Interview by Parisa Eshrati
During the 11th annual Gem and Jam festival, HÄANA spoke with T&E Collective about the importance of incorporating femininity into the transformational music scene. We also discussed the relationship between music and mindfulness practices, creating a balance between earthy and electronic sounds, and upcoming projects.
How was your Gem and Jam experience?
I had the honor to open the Tanzanite stage on Friday eve at Gem and Jam this year. It was right at sunset, which is such a beautiful time because you can really see and connect with the crowd. The sky is changing, it’s that golden hour, the lights create a haze on the stage which all culminate to a beautiful atmosphere. Just as the sun was setting, I had the audience look towards the sunset, close their eyes, and make an intention. That whole set felt very powerful and it’s incredible to have that space to create in. I also had three dancers on stage with me: Zoë Rae, Erin Deo, and Nikki Nerida. There was so much powerful female energy on stage and I felt that the audience was super engaged.
I really love that this festival has only two main stages, and only one set going on at a time. It really helps prevent that ADHD feeling where you keep running around at festivals so you don’t miss out on anything. It’s my first time at Gem and Jam, and I’m very impressed with the whole experience. There are so many elements that go into a good set at a festival – the ambience, the sound, the lighting, the environment. This one felt really on.
I’d like to discuss the idea of bringing femininity into the festival community . Of course, there are many other identifying-female artists, attendees, etc. but you are one of the few female performers on the lineup. Do you feel that the transformational music scene still needs some evolving in that aspect of being more inclusive?
Yes, I definitely think that women should be showcased more, and more of a conscious effort should be made (and I believe is being made) to strike a balance with female-centric acts and producers and DJs. There is progress – last year at Lightning in a Bottle, for example, the music lineup was about half female artists.
This is something that I think about a lot because I’m carving a unique path in this festival scene, and because of that I find myself having to sometimes over-explain my music and my concepts. I often mention that this is all my own production and all my original compositions. There’s often an assumption that someone else writes my beats, or that I play for someone else’s band (I do often guest with other artists, on violin, it is true, but my main project is my solo livetronica act where I’m performing an intuitive Ableton set paired with live violin, vocals, synths, and controllerism). There’s a tendency to create all-female lineups for “goddess nights”, and I’m not really too fond of the concept. I think it’s more important to show that a woman can participate or headline a mixed-gender lineup.
I love that I’m given an opportunity to inspire women to show them that they can create this path for themselves that they might not have known previously to be accessible or possible. Many women have commented to me after witnessing my set that they feel pretty inspired — as though they’re given a license and a safe space for growth.
You’re very deeply involved in yoga and meditation, performing alongside yoga practices. Do you kind of treat music as another form of meditation? What is the relationship between your music and mindfulness practices?
My career has been split down the middle as my HÄANA solo career doing EDM and transformational festivals, and also the yoga and meditation aspect. A couple years ago, I started a side project called DEEPSØNØS, which is an immersive sound meditation workshop. Really, I think that any music that people are intentionally moving to or being aware of themselves is pretty powerful. Music can affect and shape people’s identities and moods and serve as a catalyst to change.
The fact that I do yoga as well really informs the music that I create. Here at Gem and Jam, I had an opportunity to collaborate with Hannah Muse, a fabulous and badass yoga instructor. Whenever I collaborate with a yoga teacher, I’m looking to tap into their energy and the attendees to make a cohesive experience. No two classes are the same, and it’s basically taking everyone on a journey. I create the music live on the spot, like a live filmscore accompanying the yoga flow. I used synths, beats, violin, vocals, electronic textures, to weave a beautiful and intuitive soundscape that matched Hannah Muse’s teaching. It even brought some of the participants to tears.
My framework is that the things in life that I do are informed by a path of least resistance. Four years ago, I got booked for Wanderlust Festival. That was a great platform for me to really explore different aspects of music and meditation. Not only was I accompanying yoga classes, but I was doing sonic meditation hikes, which then informed the DEEPSØNØS project. It all organically morphed out of that. I also did my solo HÄANA performances in the villages which was a really great, non-intimidating experience. Yoga and meditation are definitely on the rise in mainstream culture, so I’m interested to see where my meditation side project will go.
Tell us about your equipment. You have both digital and analog sounds in your music, creating a unique harmony of earthy yet glitch sounds. What are your intentions by creating this balance?
I produce in Logic, and I have a whole set of synths and software I work with. I use Omnisphere, Native Instruments’ Maschine, Kontakt, Reaktor, Trillian, REV, etc. I also synthesize my own sounds where I take sound waves and tweak the parameters. I’ll incorporate my vocals sometimes as a texture rather than a lead vocal. I use a lot of piano, cello and violin in my work and I’m very interested in creating an organic merging of sounds.
