Introducing Interview: Sister Ghost

With accolades such as winning ‘Best Live Act’ at Northern Ireland’s Music Prize in 2019 and airplay from the likes of BBC 6Music and BBC Radio 1, Derry based Shannon Delores O’Neill and Maeve Mulholland – aka Sister Ghost – have just released their brilliantly entitled new EP Stay Spooky. Taken from the EP, latest single ‘Buried Alive’ oozes the duo’s distinctive swirling, gritty power as soaring impassioned vocals and catchy hooks rage with a seething energy. A perfect slice of sparkling rock ‘n’ roll, exuding a much-needed empowering raucous spirit.

We caught up with Shannon to find out more about the new single, what inspires Sister Ghost’s sound, her thoughts on the industry at the moment and more… Have a read and listen to new single ‘Buried Alive‘ now!

Hi Sister Ghost, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
I started Sister Ghost while I was in uni at Belfast. It’s brought so many cool moments to my life, such as supporting LeButcherettes, Pussy Riot and Shellac (meeting Steve Albini and getting his plectrum was amazing!). One of the greatest moments was winning Best Live Act at the 2019 NI Music Awards – getting to stand on the famous Ulster Hall stage where Zeppelin played Stairway for the first time was cool. That award meant a lot too because we were two women, playing loud rock music, with no big team around us – totally a win for grassroots rockers. Sister Ghost started off as a means for me to make the music I always wanted to make, and it’s evolved into a band that is all about a great and energetic live performance where the audience should have as much fun as we do.

Are you able to tell us a bit about how you initially started creating music together? 
I’d been writing and performing as Sister Ghost for a few years but met Maeve at Girls Rock School NI in 2017 (I was directing and she was learning bass) and we got on well, so I asked her to join in 2019 and it’s been going great. During the pandemic I was able to have the time to write an album’s worth of material and I sent those demos to Maeve who then wrote her bass lines – she’s always on hand to help with any technical side of things when I need a hand. The same process led us to writing the new EP Stay Spooky that came out earlier this month.

I love the gritty, seething energy of your sound, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you – I like that description, it reminds me of the song Seether by Veruca Salt, who are a huge influence on Sister Ghost for sure! The songs on the new EP are the best example I feel of a mash-up of two particular eras of music for me: lots of ’90s stuff like L7, Soundgarden & Radiohead and then ’60s folk/psych infused rock like CSNY, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mamas and Papas, The Doors, The Byrds etc. Kate Bush and her iconic level of artistry and not bowing down to anyone, has always been something I look to as well.

You’ve just shared your immense new single ‘Buried Alive’, which is super exciting! Are you able to tell us a bit about this? Are there any particular themes running throughout the song?
I wanted to write about the experience of feeling smothered under the weight of responsibilities as well as when you feel that pressure to question yourself and where you’re at in life. Equally, I also wanted to acknowledge the realisation that everything that’s happened before has led you to where you are now – with purpose, and the gratitude and comfort you can feel in knowing that.

How have you found recording and promoting music during these strange times?
It’s actually been my most fruitful time for writing, literally just because the pandemic meant that moving back home to the countryside with not much else to do meant I could just be with my guitar, laptop and notebooks. It’s been shitty not being able to play many shows and live-streams are kind of a buzzkill too (even though they were necessary at a time). But the sooner we get back out on a series of gigs the better – I’m trying to manifest a busy 2022 for Sister Ghost!

You’ve recently played an exclusive, limited-capacity in-store show in Starr Records, Belfast – how was that experience for you? 
It was really great – the room was perfect, filled with candles and plants and it was the first time I got to play my new 12 string guitar as well (I’m a guitar nerd for sure). It was just so much fun to get to perform in a full band set-up for the first time since Friday 13th March 2020, which was also in that same record shop! It was so nice to see friends we hadn’t seen in a long time as well.

