HANA on Livestreaming the Creation of Her New Album and Otherworldly Style
"I’ve made amazing artist friends who inspire me and also know the struggle of being an independent artist. LA feels like it’s on the cusp of something really energetic with the independent art community."
After recording and performing acoustic music for over a decade, musician Hana Pestle decided to reinvent her sound. Using simple electronics to allow her powerful soprano voice to take center stage, she rebranded herself as HANA, cut out the middlemen producers, and released a self-produced eponymous EP. You may have seen her singing backup or dancing in music videos with her best friend Grimes, but her first full-length album as HANA, Hanadriel, was entirely self-recorded and produced in a major way.
The album was the first to be created live and in real-time during a four-week Twitch stream, granting HANA’s viewers complete access to her creative process. The result perfectly encapsulates her signature techno-flourished, anime and video game-inspired persona. PERFECT NUMBER chatted with Hana about the experience, her influences, and her advice for young women thinking of producing their own music.
PERFECT NUMBER: How did you get into making music?
HANA: When I was in fifth grade, my parents got me a guitar because I’d been singing my entire life. When I was 14 or so, I wrote my first song. After that, I started doing shows around my hometown in Montana. Someone at one of my shows happened to know some music producers in LA, and I started going back and forth to LA until I moved here when I was 17. I hit the pavement running and toured for five or six years by myself.
PN: Did you experience burnout at the end?
H: Yeah, I did get a little burned out at the end. I kept reminding myself that I was making money doing what I loved. But after a while, I decided to take a break and see where I was artistically. I started really playing around with production, so I could actually make the music I was hearing in my head.
PN: Was this around the time you transitioned from acoustic sounds to more electronically-produced music?
H: Exactly. I worked with some wonderful producers in LA with my early music, and they came to me with great sounds. I liked it, but I didn’t know if it was my vibe anymore; something about it didn’t feel like my sound. So I dove into figuring out what I really love in music and what I wanted my music to be. My producer friends have been great mentors, and I’ve watched a ton of YouTube tutorials to teach myself about production. And I think I’m really finding my sound now.
PN: How has it been going from backing other artists, like Grimes, to making an album entirely yourself?
H: I feel like the universe gifted me the experience of touring with my best friends. I loved getting the chance to play Grimes songs and travel around with her. I’d also sometimes be her opener, then change outfits really quickly and go back on stage to perform in her band. Because of that, there was already a fluidity between my own music and supporting someone else’s music.
PN: This album that just came out is your first full-length album in this newer electronic style. Where did you come up with the idea to livestream the making of it?
H: Well, I started using Twitch about a year ago, but only while playing games. It felt weird at first, but then I came to love it because I could talk to my fans and friends while I was playing. It added a social element to gaming, and I like to goof around while I’m playing anyway. Randomly one day – I think I got a new synth in the mail or something – I thought I’d see what would happen if I played around with it on Twitch. I was shocked at how positive the response was! So, I kept livestreaming me creating and playing music. People would ask questions and talk to me about what I was making. It also made being in the studio, which is mostly solitary, a little less lonely.
PN: So, rather than having collaborators on the album, you had…participants?
H: Exactly. I became addicted to it, and I don’t think anyone has ever made an entire album on Twitch before. It was so fun to create an album in four weeks. Plus, it gave me that push of having a deadline and other people knowing if you don’t keep it.
PN: Did any of the audience help you make album decisions, or did you ever ask them for advice?
H: Yes! I would ask them for ideas about what might sound cool – they suggested opera one time, and so I have a song with operatic and chanting vocals. The audience was also helpful when I asked, “Do you like this or not?” and their responses helped me to keep going. I also asked them for themes they wanted to hear about, and their suggestions conveniently matched up with my ideas. Some of the biggest themes were climate change, environmental stress, and mental health. I’d also just turned 30 so I was thinking a lot about growing up and how things fall into place, even if it’s not the place you expected. I’m over the moon about this album.
PN: You’ve been in LA since you were 17; how do you like the music scene here?
H: For the first part of my music career, I was touring all the time and didn’t feel like a part of it. But now that I’m here more often, I love it. I’ve made amazing artist friends who inspire me and also know the struggle of being an independent artist. LA feels like it’s on the cusp of something really energetic with the independent art community. And it’s cool to have more fashion here now.
PN: Speaking of fashion, you’ve managed to meld both gaming and music into your entire look. How did you do that?
H: It’s come together over time. I grew up in the gaming and fantasy world and had Zelda, Lara Croft, etc. as my style icons. I also had musicians as style icons, like Annie Lennox and Scary Spice. Plus, I’ve always liked anime and sword art, so anything with armor and really long, cool hair is great. I’m trying to pinpoint a style that is a badass, sexy, and strong.
PN: The more strong women, the better. Do you have any advice for young women wanting to break into music production, but find it too intimidating?
H: It can definitely be intimidating, but everything can be in its own way. The best advice I can give is just to do it. You do it over and over again, and you have to fail sometimes because you learn so much from failures. The Internet is a treasure trove of information, so use whatever resources or programs you have to teach yourself and experiment. Google “how to make music” and see what comes up. The only thing telling you, “you can’t do this” is your brain. You have to keep that part of your brain quiet so the rest of your brain can actually create something.
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