Early on, when I first started producing, after an intensive 6 month Logic producer’s course at Dubspot in NYC, I was working with a mix engineer, Emch Subatomic. We started tweaking things and finding the best quality sounds, and he influenced me to use more organic percussion sounds, i.e. rice in a jar or peppercorn shakers. Those initial steps are what inspired this merging of organic, electronic noises with analog sounds. My current mix engineer Dave Sharma really supports this vision. He’s always encouraging me to meld the worlds of digital and analog deeper, and pushes me to experiment even more. When I’m traveling, I use my phone to record melodies in my head that have been inspired by that local area, the wind, bird songs, and then I’ll go back and build around that.
What I’m looking to create with my music is a mood, a journey, or to paint a picture with sounds. I am really inspired by Nordic and Icelandic folk music, but really I just turn off my brain and tap into what’s inspiring me at the moment. Right now I’m working on my new album (slated for a May release), and it is predominately vocal-driven, which is a slight departure from my previous body of work. One of the songs has Icelandic lyrics. Some of the tracks will have featured sections for a string quartet, because I want to include that in my next phase of my live project. My vision is to have a drummer, two cellists, and ballerinas for an expanded, dynamic live show.
As you said, you draw a lot of inspiration from Nordic and Icelandic music. What elements of those cultures do you feel are most important to highlight? What allures you to that sound?
I started discovering this music when I lived in Minneapolis and I worked at the Cedar Cultural Center. There was a Nordic roots festival very year where bands like Garmana, Hedningarna, and Hurdy Gurdy played. What I initially loved, and still loved, is that this music feels very ancient, earthy, rooted and grounded – like you want to stomp your feet to it and sing gutturally! It’s funny, I also seem to attract people of Nordic descent in my life. Even here at the festival, I met a Norwegian guy who will be traveling to Norway for film making, and we might collaborate on getting visuals for my live shows.
I live in Los Angeles now, and I feel that I’m surrounded in this west coast bass scene that doesn’t necessarily highlight stylings from Nordic culture – and that’s something I want to continue doing and bringing with me wherever I move. I’ve been to Iceland twice now, both times I was a photographer for a yoga retreat, and I spent an additional week working on music and inspiration and collecting sounds.
You’ll never know where you’ll find inspiration, but I think it’s good to create parameters with intention to allow the muse to speak to you. If you have a preconceived idea with goals and expectations in mind, those things will always manage to stay just out of reach. It’s a balance of having spontaneity but setting up some intentions as well.
You recently collaborated with Dimond Saints doing strings for one of their tracks. Do you do other collabs? What did you learn from this collab?
Yes, last month my remix for Kai Altair dropped, alongside remixes by Desert Dwellers, David Starfire, Kaminanda, Haj i Ji, Living Light, Sera Solstice, Erothyme, Govinda, Joro Boro. I’ve been doing a few remixes, and I think it’s a great opportunity for cross-discovery. I loved remixing another female artist, but of course I love working with all people regardless of gender identity. I’ve also collaborated on violin both in recordings and live performances with Random Rab, Desert Dwellers, Dimond Saints, and I also just dropped a cover (song and music video) of “Teardrop” by Massive Attack, which is my favorite band of
Yes, I loved that cover! Do you have any other covers in this works?
You know, that was a deviation for me because I don’t usually do covers. But yes, other songs I would like to do would be Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” or Lhasa de Sela’s “Con Toda Palabra”. I don’t focus on covers too much because I like to produce my original work, and in some ways, covers are almost too easy.
What can new look forward to from you for the rest of the year?
I’m wrapping up my new album this month, and have an album release tour in May and June in select cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, that I’ll be announcing soon. I’m super thankful and excited to be able to develop my passion and find what makes my heart sing.
I moved to LA last year, and I moved there with the intention of getting into film scoring. I actually got a film scoring job with Mann-made Pictures for a Time, Inc-sponsored feature documentary about Svalbard, an island north of Norway in the Arctic Circle. They wanted a unique score, electronic-tinged with some Nordic and Russian influences to tell the tale. It took six months of my life last year, and what a great feeling to be done with it! I’ve been talking about film scoring for years, and I moved to LA without having any solid connections or ideas of how it would manifest…and two months later I got my first gig.
Other than that, I’ll be doing a lot more festivals this summer and working on a bigger, more elaborate stage show for a time and date that’s to be determined. You can find my current catalog of music on Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes, etc.
It’s super important to identify your passions and not give up, and really strive to be the best version of you that you can be. There is only one of you out there, and make the absolute most of it. I believe we all have a specific reason or reasons we’re here, but most of us never fully live up to our potential. Challenging ourselves to always strive for more achievements, yet appreciating the journey and the accomplishments along the way is key!
Download Teardrop for free:
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.