Hanging out in Cardiff, New Zealand’s most intriguing new talent breaks silence to discuss the making of her next album in Wales and Bristol .
“I’m volunteering three days a week at a dog grooming parlour, just for a while,” says Hannah Harding, on the phone from Cardiff. “It gives me something to do during the day – hanging out with some animals that don’t say a word.” You can understand why she’d like things quiet. Life got busy around the 2017 release of her second LP, the rich, strange and magnetic Party. Its vocal shapeshifting, acute emotional states and heightened perceptions gained international critical acclaim, and she played over 100 shows across the continents. As she toured, she was also writing most of the songs destined to appear on her third album. She started the record in late June, with 15 days recording and 10 days mixing, at Rock field Studios in Monmouth and J& J Studio and The Playpen in Bristol. As on Party, John Parish produces. “My initial feeling was I should try somebody else if only to do something different, but we got speaking and after that I didn’t really see the point,” says the singer. “We’ve got a good thing going on. We didn’t muck around, we didn’t do it with any drama. The songs are full of drama or whatever, but we just kind of got it done… when I’m doing it, I’m quite stressed, you know. It doesn’t feel like it too much at the time, but when I look back I realise I am.” Guest musicians were Cardiff-based multi-instrumentalists H. Hawkline and Stephen Black from Sweet Baboo, plus drummer Gwion Llewelyn and Bristol violinist and regular Parish player Clare Mactaggart. “I had to coordinate personalities and instruments,” says Harding. “It’s quite a bit bigger than the last record in terms of instrumentation. Party was a jump that way, and we’ve jumped again.” This being her first interview in some time, she apologises that she finds it hard to be more specific about the songs and what they sound like – she even texted Parish for “some tips, some buzzwords” to help her out – though she does proffer that one track she wrote in the studio “has lots of different parts, with a lot of male backing vocals”. “One thing I will say about the record is, I don’t know that it’s lighter, but it feels lighter,” she adds. “The first two came from a kind of place of desperation, a little bit, y’know? And this just feels, I dunno, warmer. John said something like, you sound like somebody who’s comfortable in the music. I listen to it and I go, yeah, I understand that.” She adds that her songwriting is also in a healthy state. “When I finished [the album] my first response was to keep writing,” she says. “I guess I’ve turned into a bit of a workaholic. My kick comes from, y’know, making the music. I wrote three or four songs while we were recording that I didn’t use, and in my mind I’m going, that’s half an album. It’s fucking mad, but you know…”
“I guess I’ve turned into a bit of a workaholic.” ALDOUS HARDING