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INTERVIEW: Hadda Be on their debut album, Another Life

If we reflect (but not for too long, because it's painful) on the nightmarish year that was 2020, we all experienced some major life changes - so did indie-rock quartet Hadda Be, who saw the departure of their original bassist, the addition of a new member, and an entire new band name to encapsulate these changes. Their debut album, Another Life, arrived this week and if you've been excitedly consuming their singles leading up to it like we have at the Coven, you know you're in for a delicious outing into post-punk rawness, gleaming with indie-rock sensibilities and aggressive guitar riffs - exactly our kind of thing!

Hadda Be by Lulu Luthiem

The London/Brighton-based four piece, formerly known as Foundlings, released their debut self-titled EP back in 2019, and have since been preparing an even bigger release: their much-anticipated debut album. After facing repeated delays in recording - because, you know, 2020 - Hadda Be thankfully managed to record the album between lockdowns, resulting in 11 striking tracks as the band effortlessly stride between angular post-punk and danceable indie-rock.

Lighting the fuse on this explosive debut record is opener Apathy, setting the tone with its exhilarating drum rolls and catchy guitar hooks. Catch It On The Fall brings a silky bassline and ethereal, soaring vocals. Title-track Another Life arrived in January and breathed a new life into the band as their first release as Hadda Be; it certainly caught our attention with their swaying indie-rock melodies and earnest lyricism.

Shifting in tone, songs like biting single Wait in the Dark and Take It Away highlight the shadowed edges of Hadda Be as their darker elements are pushed to the forefront. Swelling indie-psych Unknown Places and shoegaze-tinged This Won't End Will spotlight the band's musical capabilities as they prove they won't be confined to a one-size-fits-all indie band.

Highly-charged Fire is all crunching basslines and crashing drums, with its electrifying vibrancy bleeding into mosh-pit-ready Almost Over. Softer touches are offered in So It Goes, with guitar strokes meeting gentle piano jabs as frontwoman Amber exuberates a divine dejection, and album closer Nurse's Song, sampling clippings of Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS and Labour politician. In a time troubled by the pandemic and post-Brexit concerns for our NHS, it's a fitting finale to what is a remarkable debut album.

As if Another Life wasn't enough of a treat, we got to chat with the brilliant band behind the album and are bringing you the inside scoop on the record, lockdown obsessions, and what we can expect next from Hadda Be.

Hi Hadda Be, thanks for talking with the Coven! Congrats on the release of your album! How are you all feeling now it's out there for everyone to hear?

Olly: We’re feeling good! It’s a very odd time to be releasing an album, of course, and most of the feedback we’re getting is online, but we’re still incredibly grateful for the support that people have shown the record; it’s been getting some very kind reviews. It’s always brilliant to hear your songs on the radio too. This was the first time we’ve had our music pressed on to a full run of vinyl, so getting boxes of our own vinyl delivered was so exciting. After the album having been delayed twice due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we were relieved to even be able to get in there to record it, so it still feels slightly unreal that it actually exists...

Hadda Be by Lulu Luthiem

2020 saw a lot of changes for you as a band, including the line-up and band name itself. When you wrote Another Life, did you immediately know it was the perfect first single and album title for this new era of the band?

Olly: It’s a strange coincidence, actually, as we were going to call the album Another Life when we were still Foundlings. The title of the album has developed its own resonance since then. It’s as though Another Life can refer to many things that have happened within the band and in a wider sense over the course of the last few years, and particularly through 2020. Life, in a way, will never be the same after the year the world has had. There are certainly themes of new beginnings and struggling to come to terms with things that have happened in the past throughout the album. So yes, Another Life felt like the perfect title for the album and an easy choice for the first single.

The name Hadda Be comes from the Allen Ginsberg poem Hadda Be Playing on the Radio - are poetry and literature frequent sources of inspiration for you?

Olly: To a certain extent, yes. We all read fairly widely and that must have some bearing on the music we make and the lyrics we write. With this album in particular, lyrically we wanted more of a sense of narrative and the introduction of characters who ‘live’ the themes that Another Life explores, so I guess the fact that we read must have some bearing on that. It’s actually an accident that we reference Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five with So it Goes - I only remembered/realised afterwards that “so it goes” acts as a refrain throughout the novel. These things have a way of slipping into your subconscious, then into the lyrics you write.

