Featuring the stunning, ethereal voice of Hana Lewis, the four songs featured on the bands soundcloud are captivating and original with some very thought provoking lyrics.
We spoke to Hana and Ben, who gave this insightful interview.
Who are you and what do you do? Together, we go by ‘Hana’. As a duo we are one elegiac, folk-inspired vocalist (Hana Lewis) and one grungy guitarist (Ben Hooper). Our original music has recently and perhaps best been described as ‘acoustic with undertones of contemporary American folk’.
Where did the band’s name come from? Hana: Quite simply, it came from my first name. I thought it was a Welsh spelling but it seems to have various meanings and supposed origins, from ‘black cloud’, to ‘flower’. The fact that it is unlike the traditional spelling is what seems to make it interesting to people seeing it for the first time.
How did you get started? Hana: All I ever wanted to do was sing and I did, up to the age of about 15. At that point I stopped. Blame it on bullying, nerves and zero confidence! After 12 years, I realised I had to stop ignoring it and booked myself in for lessons with a Speech Level Singing Coach called Angela Durrant.
I worked with two other guitarists and continued to battle nerves. In November 2012, I found myself in urgent need of a guitarist for a gig. Ben offered to step in as a one off at first but then we started writing our own material and here we are! We’d worked together for three years but never musically before.
What have you got going on at the moment? We recently recorded demos at Ripe Fruit Studios in Cardiff and have been busy generating interest. Porter’s offered to host a launch for the new tracks, which has been a great way to get the word out and now we’re out and about booking gigs. We’ll be at the Oxjam launch and Glanfa stage at the Wales Millennium Centre in May, plus all sorts in the pipeline, including an EP for which writing is ongoing. We’re also about to develop a website and some new branding.
Favourite music and why? Hana: Ben and I have completely different musical tastes! In a way, I think that’s what makes us interesting. I listen to artists like Priscilla Ahn, James Vincent Mcmorrow and Keaton Henson and grew up listening to Al Jolson and Elvis Presley.
Ben: To be honest, I don’t listen to a huge amount of acoustic stuff, although I like Laura Marling and Frank Turner’s early records. I’m more into noisy stuff like Deftones, Glassjaw, Cult of Luna, Oceansize, Thought Forms, Bossk and the Pixies. As Hana said, hopefully that sort of influence will keep our music interesting.
Favourite book and why? Hana: The Gathering by Anne Enright is one but she transformed the reality of my other favourite book; Camera Lucida (by Roland Barthes) into fiction. Barthes wrote poignantly about how photography helped him to come to terms with the death of his mother and Enright tells a similar tale about love, the expanse of time and silence of grief. A topic that got me in to film first off but now regularly influences my song writing as well.
Ben: I’ll go lowbrow and say The Beach. Or maybe Dracula.
Favourite film and why? Hana: There are so many to choose from but The Misfits (1961) and East of Eden (955) are two favourites. I’m a lover of 50’s classics and have spent years studying Marilyn Monroe.
Ben: I’m a massive film fan, so wouldn’t even know where to begin to narrow it down to just one. I will say, though, that my favourite film of 2013 so far is Shell.
Why should Soundscape readers care? Soundscape readers with eclectic tastes should give us a listen to see what they make of it. We’d love to hear from them. We’re a combination of things with interests spanning from Fairport Convention type folk, right through to post-metal. This makes for an interesting match.
What’s your writing and recording process? Hana: I do the lyrics and Ben writes the guitar melody. Whichever comes first, I then match this with a tune for the vocals and we fill in the gaps together.
What inspires you? Hana: All sorts of things inspire me, from huge life changing events, right down to something you see when you look out of the window. I usually find that sentences can sit unused and then they find their way into a song months later.
Ben: Stuff tends to come to me when I’m out walking. I take a lot of inspiration from films too; I’d like to get into doing soundtracks at some point.
Best thing about coming from Wales? We’re lucky to have some great resources on hand in Wales, like the Welsh Music Foundation, Swn and WOMEX this year. It’s a rural country for the most part but bursting with talent and culture. We have a host of independent venues that offer opportunities and audiences for every musical taste.
Who are your role models or idols? Hana: I think Marilyn Monroe was captivating and completely underestimated as an actress and a woman. She’s my icon but my parents are my role models. As were my Great Uncle Bob and Grandma Ruthie who were loved dearly and are missed daily.
Ben: Like any tragic teenager who considered themselves a tortured poet, my first musical role model was Kurt Cobain. I don’t really have an idol now, although I wish I could pull off double denim like Ryan Gosling.
Hardest thing about the current business? Hana: There’s a big demand for ‘reality’ artists with big voices and big personalities, making it harder for alternative artists to develop and be seen. Personally I think music is something that should grow organically. It can be daunting if you don’t fit the commercial mould though and especially tough to balance day-to-day work with music but that time and originality is essential to develop as an artist.
Ben: In the past 10 years or so I’ve seen a real sense of apathy creep in to audiences. Music is so easy to get hold of these days that people have become far less inclined to make an effort to go to gigs.
What are your future plans? Hana: Onwards and upwards from here on in hopefully. I’m enjoying meeting people and getting reactions to the music. I can’t wait to do more!
Favourite Batman actor? Hana: Michael Keaton, without a doubt. The Christopher Nolan films are excellent but the original Batman was the perfect mixture of darkness and restraint.
Ben: With Batman, I always find the villains to be far more interesting. Cilian Murphy, Heath Ledger and Tom Hardy are some of my favourite actors.
You can listen to four of Hana’s tracks on the soundcloud link below and I really recommend you do.
Facebook – Hana
Photo credits – Owen Thomas www.5thStageMedia.com & Laura Claire Nott – @LCNPhotography