I receive flurries of emails every day, asking me to download free EPs, watch videos and “check out the next big thing!” Usually, most are subject to my trigger happy, trash button finger. But Hannah Lou Clark was different.
Her press release starts “This EP was written and recorded above a Quaker meeting house.” – and I’m hooked. I have the feeling that I recognise her from somewhere: after a quick Google search it doesn’t take me long to figure out where from.
Hannah Lou Clark was formerly in duo called Foe, a rough electropop romp of a band, complete with social satire and off colour sounding beats. Think Nirvana meets a haunted house ride at a dilapidated theme park and you’re close. She is described as the girl who was branded a witch by her classmates when aged 10. Interesting, but disposable, like so much of the music we listen to nowadays. Their only album, Bad Dream Hotline, received favourable reviews but ultimately fizzed out into obscurity.
The pictures from Hannah at this time are startling. A bewitching twenty year old, with a variety of wigs, a plastic princess crown, Lolita esque style and an expression that says she could take you out with one look. Today, she sports an ombre blonde bob – looking effortlessly chique in black and white. My curiosity is piqued. How did the bubble gum pink wig wearing teen end up meditating in a shabby flat above a Quaker meeting house?
I’m quite nervous when I call her on the phone, I expected an eccentric artiste who would be challenging to interview. But actually, she’s softly spoken and just as nervous as I am. She freely admits that she hasn’t done many interviews recently. She’s on her third coffee of the day and “feeling a little jittery”.
She soon relaxes into the conversation, though. I want to know more about why she would seemingly abandon a project with so much potential and appeal. “Foe was supposed to be a solo project but it became a kind of collaboration – that was its downfall really – it wasn’t really one thing or the other. I started to feel disconnected from it.”
I respect her for starting over again. I think it takes true artistry to know when a project is dead – and to begin again on something new. Her new EP, Silent Type, show how much she has flourished working on her own. “It felt quite natural to be a solo project, to write and produce on my own. I found I work better in my own little zone. Although,” she clarifies, “I did work with a drummer because my drumming is no way good enough!”
Silent Type is a stark departure from her previous work. It is unrecognisable from the brash music Foe created. Hannah calls herself a “situational songwriter” – and her new music reflects this. It is much more open and honest, deeply personal. Sonically, she is still making uncomfortable sounds and experimenting with instrumentation, but now it feels more genuine. More mature. “I kind of wanted to avoid using the word mature, but yeah I suppose it is. I’m getting older and losing the gimmick in a way. Not that gimmicks aren’t cool sometimes, but…” she trails off, laughing. She doesn’t need to explain that one.
At this point, the elephant in the room is the Quaker meeting house which she lived and recorded her latest work in. I have to ask her about it. “We were just scouting about online and this one popped up, so we went to have a look at it. And that’s how we met” she pauses “the Quakers.” The tone she uses to describe living above a place of worship is one tinged with humour and an awareness of the peculiarity of the situation. I get the impression that they were not your usual landlords.
“It was hard to find landlords who wanted to have musicians as tenants, but the Quakers were really welcoming. Although part of our contract was that we’d have to be silent on Sunday mornings so they can… do their thing basically.” Although she never went downstairs for a service, Hannah tells me that the whole experience – whist unusual – was actually inspirational to her work. It made her feel calm and safe enough to make music. She tells me she would sit on her floor and be silent whist straining to hear the act of worship that was happening below.
“I wanted to capture the house in the music.” I find that strangely beautiful. It’s not just a red brick Victorian building, with dilapidated rooms and empty fireplaces. It has a character of its own. I have to admit, although I am intrigued, I don’t think I would have wanted to live there. “A lot of our friends would find it really creepy, but I saw it as the opposite.” She does this in her music too. She takes heartbreak and emotional trauma and spins something lovely from it.
Making music isn’t the only thing that Hannah has been busying her time with. She has her own record label – Quatre Femmes Records – which she runs with her two sisters. She even releases her younger sister, CeCe’s music. Truly a family affair. “What is working with your sisters like? It’s very simple: we’re close and we trust each other.” She hasn’t become a soulless music exec in a suit, though. “It’s definitely a creative umbrella not a business.” She clarifies.
“The experience I’ve gained from Foe has allowed me to help give new bands a bit of a leg up. I’m very aware of letting people do their thing and not trying to influence things artistically, but rather helping to frame things a bit.”
She might now look polished and well put together, but the child witch is still there. She’s just grown up a bit. She’s figured out how to express herself in her own way, I suppose like all most successful creative people do. In a way, I think that living in the Quaker meeting house, creating in a place which was so full of reflection and peace is what is in the soul of her new work. It allowed her to cleanse the aspects of her previous work that she didn’t like and reconstruct something new from the ashes. I look forward to hearing more of Hannah’s renaissance of self in her future music.
PHOTO/ Hannah Lou Clark