And how is the live music scene in Northern Ireland at the moment – has it ‘recovered’ after the limitations of the last couple of years?
Not really in all honesty – our government only just allowed a return for standing gigs on October 31st so we’re way behind.

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? Do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and non binary artists? 
Someone recently told me they felt it was an easier time for the brand new, just out-of-school artists right now because they had all that time during the pandemic to try out stuff without having the pressure to be out gigging straight away etc. I think it’s probably a bit of this and that really, I think the internet is helping a lot of people gain a following these days, more so than just being out gigging in the real world – cutting your teeth like I did as a teen in bands etc. In terms of your second question, I just think people who hold power need to keep making sure their venues and spaces are free from toxicity. I also think that work needs to continue on calling out the patriarchal systems and ways of thinking we experience on the daily, so that people of all gender identities feel validated and safe in every walk of life.

And, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Yes! Heart Shaped – Kendall is originally from Houston but has been based in Belfast for a few years now – we met through Girls Rock School NI. Mom Friend – Emily is based in Georgia, USA and we met at Girls Rock Santa Barbara.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Sister Ghost?
Preparations for the debut Sister Ghost album… Woohoo!

Massive thanks to Shannon for answering our questions!

Stay Spooky, the new EP from Sister Ghost, is out now. Buy on bandcamp now.

Introducing Interview: Lunar Vacation

With acclaim from the likes of The Fader and Clash, and having previously charmed our ears with the luscious sounds of singles ‘Mold’ and ‘Gears‘, Atlanta-based Lunar Vacation have just released their debut album, Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp. With each track oozing a shimmering allure and stirring emotion, the album showcases the band’s ability to create heartfelt, irresistibly effervescent indie-pop with a catchy, lilting musicality reminiscent of the likes Best Coast and Alvvays. A collection glistening with a cinematic grace as droplets of stirring melancholy ripple on a seemingly serene surface.

We caught up with Grace from the band to find out more about the album, their thoughts on the music industry at the moment and more. Have a read, and make sure you treat your ears to the beautiful new album as soon as possible!

Hi Lunar Vacation, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Hey! I’m Grace, and I play guitar and sing in Lunar Vacation. Currently I’m finishing up my last semester at college, making some art, and playing with my cat, Science. 

Are you able to tell us a bit about how you initially started creating music together? 
Maggie and I became friends in high school during a guitar class songwriting project. Connor and Matteo also went to our high school and we just naturally found each other. 

I love your shimmering, blissful sounds with shades of faves Rilo Kiley and Alvvays, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
It changes all the time – all four of us listen to different genres of music from different times, so there is always a good, unique collection of music swimming ‘round in our heads. Right now, Big Thief has been one of my biggest influences musically and lyrically. I admire how Adrienne approaches writing lyrics and how she uses music to work through her thoughts and feelings. There is a really beautiful, delicate aspect of her reflections expressed in her music. 

You’ve just released your debut album – Inside Every Fig There’s A Dead Wasp – which is super exciting! Are you able to tell us a bit about this? Are there any particular themes running throughout the album?
We are all extremely proud and looking forward to finally letting her run free into the world. It’s ultimately up to the listener to form their own idea and interpret it how they want. Once it’s out there, it’s not ours anymore. So in other words, you’ll have to listen to find out!!

Do you have a favourite track on the album? And if so, why does that one mean the most to you?
I think my favourite out of all of them is ‘Gears’. I’m extremely proud of how it came together and how honest the lyrics are – this was one song where I felt that the words flowed perfectly and found their place in the song. Writing that song helped me process a lot of loose ends I had from a relationship that was drawn out for way longer than it should have and to fully move on. 

And how have you found recording and promoting an album during these strange times? 
It was definitely strange making a record at the height of COVID – there were times that it felt like the studio was an intense vacuum of time and space and there would never be an end to the pandemic. Ultimately, I think it added a unique aspect to the record itself… The music, writing, productions, feelings, etc. Everything happens for a reason and I guess the right time for our record was a global pandemic. I’m not sure if that speaks to anything. 

