Sometimes in the pursuit of new music, you come across something which just has “it”, a certain quality that’s difficult to define, a feeling that a band are entering your life and are going to stay with you for a very long time. Fireworks explode in your synapses, melodies float into your ears and for a brief moment, everything just clicks into place. That was the case for me back in 2018 when I first heard Hadda Be, at that point still called Foundlings, and their debut single, Your Sister. Listening to those tracks again now, there is a certain rawness to them. Jangling lo-fi indie-pop, with delightfully DIY recordings, which were thrilling, even if they did not quite do the breadth of the band’s sound justice. Four years on, and much has changed for the band who split their time between Brighton and South London. Now signed to the Last Night From Glasgow label, the band recently took a giant leap forward as they released their brilliant debut album, Another Life.
For those who know the band’s previous recorded work, Another Life is a record that might instantly be somewhat surprising. While they’d often been labelled as an indie-pop band, mentioned in the same jangling-breath as bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart or The Wedding Present, here they present themselves as an altogether more snarling beast. For the listener, it might feel like a departure, for the band though, it is a natural progression as vocalist Amber explains, “I am proud of our old EP, but I think that it always sounded a bit too polished”. One of the main goals the band set for Another Life was to try and channel the experience of playing live, “as we started writing songs for the record, we were in tune with how much we enjoyed playing live, and the energy that comes into that”.
Compared to their previous material, Another Life is a heavier record, bringing forth the sounds of some of Hadda Be’s major influences, 90’s indie-rock behemoths from The Pixies to Nirvana. Impressively also for a debut album, it has a real cohesion, the result perhaps of the bands own love for the album format. The band are effusive in their love for the ebb and flow of a long-player, as guitarist Matt recalls, “I can’t go more than twenty minutes without mentioning Nirvana. Thinking about those records, they knew how to bring it back or go harder, and how to keep that sense of pace throughout the record right the way to the end. That was a touchpoint for us, creating a set of songs that could sit next to each other”. It is an approach that also suits the greater diversity of sound they display throughout the record, drummer Olly noting the joy they found in displaying that diversity to the world, “nothing’s really off the table, as long as it sounds like a Hadda Be song…we wanted to show off the diversity of our sound and our influences”.
The recording of Another Life was not without its difficulties, Hadda Be’s plans to record were cancelled on three separate occasions due to Coronavirus restrictions. While the band would obviously not have chosen the delays they are sanguine about the effect it had. Olly recalling how in some ways it gifted them greater freedom to experiment, “I think in some ways it wouldn’t have been the album it is now, had we not gone through that process. We’d played them so many times, that we were able to get the tracks down really quickly. You afford yourself so much more time to really get deeper into things and try things out. You can see what works and ditch things that don’t, so it felt very creative”. That creativity is never more evident than on one of the record’s biggest asides, the sublime, semi-acoustic sound of So It Goes, “we’d never played that before together”, explains Olly. The track was largely written in the studio, Matt laying down acoustic-guitars, partly inspired by his newfound status as the parent of a young child, “I couldn’t plug in and play electrically because there was literally a baby upstairs asleep”. It also showcases the creativity the band found in the studio, Matt recalls how the song came to be, “I contributed the piano, however, I can’t play the piano. You draw from each other in that way and feel like you can try things out and you don’t worry so much about looking like an idiot”.
While the global pandemic played a role in the story of constructing the album, most of the songs on it inevitably pre-date it. Despite that, it is a record that seems to reflect on some distinctly modern themes, as Olly explains, “it is by no means a concept album, but there are definitely themes that run through it. I think a lot of it is a reflection of the times that we live in. There are a lot of themes of searching for answers, feeling lost, feeling uncertain. I think that’s something that so many people have been feeling not just over the last year but over the last several years. It’s been such a strange period that we have been living through”. Like many record’s of recent years, there’s a certain anxiety about the future running through Another Life, a sound that will always anchor these records to the time they were made in. That said, the band are quick to downplay some of the heaviness, “it’s not just a depressing listen. I think it’s very uplifting as well”.
As well as the universal feelings Hadda Be have had, they’ve also had to contend with some much more personal difficulties. Not least the fact that on the verge of recording their debut album, they were forced into a name change after a trademark dispute in the USA. While it was somewhat disruptive at the time it’s something the band have come to terms with, “I think I prefer Hadda Be, it sounds more unique”, notes Amber. The name is lifted from a poem by Allen Ginsburg, Hadda Be Playing On The Jukebox, I enquire whether Ginsburg and the wider beat movement is a big influence on the band, “I think with a lot of beat poetry there’s that search for meaning and that railing against the world that you live in”, explains Olly, “I think broadly speaking that comes into our music, trying to make sense of a very confusing world. That’s not just beat poetry, or beat poets, that’s most literature”. Literature and the way it ties in with music is something the band are passionate about, “at least a couple of us are active in book groups”, jokes Matt, “we all read quite a bit, and certainly talk about it a fair bit as well…so it’s an authentic thing that got us that name”.
As well as their recording plans, the last year has also played havoc with the Hadda Be’s live plans, the band’s newest member, bassist Ben, has barely even had a chance to play live with the band yet. I ask if they’ve started making plans to get out and play live again? “There are quite a few things in the pipeline”, explains Olly, “it’s just keeping an open mind because who knows what’s going to happen with gigs. Just get them booked in and hope that they go ahead, and not be too disappointed if they don’t”.
One show they do have booked in is a showcase for their record label, Last Night From Glasgow, I enquire how they came to work with the label. “They heard us online”, recalls Amber, “we were the first band they signed who weren’t Scottish”. The band’s respect for their label is something that shines out throughout our conversation, “they’re a brilliant group, they’re really hard-working”, notes Matt, “I think it just comes from such a place of love…the politics and the ideas that adjudge the direction of the label is certainly something consistent with our own”.
I wonder what their ambitions for this record are, and what they see as the next steps for Hadda Be. There’s a pleasant realism to the response from Matt, “I think just establishing ourselves a bit more so we can get out and play to even bigger audiences live, is where my aim would be“. Releasing an album in a pandemic makes some of the usual metrics of garnering success more tricky, as Ben explains, “I kind of imagine live shows being the next bit, it feels like we’re slightly jilted in that sense. I’m looking forward to feedback that’s a bit more unsolicited. I want that small venue, couple of pints feedback”. That lack of human feedback is something they’ve all found difficult, “it’s such a weird time to be releasing an album, I find it quite anxiety-provoking”, notes Olly, “there’s no bumping into people at gigs or before a show, so all you get back from it is what you get back from social media. I think that’s really unhealthy”. Despite that, arguably the move online has had a levelling up effect for smaller bands, as Amber notes, “I think it’s the first time where all bands, no matter what your status or popularity, have been in the same boat. I think it’s enabled smaller bands like us to be able to engage with avenues we might not have had the opportunity to, had there not been this situation”.
Ultimately, Hadda Be’s hopes for the album are arguably the same thing every band wants, “I hope people enjoy the record, just on a really quite sincere level”, notes Matt, “I want people to like it, I know, it’s a groundbreaking thought!” The band are clearly music lovers, and want other people to experience the same joy they know, as Amber says, “I get really excited when I find a new band at the start of something, and you want to be on that journey, we hope that people hear the album and get that from it as well”. They don’t need to worry, Another Life is a record that is just waiting to be discovered, over the weeks and months as the world begins to spin back into action, people are going to discover this record, and realise just how special it truly is.