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.

Premiere: Sing Again Syren – ‘Cast Away’

Following last year’s debut ‘Kiss The Preacher’, Newcastle’s Sing Again Syren continue to turn the stereotypical idea of “girl group” on its head and explore their eclectic sound with riotous new single ‘Cast Away’.

Propelled by a raging energy, ‘Cast Away’ is filled with immense swirling riffs and blazing, thrashing beats alongside the soaring power of Eliza Lee’s gritty vocals. Oozing a breathtaking, seething potency, it fuses together the intense classic rock of the likes of Metallica with the fiery attitude of the legendary Joan Jett. A tempestuous, angst-driven wall of sound that marks Sing Again Syren out as a true force to be reckoned with. Of the track, the band expand:

“… the basis of it is in that idea of the proverbial devil on the shoulder, as the first lyric mentions… Really it alludes to the fact it can be so difficult to pin down the causation of negativity but convexly has this positive stance of refusing to be defeated.”

 

‘Cast Away’ is out tomorrow, 21st June, via Veta Records.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Veta Records & Get In Her Ears LIVE @ Servant Jazz Quarters w/ HAVVK, 06.12.18

Having just launched their utterly compelling and intensely poignant new single ‘Always The Same’, last Thursday GIHE faves HAVVK headlined East London venue Servant Jazz Quarters. To celebrate the release, the band’s label Veta Records, with a little bit of help from yours truly, put on a night filled with great vibes, awesome women and – of course – the best live music.

Kicking off the night’s music is Birmingham born, London based artist Rookes. Delivering her rich, sweeping vocals alongside shimmering melodies and infectious swirling loops, she treats our ears to anthemic pop anthems with her distinctive sparkling charm. 

Second band of the night After London have already wowed us once with their live show at The Finsbury earlier this year, but tonight they succeed in completely blowing us away. With an immense energy and alluring charisma, they deliver their gritty alt-rock with the soaring power of front woman Francesca’s vocals taking an empowering hold.

Gracing the stage to headline this intimate venue, HAVVK make their welcome return to their London fans with a subtle captivating power. Powered by front woman Julie’s trademark celestial vocals, the band treat us to offerings old and new. From the sparkling emotion of tracks such as ‘Take It Away’, to the grittier edge of latest single ‘Always The Same’,  each and every moment spent with HAVVK is one of exquisite, spine-tingling splendour.

Huge thanks to all involved for making the night so special! Catch some more of the best live music at The Finsbury this Friday 14th December, with Fightmilk, Handsome Eric, Hanya and Candy Cane!

Words: Mari Lane / @marimindles
Photos: Jon Mo / @jonmophoto

Introducing Interview: Sive

Having shared stages with the likes of Lisa Hannigan and Gemma Hayes, Irish artist Sadhbh O’Sullivan – aka Sive – creates slices of spellbinding alt-folk, interweaving twinkling melodies with soaring, multi-layered vocals and a unique, compelling charm.

With her captivating latest single ‘Quietly’ out now, we caught up with Sive to find out more…

Hi Sive, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you! I’m an Irish songwriter and musician living in a place called Kildare, not too far from Dublin. I’ve been writing and performing independently for about 10 years now, and in that time I’ve released two albums and toured all over Ireland, Europe and New Zealand. I recently started working with Berlin-based label Veta Records, so I’m really delighted to be releasing my new music in collaboration with them.

How did you initially start creating music?
As a kid I loved singing along with whatever pop songs I happened to be obsessing over at the time. I particularly remember being fascinated with harmony and learning the backing vocals parts, which is probably a little weird for a child. It was really when I was about 13 and got my first guitar that I started to write songs. I had a tape recorder which I used to use for very fancy multi-tracking (you need two blank tapes and a second tape player – happy to give lessons if anyone’s interested), and then I eventually got a Boss 8-track recording device which allowed me to mess around a little bit more with arrangements – piano parts, layered vocals etc. I’m showing my age now! When I finished school I went to study in Ballyfermot Rock School and started playing my songs with other musicians. It was terrifying, I hated singing in public for a long time, but that’s when I really started to take my own music to the next level.

