HÅN’s single “The Children” has been named one of the most stunning debuts of the year with praise from When The Horn Blows, Indietronica, HighClouds, Going Solo and The Line Of Best Fit, with a review written by none other than discoverer Matthew Kent. In the space of a few months the 21-year-old newcomer from Lake Garda, in Northern Italy, soared to the position of Promising Artist with an impressive 25 agrees from some of our most influential users.
In the last month, the dark-pop musician has delivered a stunning sophomore album titled “1986”, a cinematic approach to songwriting that glistens with Balearic tinges and wistful vocals. It’s also the second track from HÅN’s forthcoming EP, which she openly speaks about, “‘1986′ is to me the strangest track on the EP since it’s very personal lyrically but at the same time, it has a production which is really different from everything I’ve ever made.” With yet more material to be revealed, we’re keen to learn more about this rising, alternative talent and here we discuss her music, songwriting, the Italian music scene and some of her favourite artists right now.
Hello, HÅN! First of all, were you surprised to be regarded as a Promising Discovery on HumanHuman so soon after your first release?
During these months many wonderful things have happened, and I did not expect any of them. My goal is to constantly improve, so being defined as a promising artist, is something that I truly appreciate.
That debut is “The Children”, a wonderfully airy dark-pop song, which you’ve described as “like someone running away from the things that they know and from the place in which they always been, becoming aware of the oppression of 'the safe place'.” Can you expand on this backstory?
When I wrote this song I wasn't thinking about a certain theme or something. I just put out some phrases that I knew were what I was feeling in that moment. It was just when I finished the lyrics, that I realized the song actually had a theme. It’s about this big mess which is growing. It's the urge to get away from something you've always known because you need to live and take risks, decide for yourself and all that kind of stuff. But you’re aware that you can’t really “get away” from something which has always been in your life. You grow and you leave things behind but at the same time you miss them. So it’s an ambivalent feeling.
Right now, you’re 20-years-old, but when did you first begin your interest in music and particularly in songwriting?
The first instrument I've ever played was the violin, and I was in primary schools. I started singing a lot later actually, and I got into songwriting around 15-16 years old, even if I had already tried to write something by the age of 12. (typical “bad first attempt” sort of things) In the last few years, songwriting has become not only my main means of expression but also what I really want to do with my life. Being able to create my own world is something I could never get tired of.
Which artists have been most influential to your sound?
Lately I've been listening to a lot of major alt-pop acts (Halsey, The 1975, Lorde, Melanie Martinez etc.) that emerged during these years, as I am really interested in knowing what works and what doesn't work today, as well as in their music concept, but I wouldn't say they have been my main influence.
In terms of sound, bands like The Smiths and Radiohead have helped me to develop a more mature vision of music. I would also say that artists like Björk, James Blake and Jeff Buckley have been a big influence to me. I like to explore various corners of contemporary music, and lately, I've been really fascinated by pop culture.
Are there any contemporary musicians who have been on your radar as of late?
Let’s Eat Grandma! What I like about them is the freedom of their music and their childish vibe, which you can see mainly through their live shows. They’re cool because they seem to come from another world, and as a result they do music in their own personal way. I would say they make pop, but it’s a weird one for sure. Another original thing about them is how they use a lot of instruments on stage, including a saxophone, a flute and a xylophone.
I met her during a live show in Padua where we both played, but I already knew her because we’re on the same label (Factory Flaws.) I was really curious about seeing her live show because she performs completely alone on stage, with just pedals and guitar. Her live energy and stage presence struck me, so I would definitely recommend to give her more than a listen.
The italian music industry is basically sorted into three categories: the rap/trap scene, the Italian indie music, and singers of the hour from the latest talent show. Obviously, I’m talking about what the majors are pushing and promoting. From an independent point of view, there are a lot of brand new artists that are offering quality music. I genuinely believe that we have many talented songwriters, artists who I personally feel are most of the time underrated. I would say it’s difficult for the audience to discover them, since they aren’t well-publicised, and the majority of people here just listens to what the media push forward. But still, if you are an avid listener you’ll find a way to reach the right network.
Do you still live in your hometown near Lake Garda? Do you think that rural, somewhat isolated setting led you to seek out the world of music?
Yes, I still divide myself between my hometown and Trento, where I study. I actually traveled a lot during my teen years, and I think that opened my mind a lot. I love meeting people and sharing opinions, though that's not the main reason why I started making music. But yes, that played a part. Being a big artist means being able to connect with a lot of people, and that is a thing that surely enriches your life.
Could you recall your first musical memory?
When I was in preschool my father and I used to listen to “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev, which is a symphonic fairy tale that features horns, string instruments, timpani, and bass drum. Every character is represented by a different instrument. I remember just sitting there, completely struck by the sounds I heard. Maybe that’s why I love so much deep, dark sounds.
Aside from music, do you have any other passions or interests? Perhaps these also find their way into your songwriting?
I really enjoy traveling, I almost visited the whole of Europe, but I've never been in America or Japan, two countries I'm longing to visit. Books and poetry have been a big influence lyrically speaking. I love poetry that uses small words and goes right to the essential.
Recently, there’s been whispers of a SoundCloud shutdown, which we both know is incredibly important to the online music community. How have online platforms like SoundCloud helped your own career so far?
I believe that online platforms can make a substantial difference in terms of trends in today’s music industry. Platforms like Spotify decide what is trending right now, when for example they put a song in a 500k-followers playlist, and so on. In my experience, I was really surprised by the number of streams my song got in a month (both on Soundcloud and Spotify), considering that I'm an emerging artist and literally no one knew who I was. Still, I think that there’s so much competition in today’s music industry that it is really hard to reach a significant number of streams and impactful interaction if you’re an independent artist. But, I’m still trying to understand the degrees of importance of everything.
There are plenty of artists that built a following through online platforms, especially like Youtube, which I believe is the most “audience-directed” online platform of them all.
Are there any favourite musicians who you discovered through SoundCloud?
I discovered Peacock Affect through SoundCloud, and two songs in particular have caught my attention: “Wallflower” and “Who Cares If You Exist”. He may seem depressing but he’s not, he’s emotional! The lyrics and the titles of the songs are a bit pessimistic, but they’re part of the character, I think. His songs are perfect when there’s rain outside and something is not going in the right way.
It’s now been two months since making your debut, what have you been up to since then?
We recorded all the songs for my upcoming EP and decided how the graphic would have looked like along with the whole aesthetic of the project. We toured a bit testing the live show, we laid all the foundations, and now we're waiting for things to happen haha.
Do you have plans to start playing live shows in the future?
We actually did a small tour this summer around Italy, and we also played a gig in London at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. It was a lot of fun. I had never toured before, so I'm just now starting to learn what it's like. We will start playing live shows again around October.