The album’s produced by Daniel Gleason of Grouplove – how was the experience of working with him, and how would you say his contribution added to the collection’s overall sound?
The record wouldn’t have been what it is without Dan and our engineer, TJ Elias. They are such an amazing duo and helped us create what was in our head onto the record. They pushed us sonically and creatively to lean into our strengths, explore our weaknesses, and embrace our own styles. 

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? Do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and non binary artists? 
That’s a layered question. I have a lot of qualms with the industry as a whole and how it’s shifted to artists having their “moment” instead of focusing on the longevity of their music. Sometimes it seems like it just favours the algorithm, vanity, and self promotion to the point of image and social media coming first and then the actual music following second. Music streaming platforms have made artists reliant on being “playlisted” to have a career. I guess it’s the modern day radio, but it doesn’t sit quite right with me. However, I think the accessibility from social media has made an extensive, positive amount of room for new LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC identifying artists, which has been really promising and inspiring to experience. But, I would like to see more representation in the gay and non-binary community instead of the few token white, straight passing people that are labelled “gay icons”. There are more people out there that represent the community and they need to be uplifted and celebrated.

And, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Definitely pay attention to Future Crib, Binki and The Slaps! These aren’t new, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Lynn Castle, Yuck, and Big Thief.

Finally, in addition to the release of your album, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Lunar Vacation?
Playing a few more shows and hopefully graduating college in December!! All good vibes ahead. 

Massive thanks to Grace for answering our questions! Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp, the brand new album from Lunar Vacation, is out now via Keeled Scales. Catch them live on their UK Tour next Spring – tickets here.

Photo Credit: Violet Teegardin 

INTERVIEW: Anna Vincent

Having previously charmed us fronting indie-pop outfit Heavy Heart (who headlined a dream of a gig for us at The Windmill a while back), and as a touring member of Happyness, after two decades making music London based Anna Vincent has now launched her first solo venture. With her debut album, Under The Glass, set for release tomorrow (29th October) on Max Bloom (Yuck)’s new label Ultimate Blends, she has recently been charming our ears with a number of shimmering singles. Exuding a spellbinding majestic grace alongside the stirring heartfelt emotion of Anna’s exquisite sparkling vocals, each track offers a truly blissful, captivating soundscape.

We caught up with Anna to find out more about the album, what inspires her, her feelings about the industry, and more… Have a read!

Hi Anna, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you! I’m a singer-songwriter from London and I’m releasing my debut solo album Under the Glass on 29th October.  Before going solo, I released albums with several bands – most recently Heavy Heart, and before that My Tiger My Timing – and was also a live member playing bass in Happyness, Ski Lift, and with Max Bloom. I’ve always loved being in bands, but when Covid hit it felt like a good moment to explore some other ideas, and that’s how this solo album came together.

What initially inspired you to start creating music?
I’ve been writing songs since I was about fourteen, and what initially inspired me was simple: The Beatles. I was lucky to grow up in a household where great music was always playing – from Bowie and Iggy, to Joni and Patti – and I’d loved them since I was a little kid. When my brother got a guitar, I started to realise that it might be possible to play those songs myself. James was always a far better guitarist than me, and I’ve had the privilege of being in both Heavy Heart and My Tiger My Timing with him, but even with my rudimentary skills I did love the way that you could accompany yourself on guitar with just a few simple chords and suddenly have a song. My first songs were really just lyrics, but I distinctly remember the moment where I made the leap and actually put them to a melody. It’s weird because one minute you think “how the hell do I write a song?”, and the next minute you hum something into thin air and you’re a songwriter. I found that exhilarating; the idea of creating something from nothing. Even to this day I don’t really understand how it happens, it’s like magic. 

Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen I played in local bands in New Cross (mostly grunge and nu metal covers!), and quietly taught myself to write and record songs on my Tascam 4-track. I could happily spend hours in my bedroom multi-tracking guitars, MIDI drums, and harmonies, and then bouncing them down and walking around the neighbourhood listening to them on my headphones. I really wanted nothing more than that, and I had no real ideas about anyone else listening to my stuff. Eventually I got into being in “proper” bands and started releasing my music on a wider scale, but I was probably never happier than in those early years when it was just about the songs and nothing else.

I love your beautifully heartfelt, twinkling sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you! I have so many influences, but when I was making this record, I was definitely exploring folk and folk-rock a lot more, particularly things like Crosby Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Simon & Garfunkel, and John Martyn, alongside Joni Mitchell (who I’ve always loved), Sheryl Crow, and Nico. I also got really into Wilco, Elliot Smith and Teenage Fanclub quite recently, so those were definitely in the background too when I was making the album. I don’t know if any of this stuff comes through in the songs or not, but these artists definitely inspired me and gave me a particular mood and approach I think.

Youre about to release your debut album Under The Glass – are you able to tell us a bit about this? Are there any particular themes running throughout the album? 
Under The Glass is definitely the most honest and personal album I have ever made, and although I’m excited for people to hear it, it’s also scary putting myself out there in this way, and I do feel quite vulnerable and exposed. There are a few main themes which run throughout the album, of which the central one is love. I’ve written about love in the past, but never this literally or this intimately, so this has been a new departure for me (although I am aware that writing songs about love is pretty much as normal as it gets!). 

At the start of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, I initially felt no desire to write music or really put anything into the world. It just seemed pointless and futile. But after a while, and despite myself, I picked up my guitar again and some songs started to take shape. A lot of the lyrical ideas came from poems I had written back in 2019. Halfway through that year, several things happened in my life all at once. Firstly, the long relationship I had been in suddenly came to and end – and with it, Heavy Heart – because we were both in the band. Although Patrick and I have remained great friends, at the time it was a huge change that I wasn’t ready for, and it felt like everything we’d been building over the past five or more years was gone. But then, something amazing happened out of the blue. Max and I had been friends for several years and had even played in each other’s bands at various points, but I don’t think either of us expected what would happen. But one night we met up for a drink and something changed (I always think about that Pulp song). Suddenly mixed in with the sadness of things ending, was this incredible, magical high of new love, and I was walking around the place feeling like I was on some crazy drug. I actually wrote a song called ‘Seeing Double’ about that very evening, and I’d say more than half of the songs on the album are little moments from our story. Which I know could potentially sound very soppy, but I think that with those intense feeling of love can also come feelings of insecurity and doubt about whether they feel the same, whether it will last. So being a natural worrier, there’s still a healthy dose of what I’ve come to think of as my trademark melancholia in there!

Other themes on the album are to do with the passing of time, growing up and getting older. When I calculated it I realised I’d been making music for about twenty years, and suddenly it felt like something I should embrace, or at least explore. In the music world, everyone is meant to be eternally young, and the idea of ageing, especially for women, is taboo. But I’m writing better songs now, I think, than I ever did in my twenties, and I want to be able to be proud of that and not hide myself away. I haven’t fully come to terms with getting older, and some days I don’t want to be a grown up at all, but I was able to put a lot of my thoughts about it into these songs and I do think that has been helpful.  At the very least I’ve made something I’m proud of. The album title track came from this idea I had about moments in time being like butterflies that we’re always trying to catch and pin underneath glass. As a songwriter, every song is my attempt to capture a fleeting moment or feeling and preserve it for other people to experience.

And how have you found recording and promoting an album during these strange times? 
Recording the album has actually been the best thing about the pandemic for me and I feel really grateful that I’ve been able to keep working even during lockdown. When I started writing these songs I had no intention of releasing them, they were just something to do so that I wouldn’t feel like the year had been totally wasted. I actually think that writing without considering an audience or a release really gave me the freedom to explore different sounds, and made me creatively unafraid in a way I hadn’t experienced since those early forays into songwriting back in my teenage bedroom.  I actually got back to writing for the love of it, and with no other objective than to make a song I felt proud of. 

