Interview: Julie from HAVVK

We’ve been massive fans of HAVVK (previously HAWK) for a good few years now, and every time they release something new we get a massive twinge of excitement. So, we’re extremely happy to hear they’re about to release another poignant new single ‘Always The Same’ ahead of their debut album next year. And we’re particularly honoured to be co-promoting their upcoming London single launch at Servant Jazz Quarters on 6th December.

Combining soaring celestial vocals with a grunge-tinged musicality, activism is at the heart of all HAVVK do, with this new single addressing female objectification and asking men to question their sense of safety and entitlement and imagine what it’s like to walk down the same street in someone else’s shoes.

Ahead of HAVVK’s single launch shows next month, we caught up with front woman Julie to find out more about their forthcoming debut album, working with esteemed producer Rocky O’Reilly and some of the other wonderful projects she’s involved with right now…

Hi Julie, welcome back to Get In her Ears! Your band HAVVK have recently re-branded and re-released your single ‘Glass’, can you tell us a bit about what lead to this decision?
‘Glass’ was re-released out of pure love for the track. We initially put the track out there in support of the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland in 2015. We never actually gave it an official release back then. Our videographer James Byrne created a beautiful visual of a liquid Pride flag and we uploaded it to YouTube to show our support. It all happened really quickly. We wanted to do something special to go along with the new name so it was the perfect time to add ‘Glass’ to our catalogue. The “re-brand” story is much less romantic. We’ve been hearing for a while now that it’s freaking impossible to find our music online, so we decided to change the name instead of battling through – a lot of bands we know have had the same issue. Can’t really get away from it now that the internet is so crucial to how we consume music.  

HAVVK’s debut album Cause & Effect is out next year – are there any ongoing themes running throughout the collection, and how was the songwriting process?
First of all, it’s so fucking exciting to be finally sharing this with you guys. We’ve been working on these tracks for over a year now, it means so much to unleash them. The album has a two-sided theme and we’re actually releasing it in two parts across next year. It seems to us like we’re living in a culture where news and reaction are so immediate, and only the most extreme voices are the ones that get heard. The album deals with a lot of our own digestion of how the world is looking these days, politically; the people it’s effecting and how we deal with it personally. There’s a lot of personal stuff in there too, to do with identity, relationships, self-expression and mental health. But it’s all framed in this idea of extremes – what we say and what we don’t say, right and wrong, and all the grey space in the middle.

You’ve been working with esteemed Belfast-based producer Rocky O’Reilly for the last couple of years and on production for this album, how has this experience been? How do you feel he’s helped develop your sound?
Rocky’s been an absolute force to work with and has also been super patient with us and our occasional studio cabin fever. His space in Start Together Studio is part of Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, which is like the musical heart of the city, and an extremely supportive space for artists. When you go there, you get a sense of people who really care about their local scene but are also making music that could tour the world. We had already worked with Rocky on a few of our earlier singles, ‘Can’t Explain’ and ‘Below’, and we were so happy with the track. He and Matt co-produce alongside each other, and it’s like they each challenge and bring out the best in each other. Rocky’s got so much experience of producing very dynamic post-rock music, with a lot of heavy and quiet moments – I think you can hear this on the album.

You’re celebrating the launch of the first single from the album, ‘Always the Same’, with a couple of very special gigs in Berlin and London. We’re very excited about your return to London on 6th December! How are you feeling about the shows? Have you got something special lined up for us?
We’ve been fairly cloistered away this year, so these are kind of like home-coming shows. We’re so excited for the line-ups we’re playing with – Rookes and After London will join us at Servant Jazz Quarters, and they’re both doing amazing things. And in Berlin, we’re playing with two bands we’ve fallen in love with since moving there, Leoprrrds and Pearly. In terms of ‘something special’ we just cannot wait to play some of the album material. And we may do a giveaway of the remaining ‘HAWK’ t-shirts – never know, they might be worth a lot of money someday!

The shows are being promoted in conjunction with Veta Records, the indie label you run. Have Veta got any more gigs planned for the new year?
This is such an exciting time of year for us right now. We had put our live nights on hold for a while, after moving to Berlin, but it was always a really important part of what we did in London, and really gave us a sense of community. We’ve always been keen to showcase women in music – the majority of the acts on our label are women, and this is something we want to do our bit to address in the industry. Since we moved to Berlin, we’ve actually made more and more connections with the Irish music scene – there’s a huge creative diaspora out there. One of the reasons we are kick-starting Veta Records nights again is to build more connections across our various home countries. Part of this is co-promoting with established music supporters like your wonderful selves and the awesome women running Bang On back in Berlin. Next year, we’re planning more co-promoted gigs in Ireland, Germany and the UK, as well series of living-room shows.

As well as being in a band, running a record label and putting on gigs, you’ve also recently co-founded SelfMade – a platform to explore DIY music in Ireland through performance, discussion, and art. How did this come about, and can you tell us a bit more about the project?
This has been the most unexpected and rewarding thing to happen to me this year. Joanna Bain is an artist from Scotland, and wanted to launch an art project celebrating DIY Irish musicians last year. When she asked me to get involved, I suggest we add a discussion element, as it had been really on my mind how little transparency there is around the day-to-day of making music. What transpired was this amazing event last February where we exhibited portraits and heard performances and panel discussions from nine Irish women in music. The feedback was really positive and before we knew it we were booking our second, and third event. The last one was last Monday in Belfast at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, and we explored the ins-and-outs of releasing music. The interesting thing is that there are rarely ‘right’ answers to these things, but it’s so valuable as an artist, to get a sense that you’re not the only one with these questions and to know you can look to fellow artists for support.

You also launched ‘Female Fronted Drawn Together’ last year – a project through which you created a playlist of admirable female bands/musicians and created an illustration to accompany each song. We thought this was a wonderful idea, especially as it included some of our favourites! Are you planning on continuing this project, or do you have any more art-related ideas up your sleeve for the new year?
At the moment, my illustration energies are being put into SelfMade – you can check out some of our portraits and zines to see what we’ve been up to. I’m also doing a lot of digital design for Veta and the branding work for SelfMade. I feel like every time I commit to a new project, I’m back on the Adobe Illustrator tutorials – and I love it!

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, and we trust you have great taste, are there any upcoming bands/artists you’d recommend we check out?
Yes! My current album obsession is Dilly Dally – their latest record is infectiously good. Thinking more locally, please check out the bands we’re playing with in Berlin and London, as well as (off the top of my head!) Just Mustard, Oh Joy, Girlfriend, and our label buddies, Sive, Dyvr, and Maria Kelly.

Huge thanks for answering our questions! Can’t wait to see you on 6th December at Servant Jazz Quarters!
Thank YOU ❤

Pre-save ‘Always The Same’ now from Spotify. Cause And Effect, the upcoming debut album from HAVVK is out in 2019. Catch HAVVK live in Berlin and London:

30th November – Loophole, Berlin (with Leoprrrds and Pearly)
6th December – Servant Jazz Quarters, London (with After London and Rookes). Event info & tickets here.