Hadda Be by Lulu Luthiem

You recorded the album last year between lockdowns, after a couple of pushbacks. Other than delays, did the pandemic affect the finished product at all, lyrically or musically?

Matthew: I think we were itching to get into the studio when our time finally arrived, and had benefited from rehearsing the songs a few times more than we’d have done had we recorded toward the beginning of the year. We certainly didn’t waste that energy, it really comes across in the final delivery.

Olly: In terms of how the lyrics have been affected in the album, I’d say it’s almost inescapable that the last year will have had a major influence on them. Even the lyrics that had been written prior to the pandemic, it’s as though Amber sings them with all the weight of the last year within her delivery. Particularly with Nurse’s Song, we started writing that in 2019, but what it’s about has been thrown into the spotlight over the last year, so even though the skeleton of the song predates 2020, finishing writing it and recording it through the last year has changed it considerably in many ways.

Besides planning and recording the album, what has kept you busy during lockdowns? Whether that be any books, shows, albums/bands, or anything that kept you occupied this past year.

Matthew: I know at least a couple of us have been engaged with book clubs, which I might now think actually benefit from being convened via online platforms. Akala’s Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire was a particularly brilliant read - as well as the critically important subject matter he’s covering, it’s written in such a unique way (blending biographical experiences with academic reflections, and more than a couple startling reality checks too).

Ben: Of course, I watched Tiger King during the first lockdown along with what felt like everyone else, but throughout the lockdowns I’ve managed to go back and read lots of literature that I always wanted to but sadly never had the time. A highlight for me, and a book that I could not put down, was Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. It thoroughly documents rebellious queer culture in New York during the AIDS crisis through the 80s and 90s - its written with a lot of bite and reset my mind a hundred times.

Olly: I’ve had the LYR album Call in the Crash Team on repeat recently, which came out last year. I love Simon Armitage’s lyrics and delivery. There’s a great live performance of them doing Great Coat on YouTube. I’d urge people to check that out. Like Ben and Matthew mentioned, I’ve also been able to read more over the last year. A standout for me would be Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The French TV show Call My Agent was a great watch too. Would thoroughly recommend that.

Hadda Be by Lulu Luthiem

Are there any particular tracks on the album that you're most proud of?

Matthew: I’m really happy with how Almost Over came out. It’s a fun song to play - goes all out for two minutes before it stops to rebuild itself, then goes all out again - so I was particularly mindful of seeing if that translated when actually recorded. Thankfully, I think it’s a song anyone can engage with on that level. Let your limbs go loose and thrash about with us sort of thing.

Ben: I agree with Matthew, Almost Over was a big track for me and was a highlight from the two live shows we played together just before the first lockdown. I’m also really pleased with Take It Away, if I recall rightly, it was a song that the band had the pieces for before the EP that came out in 2019 long before I joined. After playing with it a few times in practice it stood out to me, I love how urgent Olly’s drumming is on it, and Amber’s voice really gathers the jolted guitars and bass together beautifully.

Olly: I love them all, but I think I’d have to say Nurse’s Song, if I had to pick a stand out for myself. The outro of that track is one of the best things I’ve been involved with musically. It still has a big impact on me when I listen to it now. I’m very proud of us all for making that.

You say that the album captures the energy of your live shows, and that has us more excited for the return of gigs and a chance to see you plays these songs live! Do you currently have any touring plans?

Olly: Yes, we’re booking things in at the moment. On the 17th July we’ll be up in Glasgow playing the CCA along with The Muldoons and Wojtek the Bear. 24th July we’ll be down in St Leonards. We’ve also got a couple of festivals booked in with Jam on the Farm in East Sussex on the 31st July and RivFest in Warrington on the 7th August. We’re looking at other dates at the moment too, particularly in London and Brighton, where we’re based.

We really hope these can go ahead. We’re all dying to play these songs in front of a crowd.

We hope so too, we'd love to see these new songs live in action! Thanks so much for talking to us!

Stream Another Life on Spotify and Apple Music

Buy the album here

Review and interview by Chloe Robbins

Photography by Lulu Luthiem

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