My boyfriend is Max Bloom, who is an incredibly talented musician, songwriter and producer, and he produced the whole album here at our home studio, and recorded almost all of the instruments you hear, so I’ve been very lucky. We were so fortunate to have a space where we could record everything (expect drums – those were done remotely by the brilliant Adam Gammage), and it meant that we could both keep working. Max was previously in Yuck and released his amazing second solo album Pedestrian earlier this year which I highly recommend listening to.  

Adapting to working in lockdown definitely had an effect on the sound of the record, as all of the songs were written with just an acoustic guitar, even though we did add drums later, and going solo rather than working with a band was as much out of necessity as choice. But I’m really happy with how it came out, and I feel so relieved that I have something to show for that weird year. We’re releasing the record through Max’s label Ultimate Blends, and so far the reception to the singles I’ve put out has been really lovely.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
Obviously without live shows it has been harder to connect with any audience or other musicians, although I did do my first solo acoustic show the other day in London supporting my dear friends LIINES and it was so much fun. I’m not a big performer and I haven’t always enjoyed being on stage, but I think this is the longest I’ve gone without playing live since I was a teenager, so it did feel really good to be back. And it was so lovely talking to people afterwards who said they enjoyed the set. In previous times if I wasn’t playing myself, I would always be at gigs seeing friends’ bands, seeing new bands, seeing any bands, so I do feel very out of the loop now. But it really has made me appreciate the fact that people are still putting out music in spite of so many things being against us as musicians (not just Covid).

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, over the last couple of years?
I have to give huge credit to Max for making me play him my demos for this album even though I was shy about it, and for insisting we record them properly. At every stage where I felt like I wasn’t good enough, he encouraged me and gently pushed me forwards, and it’s safe to say this record would not exist without him. Although I’m releasing this under my own name, I do view it really as a collaborative project and I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a brilliant musician and producer. As far as inspiration goes, I’d cite all of my amazing musician friends, and all the people I’ve been fortunate enough to make music with throughout my life.

As a woman in music, how do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? Do you feel much has changed over the last few years? 
I’m actually so out of the loop with the music industry now, and I’m really happy that way! I’ve spent my life trying to somehow break my way in to little or no avail, and I have almost always ended up DIY-ing it, so my perspective has tended to be that of an outsider. That used to upset me a lot, and I’d feel like there was some conspiracy against me or some kind of list of names (oh the arrogance of youth!), but now it’s a bit of a relief. I don’t feel the burning need to compete so much any more and I don’t really want to play those games. Which is not to say that I’m giving up, or don’t want my music to be heard – quite the opposite, I feel more energised than ever and I know I will always be making music (for myself and anyone who wants to hear it). It means so much to me when I see that someone across the world (or across the road) has listened to my songs, so I hope I can reach more people by just doing it my way.  

I think it’s harder and harder for new musicians – there’s this perception with the internet that the opportunities to release your music are endless, and in some ways they are, but it’s also a huge turbulent ocean of bands trying to make their own waves, and the damn algorithm seems to squeeze things so tightly and it feels like independent artists are often stifled because of it. I used to worry so much about “success” when I was starting out, but eventually I realised that the only thing in my control was the songs, and I’ve written a lot that I’m really proud of, so I guess that was its own success. It’s great to see so many amazing new female artists coming through, and I do think that things are slowly changing for the better, but sadly a lot of the sexist old ways of the music industry are still alive and kicking. I guess the difference now is at least we’re starting to be able to talk about it.