Your new single ‘Quietly’ is out now – can you tell us what it’s all about?
It’s about feeling overwhelmed by the noise of the world, and wanting to find a space among all of that to be quiet. It reflects what it’s like to just stop and listen to what’s going on inside yourself – it can be a calming experience but also a little scary in there. The video played around with using lots of projected images to reflect the idea that you create this mad and complex reality in your head, and then project it out onto the world around you.

You’ve been compared to the likes of Jesca Hoop and Julia Jacklin, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Jesca Hoop would certainly be one of the more recent ones. I’m not familiar with Julia Jacklin but will look her up – it’s always interesting when you get compared to someone you haven’t heard yet! Some of my biggest influences over the years were Tori Amos, Simon and Garfunkel, The Shins, Feist, Ella Fitzgerald, Kila and Jeff Buckley. More recently I’ve been listening to This is the Kit, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Rokia Troare, The Toure-Raichel Collective, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. I really love choral and early vocal music, and I think that’s why vocal layering is one of my favourite parts of the recording process!

How is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
My local music scene is on the up. Being so close to Dublin I think people are used to travelling for their live music, but more has started happening in my area. I was actually involved in setting up a new night in my own community called Skylarks Music Club recently, which got off to a roaringly successful start. It’s happening in an old nun’s chapel and our first night featured three amazing performances from Cathy Davey, Ross Breen and Farah Elle as well as our house band who are called Square Pegs. I also just opened for John Spillane in a community centre in a small town nearby last weekend. It was their first live music endeavour in there and they put a lot of work in to make it succeed, so I really hope they continue to grow. John’s live show is really fantastic!

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
My live show has ebbed and flowed over time, depending on what feels right for different gigs. At the moment I’m enjoying playing solo because it opens me up to some nice intimate gig opportunities and also gives me a chance to really connect with the audience. I always try to engage the crowd as much as possible by chatting a bit about the songs etc, so that hopefully it feels like a shared experience as opposed to me just singing at them. I’m actually toying with some new ideas for my live shows for next year though, so at the moment your guess is as good as mine as to how that might unfold!

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
I’m always scared to answer these questions, because I know so many talented artists that I hate leaving anyone out! But I’ll narrow it down to a few who I’ve gigged with recently or who’ve released new music this year. Some of those who I’d recommend checking out would be Maria Kelly, Pearly, Ross Breen, Farah Elle, Dani, Inni-K, and Hatchlings. My pal Emma O’Reilly has some new stuff stuff up her sleeve too, I had a sneak preview a while ago and it’s well worth keeping your eyes peeled for!

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
It is difficult because there are so many people making music independently out there. But I think if you have good material and you put some thought into how you want to present it, it’s very doable. The upside of social media is that, if you’re clever, you really can do so much by yourself. The downside is that it’s quite saturated, and you also end up having to pay to make sure the stuff you share gets seen even by people who’ve already liked or followed you. But I do think there are endless opportunities out there for people who are willing to persevere.

Finally, what does the rest of 2018 have in store for Sive?
Well I’ve just released my new single ‘Quietly’ as you mentioned, along with the video by Myles O’Reilly which was a dream to make. I’m planning lots more releases for 2019, so the rest of this year will be mostly preparing for everything that goes along with that. In fact, as soon as I finish chatting to you I’ll be packing my bags to head off for a week’s writing retreat in a little village on the southeast coast of Ireland! I do have a gig coming up in Whelan’s on Sunday 9th of December, supporting a great songwriter called Enda Reilly. Then there are some lovely shows already planned for early next, so do come and say hi on social media if you’re interested in finding out more!

‘Quietly’, the new single from Sive, is out now via Veta Records.