Hilarity ensues as soon as we pass Hana a piece of cardboard and Sharpie with which to draw a self-portrait of herself - “I'm such a bad artist,” she exclaims with laughter, however this sentiment doesn't ring true of her musical art.
Her debut single 'Clay' is an empowering story of finding herself, about a time in her life when she was living in a manipulative relationship. The second single that she released, 'Avalanche', is equally as forthcoming lyrically, with lyrics such as “But now I know / I was under your control,” Hana's music offers an insight into her mind.
She not only writes her own music, but is involved with the production of her music, something she's incredible passionate about - and with her upcoming debut EP on the way (it's officially out on March 25th!), we're excited to hear more from Hana.
As well as her solo music, she's spend the most part of 2016 on the road with Grimes - who she performs on-stage with - as well as opening for many of the tour dates. We spoke to Hana ahead of her opening slot for Grimes in Sydney last month, about her upcoming music, songwriting, and her favourite Pokémon…
COUP DE MAIN: So you've released two songs so far, and we can't wait to hear more from you. When are you planning to release some new stuff?
HANA: Very, very, very insanely soon. I just did a video for 'Clay' and it's gonna come out - and also when we release it we'll also announce the EP date, but it's very, very, very soon. So that'll be three new songs, and then it'll also have 'Clay' and 'Avalanche' on it, so it'll be a 5 song EP, and I'm so ready for myself to have more music out. It's just been a long time and I was working so hard on touring - I was juggling between being on the road, and when I went home I would be in the studio. Right before I came out on this leg, I finished it.
CDM: There's a song called 'White' from the upcoming EP that you've performed live - what's the story behind that song?
HANA: It's probably the happiest of my... It's kind of from the point of view of after those previous songs like 'Clay', 'Avalanche', and then 'White' in my mind comes-- it's more looking forward and, "Here I am," having clarity. It's just a song about being out of the storm and being like, "Wow, I can really go anywhere and do anything." I wanted it to have a really free feeling. I do a guitar solo in it <laughs> - it's not anything impressive, but it gives me feelings of Sting, 'Desert Rose' somehow. I don't know why. So there's this kind of flowing-- it's a good song to drive to, it just makes me feel like I'm going away from any problems or bad times, it's my free song.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY UPCOMING EP...
CDM: Music was something you say you always wanted to do. Was it something you taught yourself to do? Or did you kind of just fall into it?
HANA: I just kind of fell into it. I've been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. Since I was very young, my parents used to listen to music all the time, and I would just… ever since I could remember, I was just putting on shows in our living room, like performing Elton John, 'Lion King'. I don't know why, I think I just have always been obsessed with performing and singing. In Elementary School I was part of choirs, I started doing plays, then I got a guitar and started learning songs, and then writing songs - it was a very natural thing. I took guitar lessons for a while from two different guys, so I had one guy who was more classically inclined, and one guy who would just teach me rock songs. I would come in and I would bring him Ani DiFranco songs and Radiohead, and he would just be so confused. Like, "Let's just learn this Def Leppard song that I've been planning on teaching you all week," and I was like, "Okay, I guess!" So I think it's a mix of both. Because I loved it I just always wanted to be doing it, so an easy way to do it was to be in choir - so for an hour or two hours of my day I could be singing. I did learn a lot that way, just because I was in every choir you could be in, and took voice lessons - just one year 'cuz they made me to get into this other choir. <laughs> So yeah, I've just always loved it. I love singing, I like to do it more than talking usually - and usually around the house, I just sing all the time.
THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT SONGS TO ME ARE...
CDM: And now you've taught yourself production. How has that process been compared to learning music?
HANA: I guess it expanded my mind. It is the same as music, but it's a more technical thing. Like, before, a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have known what an EQ curve should look like on my vocal - I just wasn't thinking in a technical way before. And then once I started learning production and things like ProTools and Ableton, it almost opened a door to another part of my musical mind, which was really cool. I think why all this new music is so special to me is just because I feel like things are clicking a lot more than they were before. I think it's just making it more fun; I kind of know what I'm doing more. I think the best part about music is that you don't really have to know what you're doing, you can just kind of go with your gut and do what you want. Learning how to produce and do stuff in Ableton just opened up another huge world of possibilities for my music, and it's just been really exciting and fun.
CDM: You're a huge advocate for women producing music, as evidenced by your own music obviously, as well as in interviews. What do you think is the most important lesson anyone should know about music production?
