Monday 11 May 2020

INTERVIEW: Hailaker (May 2020)

Over the moon to be sharing this!! The lovely Hailaker shared their second record Holding a couple of weeks back via Lowswimmer, the somewhat surprise (but a very welcome surprise) follow-up to the self-titled record they released last year. They're one of my favourite discoveries of the last couple of years and very kindly agreed to answer some questions about the project and album for me. The results of an email chat with Jemima are below... happy reading!

Also: you should most definitely get the new album (and the debut) via Bandcamp here.

Hello! Before we go on, for those who are new to the project (and have lots of exciting music to discover, once they’ve finished reading this interview) we should introduce you! Who exactly are Hailaker? Or perhaps more accurately, what is Hailaker? 

Hailaker is a project that makes music! We’re mostly Ed Tullett and Jemima Coulter, but sometimes Ali Lacey and Dave Huntriss too... and also whoever we can get our hands on to play instruments and sing backing vocals. All our artwork is done by Mike Roth who lives in Portland, he’s been with us since the beginning so he’s an important part of the project as well.

Where do we find you isolating? And (most important question of all, I think) do you have any pets with you? Definitely not asking that because I haven’t got any pets and have to settle for staring longingly at my neighbours' dogs over the garden fence… 

I’m (Jemima) in Bristol and Ed’s in Cardiff. Nope no pets... yet - I think we’re getting a cat next week? And there’s slugs eating the lettuces- don’t forget the little guys!

After first hearing some of your music playing in between sets at a Novo Amor show towards the end of 2018, Hailaker was one of my favourite discoveries of 2019 and the self-titled album firmly earned itself a spot in my albums of the year list. How have you found the response to the record, and how was getting to play some shows for it? 

Everyone’s said really lovely things about it! I’ve been blown away by people and their messages on Instagram. I don’t really know how it compares to what happens when anyone else releases music, but I guess that’s not the point. It’s been amazing. The shows were great! I think we were a bit unsure about how it would translate live (especially with all the ‘bits’ in the first record) but it really worked, was great to play to people, who nearly all hadn’t heard our music before, great to spend loads of time in the car together, of course. Kind of dreamy to play with American Football as well, made us very excited for the future and hopefully playing bigger venues.

The reason we’re here (on the internet, where we all live now) is that you’ve just, with only a couple of weeks warning, released your second album Holding into the world. Was the release planned for now or an isolation treat for fans? It’s certainly a huge treat either way! 

It was planned for now! It just so happened that isolation kicked in a month before.

In press for the first record, you described it as “the narrative of mine and Ed’s friendship first and foremost, since it meant we went from being strangers to spending weeks writing together.” Where does the new record find you, in the narrative of the project, and thematically? 

That’s a good question. I think it found us (we started writing these songs end of 2017 ? ) wanting to explore songwriting… writing real songy-songs, that you could pretty much just sing into the air and they’d hold their own. That was what we were interested in doing. Thematically its a bit more earthy than the previous record, we talk about things that are a bit more tangible and that was exciting for us as well, finding a new lyrical voice I guess. And we talk about people moving away and apart, finding places to live, feeling mediocre compared to friends... for me it almost systematically goes through all of the things that you encounter when you fall out of education/structure and suddenly realise that you’re supposed to be an adult but don’t really know how, so you just look around you to see what everyone else is doing and hope that no one notices that you’re very much out of your depth.

Yours is a largely collaborative project and one that is free from self-imposed restrictions on genre and style, and I love that. With that in mind, what is the creative process like on a Hailaker record? Where did Holding come into being? 

We started writing it a few months after we’d finished the writing for Hailaker but I think we were still producing and mixing it. We’d write ideas when we were together and needing a break from finishing the first record. Then we took all these ideas to a little house in Swanage and wrote lyrics and some more songs and hung out. And then in September 2018 we went and stayed at Ali’s for 3 weeks and recorded everything. So that’s really where Holding came into being.

I think because we don’t feel too concerned about being consistent, at least not over albums anyway, we just write with the ideas that we have at the time. If it’s an idea that we both like but we don’t feel like it fits with what we’re working on at the moment, we put it away and say ‘oh maybe this can be for the third record, or for that pop EP that we might do, or that minimalist piano project that we were talking about’. But I think it’s important to say that Ed and I are both pretty particular about stuff, if one of us doesn’t like something then it’s unlikely we’ll back down until it’s changed, so that’s really where the honing in of ideas comes. Finding ideas that we both really really like is when we know that we’ve got something good.

Were there any particular influences - musical or otherwise on this record? 

Not intentionally I don’t think… we both love the band Pinegrove and their sound had a big impact, but also the song By the Time was kind of modelled on the sound of the The Beach Boys, so a whole mix. We were just thinking about how to make something that could be played as a four-piece band. 

Finally… aside from the gorgeous new ambient tunes from your touring pal Gia Margaret, what is in your headphones at the moment? Anything new and exciting that you’re listening to, or old favourites that are getting you through? 

Ah Gia’s ambient stuff is so so good! For me it’s mostly podcasts at the moment, I’m not very good at listening to music when I’m working on music. But if I do - Great Grandpa’s album Four of Arrows is great, Squirrel Flower always and Happyness. There’s this website called Radio Garden where you can tune into radio all over the world, which I recommend if you feel like a switch up.

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