And, as were a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands that youd recommend we check out?There are so many, but a few that I have to recommend you check out if you haven’t yet are Ski Lift (@helloskilift), Sunnbrella (@sunnbrella), and Malvis Key (@malvis_key), and special shouts – although they are both very established – to LIINES (@weareliines), and Max Bloom (@maxbloommusic), just because I love them!

Finally, in addition to the release of your album, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for you?
I’m really excited to be launching my album with a full-band live show in London at The Waiting Room next Monday (1st November), which follows my singles ‘Nothing Wrong’, ‘Thin Skin’ and ‘Naxos’.  Aside from that, I guess I might think about making another album. I do already have some ideas, but I want it to come together naturally, so I’m not pushing it at the moment. 2021 has gone quickly in some ways, so I’m not sure what’s left of it, other than my birthday in December which I am – for the first time in a long time – kind of looking forward to this year. A year older, and maybe this time, a little wiser.

Under The Glass, the debut solo album from Anna Vincent, is out tomorrow 29th October via Ultimate Blends. Order here.

Photo Credit: Max Bloom

INTERVIEW: HAVVK

Having been huge fans of HAVVK since they headlined our first gig at The Finsbury back in 2016, we were massively excited about the release of their stunning new album, Levelling, a few weeks back. With support from the likes of Radio X, BBC 6Music and Wonderland Magazine under their belts, the album showcases the Dublin trio’s knack for creating truly immersive offerings, oozing a swirling, ethereal splendour, intertwined with a grunge-tinged grit. Propelled by the haunting, celestial power of front person Julie’s vocals, each track ripples with a captivating grace, creating a collection of exquisitely cathartic soundscapes.

We caught up with Julie to find out more about the album, Dublin’s live music scene and HAVVK’s plans for the next few months… Have a read!

Hello! Hope you’re all well at the moment… Your new, totally beautiful, album Levelling has recently been released, which is super exciting! How has it all been? Has it had the reaction you were expecting? 
Honestly, it’s been so, so nice. It’s been hard to connect with listeners for the last couple of years and it’s made releasing music a bit surreal sometimes. It’s all been a bit Black Mirror. But the reaction to the record was so tangible – we’ve had so many kind messages. And we were really lucky that we got to have an album launch – that one night that we got to scream at each other (from a safe distance) really made up for a lot of that lost connection. People knew the words and were doing their best to break their necks moshing from their seats. It was gorgeous.

And how was it recording and promoting an album during such unpredictable times? 
We were super lucky as we’d literally done our last in-person session in Belfast just before the restrictions got serious. There was still a lot of production work to do but we managed it all through zoom calls during lockdown, with lots of pets (our side) and kids (Rocky’s side) running around in the background too. Even though promoting the tracks during lockdown was really strange and a bit lonely at times, I’m so grateful that we had something so important to focus on during those eighteen months. It really kept us grounded.

You recorded the album with Belfast legend Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios, and have worked with him quite a lot previously. What is it that you love about working with him, and marks him out as different from other producers? 
Rocky has become such a good friend of ours. He has such an amazing ear for how to bring out different layers of our music and his knowledge of synths and pedals and plug-ins is astounding. The first time we recorded with him, he had set up a wall of amps for Matt and we’d never seen or heard anything like it. They’ve created such a welcoming, inclusive space at Start Together which can be rare to find in studios and honestly, anywhere in the industry.  

You’ve described the album as being about growing up and how our perceptions change over time – can you tell us a bit more about this and the themes running throughout the release?
If you include the age gaps between us, we’ve spent almost all of our collective 20s and 30s together as a band. And along the way, we’ve gone through major life moments together – losses, moves, break-ups, and we’ve had some big, big conversations along the way too. We’ve seen how much your priorities can change. We wanted to make a record that started at one end of a life and ended at the other, and broke out some of those moments where you have to make a choice that will probably stick with you for the rest of your life. A lot of the songs are about the important relationships that crystallise us as people (even if we didn’t know it at the time), or the ones we have to let go of and make our peace with. It’s really about trying to get perspective on how much time we have in the world – which is a massive, scary, silly thing to think about, but it can really magnify the moments that matter. And we’ve tried to capture some of those in Levelling.

