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Songs for the Crazy and Young; A guide to Hana Bryanne

Written by Toni Desiree

It’s January of 2021, and I'm suffering immensely, AKA I'm a second-semester junior, who has no clue what she wants to do after high school nor what the world will even look like. I had been scrolling for anywhere between hours and days with the blended reality of what the world was vs. what was just my computer. My existence at this point and time, was me, my laptop, and three apps on my phone. My existence was online classes from 8-4 and rotting away at home from 4-10, but it was winter break so it was time to change things up. Now I was sad from 4-8 and scrolling from 10-4. Upon my scrolling, I found what felt like a tissue. I say tissue because it didn't feel like someone distracting me or making me feel like I should rush this feeling away, it felt like someone giving me a tissue and letting me be sad, to feel seen like that in under a minute is life-changing.

The life-changing part was her explanation of the lyrics. In her words, the song “Klepto” was “a super angsty song about the feeling of being fifteen and terribly sad”. I felt so connected because, at this point in life, I had been everything she discussed, even though I just turned sixteen, I had spent more time being 15 and sad than being 16 and assured so this was my perfect territory. Although she's not the first to write a song like this, Taylor Swift’s and Goldroom’s songs of the same name, “Fifteen”, coming to mind, she is the first to take it seriously in an unashamed, delicate, and complex way.

In a 59-second Tiktok, she took the words and feelings from my mind and put a melody of soft yet melancholy tones right there for everyone to see, and in even less than that she explained how okay it was to be that, feel that, and allow that, she connected words to feelings I thought only I had shared and made it into music. Today, more than two years later, I got to speak with her before the release of her upcoming album Dollface.

1) Hi, Let’s start with an introduction. Who is Hana Bryanne?

I'm Hana Bryanne. I'm a musician and writer from California, currently based in Los Angeles.

2) Dollface is going to be your debut album, congrats by the way, my first question is, what does this album represent for you?

Thank you! This album is my little baby. I've been writing it for a long time now; basically, since my first EP was finished in 2020. It's a collection of songs that I think really honestly chronicles my past few years. I moved to New York and then left. My mom got sick and then better and then sick and then better again. I fell in love and it all crashed down around me. There's just been a lot of changes in my life, so now that I'm hitting this point of stillness it's nice to look back on this album and exhale a little. It also feels reclamatory to sing about the violence my body has been subjected to in beautiful songs that belong just to me.

3) What approach did you take when it came to creating Dollface?

In comparison to writing it, which I did alone, and it just kind of poured out of me, making this record took a long time. I was working with a few collaborators, including Carter Jahn, Max Bienert, and Ritwik Krishnan, and I was also working a lot so I could afford to live in LA. We would often work in the evenings after I got off my day job. It's nice to be able to sort of let things marinate in the mornings after; I had a lot of time to listen back to board bounces and think about the direction I wanted to go with the songs. It'll be interesting to try something different next time and do some more live tracking, but for my first big project like this, I preferred having the cushion of plenty of time.

4) You recently went on tour, What was it like performing your songs live with a crowd for the first time?

Crazy magical. People have just been so lovely. I grew up in the theatre, and I was a ballet dancer even up through college, so I've spent my whole life performing and it's truly my favorite thing to do. Everything that's happened in the past few years just feels so much more real when I'm standing on stage in front of people who, like, know the words to my songs. I'm not sure how I got so lucky.

5) As the oldest and only girl, I find your songs more relatable than I'd like to admit which is funny, because you're the youngest sister, How do you find the reception of your music and audience different from what you might've expected?

That's funny. I think I've realized recently that as much as I cling to the "youngest daughter" moniker, I'm actually a somewhat nontraditional youngest daughter, so maybe it makes sense that my work speaks to your oldest daughter sensibilities. There are a few things I sing about frequently that I knew in concept that other people, especially young women, would relate to, like sexual violence, but obviously knowing and experiencing are very different things. It comforts me to know that I'm not alone in wanting to sing and scream about these things that have happened to me. I think when the album comes out it'll be interesting to see how people respond to "Clementine", which is a song of which people have gotten attached to the demo version, either at shows or via the Internet. It sounds really different on the record, but in a way that I just adore. That's probably my favorite song on the album, so I'm stoked for people to hear that one when it comes out.

6) When you wrote “klepto” you were 18, and now you’re 21, how has life changed for you from then compared to now?

Immeasurably. I mean, even just looking at how that song in particular changed my life, it really gave me an audience, one that I'm so grateful for. The material facts of my life are so different now; I live in a new city and am surrounded almost entirely by people I didn't know at 18, people I adore. Internally too, I'm so different now. I'm happier for sure. I haven't slowed down at all, though. The ambition and hunger have only really grown.

7) If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Usually, the answer to most problems is that you should break up with your boyfriend because he probably sucks. Even if he's not a bad guy, he still probably sucks. Also, get a good lawyer.

8) You give such weight to words in a way I don't see a lot of artists do, is there any song you'd like to give an explanation to that you haven't dissected or spoken about before, or maybe give an early explanation to one on Dollface?

That's very kind, thank you. I think my favorite lyric on the album is probably "Come on, baby, try me/I can show you what dramatic is" which is from "Lake Michigan". It's pretty self-explanatory but it's my favorite so I love to call attention to it! That whole song is rather tongue-in-cheek. The second pre-chorus is just about bad sex: "He made an honest woman out of some hot-tempered thing/Yeah, they pay me by the hour just to stare up at the ceiling".

9) Outside of songwriting you also write such wonderful poetry and essays about girlhood, growing up, and society, in what ways has your writing shaped your music, and vice versa?

I think they all sort of play into the same world. The essays have served as quasi-companion pieces to the album. I have a lot to say, and it feels great that my voice is being valued. I think being a writer helped to sow my confidence in regard to dealing with men in the music industry. Of course, this should never have been the default assumption in the first place, but it helped me to stand up for myself and be like "No, actually, I'm not stupid and I'm not vapid or self-obsessed and I really do know what I'm talking about more than you do because this is my work." It was hard for me to get there, but the writing helped fuel that fire in me. It also is a really great place to work things out conceptually. Songwriting requires more concision than essays. There's not as much real estate. It's helpful to see the ideas as very sprawling, like an essay or poem form, before paring down to just the protein of the thing in the music.

10) My last question for you is, if you could ask your future self anything, what would it be?

Oh god. I don't think I'd really want to know anything. What are the winning lottery numbers, maybe?

Dollface comes out September 15th, and the rest of Hana Bryanne is available to stream on her Spotify. Her writing, music, and her socials, are all linked below. Hana will be playing at the Sultan Room on November 26th in NYC, tickets to her show are on sale now.

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Written by Toni Desiree

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