Breaking Through | 7 Questions with King Hannah
FFO: Mazzy Star, Cat Power, Juanita Stein
Musical meetings aren't always as serendipitous as folklore canon makes out, and Liverpool duo King Hannah can attest to it. It took a while for the project to come together, but going by their sound, it wouldn't be surprising had members Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle's paths converged along a sweltering, dusty middle-American road side.
Two singles in, and they've already garnered sincere fandom in Sharon Van Etten, quite the accolade in itself for a fledging band. And you can't fault her taste. Both 'Crème Brûlée' and 'Meal Deal' are cinematic, six-minute plus soundscapes, elongated and invested emotional tales that sprawl across hostile desert plains. It's pure Americana with British sensibilities, anchored by Merrick's smoky, travelled, instantly recognisable voice, who is, without sounding hyperbolic, a superstar in-waiting.
On their eve of the release of debut EP Tell Me Your Mind And I'll Tell You Mine, we spoke to the Liverpool duo:
You'd both been musicians separately for some time, so how did King Hannah come together?
Craig: I first saw Hannah at a uni music night my friend was playing at. The music was mostly terrible but she was incredible, and a few years later I started working in a bar and she was working there. I remembered how good she was, and the next year or so was basically me trying to convince her to jam with me. Thankfully she did, eventually.
Hannah: It took a while but we got there in the end!!
Which music influences you both, in terms of either specific genres of artists?
Craig: We both love the same music, really. 90's bands like Portishead, Radiohead, Mazzy Star, and newer acts like Courtney Barnett and Sharon Van Etten have been massive inspirations for us. For me personally artists like Kurt Vile, Bill Callahan and Silver Jews have really influenced the way I think about music and playing guitar. It just has to sound real and authentic.
Hannah: Personally, I'm highly influenced by quiet lo-fi, moody sounding songs and stuff I can reallyyyyy sing to. If it makes us feel something, then it’s good enough for us!!
'Crème Brûlée' has garnered some serious attention already - I saw that Sharon Van Etten shared on her socials the other day. Does it feel surreal getting this sort of recognition so quickly?
Hannah: Oh of course, it’s crazy!! It gives you such an adrenaline rush, and just makes us want to push for more, it’s completely addictive!! We’re really grateful to Sharon Van Etten for doing that too, it’s really kind of her!! It’s mad the pull and influence one person can have, so many incredible artists will follow her, many of whom I imagine have now seen, possibly even listened to us - I hope so!!
Craig: It’s very surreal! The thought of Sharon Van Etten even listening to the song is pure madness, never mind her liking it and posting it on her Instagram. We just want to keep getting better and pushing ourselves.
How did City Slang help nurture your sound?
Craig: City Slang have been amazing. They really trust us and believe in what we're doing one hundred percent. We couldn't have asked for a more fitting label to help us grow and make even better music.
Hannah: Totally, exactly what Craig said. Trust is the most important thing and City Slang give us that in bucket loads, which we appreciate so, so much. It’s a lovely feeling.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming EP?
Craig: Nothing to tell just yet!
Hannah: And we can’t wait to share it with you all!!
What's your favourite local venue, and how do you think local music communities can support each other during the current crisis?
Craig: My favourite Liverpool venue has gone now, which was The Kazimier. A lot of Liverpool venues seem to go that way, and that's only going to get worse with the current situation I think. In terms of how local musicians can help each other I really don't know. The government has sort of shown that the arts isn't as high a priority for them as it is for some other countries, and with no live music it doesn't look great for the immediate future. Personally we have just been trying to write and improve so that when things go back to normal we're ready for whatever the musical climate looks like.
Hannah: I always loved The Deaf Institute in Manchester. With regards to local music communities helping each other, to be honest I have no idea. As a whole however, there are an awful lot of people ruining it for everyone else, huge crowds gathering in the streets post 10pm for example is just pathetic and utterly selfish. This isn’t supporting each other in my eyes.
What's the biggest lesson you've learnt as musicians so far?
Hannah: Personally, mine is to go with my gut. It sounds cheesy, but it’s so so true, I trust it implicitly. It’s also incredibly important to surround yourself with the right people, right meaning incredible musicians who have the same drive as you.
Craig: Biggest lesson for me is to never give up and always believe in the project you're working on, as clichéd as that sounds. And if you're ever in a rut listen to Bruce Springsteen, he'll drag you out of it.
Tell Me Your Mind And I'll Tell You Mine is out tomorrow (20th November) via City Slang.