‘Home’ or ‘Hold On’ may have to be my faves on the album – they just really seem to resonate (though every song is beautifully majestic!). Do you have a favourite song on the album, and if so why?
For me it’s ‘Automatic‘. That song just made me so happy from the minute we started recording it – I felt like I was in the band that fifteen year old me always wanted to be in. I love the humour in the lyrics, the playfulness of the verses before we smash into the choruses, and the absolute wall of sound from Matt’s guitar part and Sam’s drums in the chorus. And I just love that it’s a love song about friendships and some of the most important women in my life. That’s a very satisfying thing to shout about on stage.

I was just alerted to the fact that the first ever gig I hosted, which you headlined at The Finsbury, was five years ago today! That was such a dreamy night. But over the years, has there been a particular show you’ve played that stands out as a highlight? 
I’m gonna throw all of my previous answers to this question out of the window now because we’ve just had our album launch in Dublin after eighteen months of zero gigs and it was an absolutely magic night! Finally being back in a room with humans and playing the new songs for the first time was incredibly special to us. I had just forgotten how much it meant – and not just to ourselves. There were so many people in that room who also hadn’t been to a live show yet – so really, I felt like the gig was about way more than just ourselves. It was about everyone remembering how much the live music community meant to them.

And how is the live music scene in Dublin at the moment? Would you say it’s back on its feet after the pandemic? 
As I type, we’re waiting for the Irish government to ‘clarify’ a bizarre new easing of restrictions which is allowing clubbing to re-open while live music still can’t go on at full capacity and all audiences still have to be seated. Yes, you did read that correctly and no, that does NOT make sense. I think that illustrates the situation pretty well – I’m delighted to see clubs opening and that there’s some changes happening (and obviously that we got to have any kind of album launch!), but every time there’s an update live music and theatre seems to be at the bottom of the priority list. Promotors and musicians are really confused and frustrated over here – it is such a slap in the face as a country that really prides itself on culture, that this isn’t reflected back by the funding and decisions made at government level.

You’ve been a band for quite some time now (and we’ve been fans all the way!) – would you say the music industry has changed much over the last few years? And, in particular, do you think it’s improved in its treatment of female/non-binary/LGBTQIA+ artists? 
It’s hard to measure any kind of change in the industry just now as it’s been such a strange couple of years. Yes, there’s definitely been some progress and I feel like my identity is more reflected back in the industry than it was when we started out – there are more women, NB and queer folks on stage, on the radio, on panels etc. but there’s miles to go. I’m more excited about what’s next. As a community, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our needs over the last couple of years and we’re kind of at a point of ‘restart’ right now. I personally feel more empowered now to put up boundaries and to call out discriminative behaviour – speaking to other artists I know in Ireland especially, there’s a mutual feeling that if we’re getting back to business, we are going to have higher standards for ourselves and for each other. I hope this will have an upward effect on the industry.

As we’re a new music focused organisation, are there any upcoming bands or artists you’re a fan of that you’d recommend we check out? 
Yes! I am currently swooning over M(h)aol, Runah, Pretty Happy, Fears and Bobbi Arlo.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for HAVVK? 
You’d think I’d be sick of my house by now but honestly, we’ve been looking forward to a bit of a rest and a refuel before next year. We’ve not just put out our own album this year, but we’ve also worked on a tonne of releases on our label, VETA Music. So apart from a few live sessions, I think the priority is to get back to basics: eat well, rest up and maybe do a little writing – hang out with the cat! My brain still doesn’t quite understand how to switch off at the moment, so that’s my biggest goal for the rest of the year before we get on the road next year (spoiler). 

Massive thanks to Julie for answering our questions!

Levelling, the new album from HAVVK, is out now via VETA Music.