With the release of their Into The Wild album and new single What Are You Celebrating? (read about it here) it seemed a good time to catch up with South Londoners The Hannah Barberas. They talk about their music, DIY music culture, the effects Covid-19 has had on the band and the music industry in general. Read on to find out more.
What made you want to get into music?
Matthew: We’ve all made music and been in bands since we were at school, so not really sure what the impulse was. I guess there wasn’t much else to do back then. We’re a generation hooked on music.
Ian: I didn’t realise people like me could be in a band, as no one in my town was in one. A big moment was when a teacher had an electric guitar and a bass. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.
Damien: What’s more glamorous and exciting than music? Also, the thing about pop music is that anyone can do it. “Three chords and the truth” as Lucy says. What else is there?
What inspires you to write?
Lucy: So many things can inspire an idea, like something you hear someone say. Our song, I Like You In Blue was something I said to a friend and then immediately thought, “hmm, good song title.”
Damien: I think it’s that part of you that doesn’t or cannot come out in everyday conversation. Some sort of hook or metaphor helps. I think what inspires me to write more than anything these days is trying to impress my fellow HBs.
Ian: I really agree with all that. Writing a song feels like a way to say anything and be honest. It also gets thoughts out of my head, instead of buzzing around inside it and clogging it up.
Who has had the most influence on your music?
Lucy: As Damo’s just said, the answer is probably each other. We might try to sound like our favourite bands, but when we play it just comes out as Hannah Barberas.
Matthew: For us the influence has been more about how we do it. DIY culture has always been a big thing for us, bands pressing their own records, labels run from bedrooms, fans starting up club nights, then fanzines and blogs like yours celebrating such achievements and so inspiring the next wave.
Damien: I loved anything DIY when I was a teenager. The John Peel show. Anything that gave you a sense of where it had come from. I was a big Guided By Voices fan. Then as I got older, I became more of a lyrics sort of a fellow. I love Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame and that whole eighties sophisti-pop sound. Working class people being eloquent and truthful and making shining music with limited resources, which is kind of coming back, I think. Oh! and The Fall, of course!
Ian: My friend Jessica taught me that anyone can write a song. You just choose a sound or phrase and then ask, “what would the next one be?” Then it’s just like putting bricks together. And taking out any that don’t fit.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Damien: Covid-19, obviously. We used to see each other all the time and message each other daily. This virus has stopped us in our tracks. Yes, I know we’re fortunate, people are dying so our problems are truly trivial. But yeah… that.
Lucy: We’re dedicated to the band of course, but it’s still a hobby. It’s so much worse for those who rely on gigs for their income – smaller bands, venues and promoters who’ve invested loads of time and money planning their summer shows. For us I think it’s more of a shame than a challenge.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever written about you?
Damien: I LOVE it when people quote the lyrics or somehow indicate that they’ve really listened. One guy speculated the origin of the song Almost Falling In Love was about undercover cops or that Ted Wedding could be about one of our parents. That always makes me feel really proud that people are listening. I know we’re a bit ramshackle, but we really take care over the songs.
Matthew: Yeah, everyone’s been really positive. The nicest things are the little messages you get on social media, or with an LP order, that say how much they like the music. One guy offered to buy us a beer if we’re ever in Germany. Love that.
Lucy: Mark and Gary who do a radio show in Scotland we like (Postcards From The Underground), offered us their floor if we ever wanted to play a show in Glasgow. That was really sweet too.
Ian: I’ve put home demos online for a few years and it’s amazing when you hear from someone who’s actually read your lyrics. I remember one review where I felt really understood, which was lovely. One of my current best friends started as someone who heard me on MySpace, back in the day. Music’s a lovely way to make friends, as you can really bond over music. The Hannah Barberas is really just a group of friends who make music.
What has been the best and worst gig you’ve ever played?
Matthew: The worst one was an old band me and Damien played in. We thought we were on first so had already started drinking after the sound-check. Then we were unexpectedly bumped up to the headline slot. By the time we went on we were pretty far gone. We played rubbish, but somehow seemed to go down ok. We even had people dancing. I guess the audience were drunk too, so it kind of made sense to them.
Lucy: The best would have been our cancelled gig at The Lexington, supporting Even As We Speak and Jetstream Pony.
Damien: We were all going to watch them as punters anyway then Mary (EAWS) got in touch and asked us to open the show. We were over the moon.
Lucy: All three bands had been chatting and getting really excited for that show, so it was a big blow when it had to be pulled. Hopefully it can be rescheduled, but it’s not so easy when the headline band are from the other side of the planet!
What was the last album you played on Spotify?
Matthew: I don’t tend to play full albums on Spotify, but the Terry LP from last year is on the record player. I love radio mainly. I love discovering new things and not knowing what song is coming on next. As a kid, John Peel’s programmes opened me up to so many things that I still love.
Lucy: Gideon Coe on 6 Music is the closest thing to that now. His shows are so varied, it’s always interesting and I love his subtle wit. He’s been hugely supportive of us too, which has been such a thrill.
If you could support anyone who would it be and why?
Damien: Even As We Speak and Jetstream Pony! One day, please god, when this madness is over, it will happen!
Lucy: Orange Juice are the band we all have in common, so I’d have to say Edwyn. Although, we wrote a song about him, so that might get a little awkward.
What other bands do we need to be checking out right now?
Matthew: There seem to be so many great bands at the moment. We just compiled a Spotify playlist of some of our favourites, who all seem to share that DIY spirit. We wanted it to be more like a tape, so it’s only an hour long. It’s called The Hannah Barberas’ Home Service, please go give it a listen.
Into The Wild is available on Bandcamp in vinyl and cassette formats – the CD version has already sold out! You can keep up with the band, their music and hopefully news about live appearances on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.