a lot with Ableton in the production of your music since that, in what ways is that different to how you used to write?

It’s so different! I had gotten into a pretty stagnant place writing with my guitar. Using ableton opened up a whole new world of sounds and really helped with writers block for me. Once I got comfortable with the program, songs just came pouring out of me.

You just released your debut HANA EP on the 25th! How long has that been in the making?

I’ve been working on these songs for about the last 2 years. I put out Clay and Avalanche last year and then did quite a bit of touring with Purity Ring and Shamir. I took the time in between tours to finish up the last 3 songs. I’ve got a computer full of more songs that I cant wait to finish and put out!

You’ve started headlining your own shows in London recently; can you imagine yourself playing to larger venues like Rock City as a headline act soon?

I hope so! The goal is to spread my music to as many people as I can. Hopefully venues I headline will get bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Are you planning to work on a full length LP after the EP?

I will probably put out a few more singles while I work on an LP. I want people to really get to know who I am as an artist and a writer and I don’t want them to have to wait too long to figure that out.

This is the kind of EP that can make a person very big: are you apprehensive or excited for the kind of attention you might be getting soon from music fans?

I’m just incredibly overwhelmed by the response this music has gotten so far! I’ve actually gotten letters from people saying that my music has given them strength to get out of bad relationships or to think better of themselves – and that’s literally all I could hope for!

Finally, what are your hopes for 2016? 

I hope by the end of the year to be an even better producer. I am always learning and striving to know more. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll do a couple more tours and make more music that I’m really proud of!

Thanks so much for talking to us, congratulations on the HANA EP!

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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