Having received praise from the likes of Bandcamp Daily and Indie Shuffle, Canadian artist Hannah Epperson is not only a successful Ultimate Frisbee player for Canada’s national team, but a skilled songwriter who creates utterly captivating offerings.
Following 2016’s Upsweep, Epperson is now ready to release the second half of the project – her new album Slowdown. We caught up with her to find out more.
Hi Hannah, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Hey hi and yes! I started playing in 2009 under derelict bridges in Berlin. The band is just me, but sometimes I lasso in a drummer whose style I fancy to rock a circuit with me. I’ve been playing the violin for most of my life, sometimes more seriously than others, always for fun, and largely in collaboration with other inspiring artists across a diverse range of disciplines. But the solo project has been occupying more of my time the last two years, and with a second album release on the imminent horizon, I suspect 2018 is going to be largely focused on touring my solo project.
Your new album Slowdown is out soon – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the album?
Slowdown is Volume II of a two-album conceptual record, the first of which was released in 2016 under the title Upsweep. Together, Slowdown/Upsweep is an expression of two alternate versions of a shared reality, which I’ve characterised under the monikers ‘Amelia’ (side A of both records) and ‘Iris’ (side B of both records). This split structure derives from a screenplay I wrote during an intense period of coming to terms with a deeply challenging and ungraspable personal loss. The narrative follows the psychic collapse of a young man under extreme emotional duress, and his attempt to keep himself intact by suspending himself between two very strong but opposing world orders, embodied by Amelia and Iris. The unusual structure of these two records has also allowed me to experiment with different voices during a period of open experimentation in developing my own sound. Also, the words ‘Slowdown’ and ‘Upsweep’ are names given by the NOAA to “unidentified sounds” that have been detected in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean… The idea of recording sounds without being able to properly identify them is a deeply intriguing theme to me, and seemed relevant to the difficult-to-explain nature of this two-part conceptual album.
You’ve been compared to the likes of Julia Holter, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
It’s really hard to draw direct lines of influence, because I’ve never tried to fashion my music after anything or anyone in particular. But I do know that the incongruent discographies/works of Bjork, Radiohead, Stephen Sondheim, Pete Seeger, The Cranberries, Shostakovich, Bartok and Bach have featured heavily throughout my whole life. An eclectic ensemble, to be sure, and all influential in some considerable measure.
How is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I’m currently based just outside of NYC and visit Brooklyn at least once a week, so the local music scene is pretty incomparable. I have periods of seeing tonnes of live music, though this winter has been more about listening to nature sounds, running water and my big wood-burning hearth in the woods. But yes, live music – the only guiltless way to spend money other than organic apples and ethically-sustainably raised meat from the neighbours.
And what can fans expect from your live shows?
I have no idea, hopefully I’ll always be able to surprise the audience or myself at a live show. I’d say I can promise presence, though… Honesty, flubs, nasty jokes. A forgotten lyrical line. Post-show hugs, earnest ones.
As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
Yes. How do I begin, because what if I forget someone!? Uni Ika Ai, Ryan Dugre, Taylor Ashton, Alexander F/Toth, Twig Twig, The Westerlies, Really Big Pinecone, Omhouse, We Are The City, Landlady, Ian Chang, Cuddle Magic, Tiny Hazard… Shit, I’ll hit you up with more later!
And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
Of course it is, it’s a fucking zoo out here! It’s devastating. It’s magic. It’s a cess pool. It’s a mythical beauty. I know so many insanely talented, skilled and beautiful artists who are making records that have just fucking destroyed me, and sometimes they never end up seeing the light of day because it just takes so much weird energy to build up enough inertia for them to get out into the ‘real world’. And as much as I love that it has become so accessible for everyone to generate “music” now, there’s just so much fucking noise – a lot of it is so banal, and there’s so much pressure to command some sort of kick-ass dank-ass whoop-ass hollowed out laissez faire/lazy flaring social media presence to support your project that sometimes the actual THING – the MUSIC – figures into the equation as an after thought. It’s a mess, but there’s a lot of beauty and earnestness and discipline to be found in all of it if you care to put in the time to find it.
Finally, what does the rest of 2018 have in store for Hannah Epperson?
Who knows… Lots of hiccups, lots of deep dark under-the-eye rings. Hopefully lots of touring, maybe a sustainable income so I can buy bread for all my starving brilliant friends. Hopefully some shows in North America. Maybe another record, maybe an electric guitar, maybe drum lessons, grad school applications, true love and lots of massage, mastering fermentation on the road – I’m thinking kimchi, I’m thinking sauerkraut, I’m thinking water kefir, I’m thinking…
Huge thanks to Hannah for answering our questions!
Slowdown, the upcoming album from Hannah Epperson is out on 16th February via Listen Collective. Catch her live:
Thursday, 1st March – Shoreditch Town Hall, London (supporting RY X)
Tuesday, 10th April – Servant Jazz Quarters, London