HANA: Probably to stick to your guns. A lot of times people will try to talk you into changing something because they don't think it sounds very good, but I think in production you just have to keep doing it, keep doing it, until you yourself have gotten it to a place where you feel super, super excited and happy about it. I've just noticed that people are more critical, which I guess makes sense because it's not like I've been producing for very long, but I don't think that they would be as critical of a man who was just getting started with producing. And now, I've been doing it for about three years, so it's not like I'm a major beginner, but sometimes I feel like people question what I'm doing more than what a male would be. I think it's just, stick to your guns, and don't let people talk you out of what sounds good. And just keep with it, that's my advice for any musician doing anything - is just practice, practice, spend your days doing it, and eventually you're gonna know exactly what you like, and how you work more than anyone else would be able to tell you. I think it's just doing it and practice, then you'll end up with a product that you're really, really happy with. And don't let people turn you down - like, Claire would get turned down by engineers that she couldn't get, or she couldn't engineer her own vocals at sessions, same with me. And I'd just feel so much more comfortable, and it would be so much more fast for me to do it - but because there's a man there, they're like, "Just sing."
MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT CLAIRE [GRIMES] IS...
CDM: I've seen photos of your dog Eevee in the studio with you. Does she get in a say in the music-making process? Does Eevee like your music?
HANA: I mean, she listens to it, she doesn't really have a choice. But I think she likes it. She sleeps through most of it.
CDM: As long as she isn't running off, I feel like that's a good sign.
HANA: When I'm producing or writing, she's usually right under my feet. So I feel like... she just likes me.
CDM: If you could choose any six Pokémon to be in your team, who would you choose and why?
HANA: Ditto. Charizard. Obviously, Eevee. I was obsessed with Fennekin; love Fennekin. I need a water... who else? Okay, I'd probably have Eevee and Sylveon.
CDM: I also debated this with Vince Staples. We disagreed on Abra. He loves Snorlax.
HANA: There's this instructional on how to draw this one-- it's a form of Abra, it looks really cool. I almost wanted to have it as my logo. So there's one. And Lapras, I think. 'Cuz you have to have water.
CDM: We'd now like to award you with this BB-8 medal for loyalty... for your loyalty in campaigning for BB-8 to win an Oscar.
HANA: Oh my god, this is so cool. I have so many gifts. Wow. This is really cool. I'm very happy.
IF ME AND BB-8 WENT ON AN ADVENTURE, WE WOULD GO...
CDM: So you're on tour with Grimes at the moment, performing in her band, as well as opening for her at some of her shows. How does it differ between these two performances? Do you have to be in a different headspace?
HANA: Definitely. My stuff comes from more of... obviously, it's my stuff. It's my music versus her music - my stuff all comes from a pretty serious place, it's this new stuff that I've been writing in the last two/three years mostly about coming into my own, and kind of starting my life over again. All these really strong emotions that come from a really personal place, so I usually go to a, not a dark, but I go to a pretty intense place of my personal emotions. And then with Claire, it's just so much fun. For her, it's her emotions that she's singing about.
CDM: You always look like you're having so much fun on stage with her.
HANA: I am. It's so much fun! Because I love her music so much - ALL of her music, so much. Being able to be on stage with her and sing these songs that I've loved for a long time, and these new songs that are just so amazing, it's the best time ever. So I really let loose when I'm singing with her, 'cuz it's less of an emotional experience, where I'm supporting her and helping her get her music out. I can just kind of let loose and dance around, and add to the energy on stage. Then with my stuff, it's more like very focused on me, and getting my lyrics across to the audience.
CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you've written?
HANA: Probably 'Clay', I think. Just 'cuz it was so exactly what I needed to say. I wrote it really, really quickly - it just came flying out of me. When I listened back to it the first time after I wrote it, I was like, "Wow." It just felt so satisfying, 'cuz usually I'm pretty slow at writing and it takes me a while to get out on paper what I'm trying to convey. With 'Clay' it all came out and it was exactly how I wanted it to be. I love singing it every night, it's very fun.
CDM: If H.A.N.A. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
HANA: Happy. Especially on this tour, because I've been going to so many places that I've always been dreaming of - everybody on the tour has just been laughing because my catchphrase of the tour has just been, "I'm so happy!" Especially in Tokyo, and Singapore, I was just walking around going, "I'm so happy." I'm at a point where I can really appreciate where I'm at in my life, I just feel so thankful. Artistic. What's something for N? Needy, but I'm not needy. Nice - I'm pretty nice, to a fault. Annoying. <laughs>
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND...
Hana's debut EP is out on March 25th - until then, you can purchase 'Clay', and 'Avalanche' - click here to do so.
Watch the 'Clay' music video below...