Julie Hough (HAVVK): 'We wanted to do something that would hopefully have an impact on the industry'
Berlin-based Irish band's Drawn Together tour aims to increase visibility for female and non-binary run projects
These days, it isn't hard to find art that is overtly political, with current happenings around the world inspiring creatives to take action and resist through their own works and via their own voices. For Irish band HAVVK, creating music that responds to key cultural issues has been very much in their remit since their formation. Their 2018 single 'Glass' was a response to the success of the repeal referendum in Ireland, while 'Once Told' was written in protest against Irish laws on abortion. It's this fusion of HAVVK's instinctively punk energy and candid, politically charged themes that supplies something dynamically different with each new release.
Starting life together in London in 2014, HAVVK relocated to Berlin shortly after the Brexit referendum result was announced, which as frontwoman Julie Hough explains, was very much a coincidence.
'Basically, we decided one day, let's definitely do this but let's sleep on it. And then Brexit happened and we all realised we were definitely up for moving. But it was much more personal, I think for various reasons everyone felt like a bit of a change and we thought creatively, it would be great to just up sticks and live somewhere else and just throw ourselves into making music away from the certain rhythm in London that can eat you up.'
As well as providing the trio with the essential headspace needed to make new music, Berlin has given them a renewed connection to the music scene at home in Ireland and London. Their debut album, Cause & Effect, which is due to be released in November, exhibits this space in structure and content. Instead of releasing the album in one go, HAVVK have been releasing individual tracks one at a time, with four out so far.
'We really wanted to work with the idea of extremes,' Julie says when asked about the reasoning behind the track-by-track roll out. 'It's really about our experiences of being young adults and consuming the world right now. There's so much conflict, there's so much debate and a lot of horrible things but also really great things are coming to the surface. So much stuff that we see in the news ends up being what we talk about in band practice and it's topics that really affect us. We wanted to do an album that was in two sides and then we also really just wanted to try and tell a story that bridged across a whole year by giving each track a bit of space. That's kind of why we decided to release tracks one by one, to do something different that told a story.'
Though each track stands alone in terms of its release, there are common themes and threads that tie the whole album together, namely the idea of opposing forces and those loud-quiet-loud moments.
'I think people recognise that we're trying to do something that's kind of got this sense of dynamic to it. And that's what our live show is like. We have these very quiet moments then we have these really loud moments too.
'There's definitely a lot of feminist topics popping up, to do with self-expression, femininity and the pressures to conform.' Julie continues. 'The first half of the album is really tied together by the idea that this is us kind of in the thick of it and exploring it and maybe being bogged down by it. And the second half is more to do with actually finding your feet and finding some way of moving forward and really about having good conversations.'
HAVVK recently kicked off their Drawn Together tour, a series of live dates that are all about 'celebrating and increasing visibility for female and non-binary run projects.' The tour, which started in Belfast and will be finishing up in Bath towards the end of the month, sees the trio team up with promoters around the UK to promote some much-needed change to the live arena.
'From our perspective, we knew we were going to go on tour and we knew we really wanted to play gigs to crowds that were open minded about hearing and watching women onstage, watching queer and non-binary performers onstage.' Julie says. 'The more we realised how much we wanted to play in that kind of setting, the more we realised that actually we can build something that makes that happen. I don't mind playing with all-male bands, I just don't like when it's the default. I don't like when it seems to me like it hasn't been considered in any other way. So what we wanted to do was just to flip that on its head and instead of hoping that we could have this empowering time playing with bands that we loved, we would put a structure behind it and turn it into a project.'
The Drawn Together tour is an example of HAVVK's drive towards activism, with this project highlighting how inclusivity in creative spaces is not only a lofty goal but within reach with the right amount of resolve. As Julie notes, 'We had an opportunity to go and gig and instead of just doing a tour that was self promotional, we wanted to do something where everyone would just have a really good time and we wanted to do something that would hopefully have an impact on the industry at the same time.'
By the time the tour is over, the first half of Cause & Effect will be out in the world, and the band will continue with the next stage of the album's release, with plenty of other projects already in the pipeline.
'We are actually already recording and writing what will be perhaps be our 2020 album.' Julie adds. 'And we're also working on our label, Veta Records, as well, just trying to build that up because a lot of the artists we work with are now starting to find their feet and it's so exciting.'
HAVVK play Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Wed 8 May; Broadcast, Glasgow, Thu 9 May; and touring.
Berlin-based punk rock three-piece.