Julie Hawk Talks Musical Past, Forthcoming She Knows EP, and Gets Real About Political Landscape

Michael Brummett + Meredith Schneider

Alternative artist Julie Hawk and her band Hawk – comprised of Matthew Harris (guitar), Chris Handsley (bass), and Sam Campbell (drums) – have been undergoing a lot of change. While they approach the release of the She Knows EP in March, they’ve also had the interesting pleasure of relocating from London to Germany. Even with all of these big and beautiful things happening for them, their sound is just as amazing and transformational as ever, and we find that it is exactly what we need.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of getting your ears on Julie Hawk’s ethereal vocals, it’s time to do so. Check out the band’s official video for “Mirror Maze” below, then learn a little bit more in our interview with Hawk herself!

What’s your origin story?

I’m from Galway on the west coast of Ireland. It’s a very musical city and I grew up going to trad sessions in pubs with my parents and being dragged out to all sorts of gigs, eventually asking for every new instrument I heard. I moved to London six years ago and actually felt very disconnected from that kind of musical community until I started going to open mic nights. That’s where I met Matt (guitar), and eventually the band and pretty much my entire musical circle! Matt and I worked on my solo stuff for a couple of years. When we getting very restless with the acoustic scene, it was like an alarm went off in both our heads. We decided to form a proper band and it’s been getting noisier ever since. We feel like we’re still at the beginning of a project and we’re really excited to see how it develops.

What’s the first album or song you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?

My best early memories are musical ones. The earliest memory is probably listening to Sharon Shannon – an astounding accordion player from Clare – and doing my best attempt at Irish dancing, round and round my parents’ kitchen. It was definitely either my mum or dad who first played it to me.

When did you two decide to pursue music? Was there a defining moment?

There is one that stands out in my mind. I was coming up to the end of my Arts degree, and I guess it was dawning on me that I didn’t really know what I was going to pursue next. My partner at the time asked me, “What do you want be?” And I got really mad and upset with them for not ‘knowing’ that I wanted to be a musician! In hindsight, I was mad at myself, of course. And probably feeling scared because suddenly I had this dream that I had to live up to.

How would you describe your sound, specifically?

We are grungy indie with hints of Celtic drama. I’m so awful at that question.

You have been very active in human rights issues at large. What are your views on what’s going on – or potentially unfolding, perhaps – in the United States with the election of Trump?

It’s very scary to see that so many people will advocate a guy who demonstrates so much hate and ignorance towards women, LGBT communities, and ethnic and religious minorities. I feel like the pressure is now multiplied to talk to, and to support and protect these communities. Bystanders can do so much more than silently disapprove these attitudes. We have a huge collective responsibility to call out and prevent oppression in everyday life.

What do you do to keep a firm head on your shoulders amidst all of the music work and stress with everyday life?

I largely don’t. Actually ‘getting music done’ is probably the most relaxing part of my life. It’s the bits around it, like keeping yourself supported and giving yourself the time and energy to be creative that can be challenging. Personally, it’s one of the main reasons for our move to Berlin. London is a very intense place to get a creative project off the ground.

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when advocating for a cause?

I don’t ever want to assume that I know every perspective on the causes we write about. And I hate feeling like I’m being lectured. For me, I feel like it’s important to remain constantly curious and asking questions about who is being affected. This is why we try to talk about causes like the abortion laws in Ireland by telling stories, and not just giving our own sweeping solution. We want to create dialogue.

Your She Knows EP is expected in March. How would you like your fans to approach it? Is there a specific way you’d like them to enjoy it?

Yes actually! We’ve dug into our prog roots a little here, and the tracks are linked together by interludes and designed to be listened to as a whole. Start to finish. Albums are possibly losing this kind of foothold in the music scene, but hopefully people will have a little patience with ours.

The EP is incredibly cinematic. If you could use your music in any movie – existing or perhaps even a film adaptation of a book – what storyline could you see it unfolding with?

I find that this record is really connected to London for me, with its energy and rhythm. I could see it accompanying the story of interconnected lives in London, who are struggling against different forms of oppression.

Any fun/funny anecdotes from production of the EP?

The songs came together without too much drama. But we had some very interesting days of filming for the videos. At one point for the “Static” video, I had to hold a drill about a centimetre from Matt’s head while it was running. I still feel so uncomfortable thinking back to that moment. He was actually the one who insisted we get the shot!

Do you have a favourite song off of it at all?

Definitely Ghosts. I find that really empowering to perform.

What’s your favourite part about touring? In direct contrast, what’s your least favourite?

Favourite part is definitely the performances. There’s always a point after a few shows where the set really comes together and we feel super confident and free on stage. My least favourite bit is when I can’t squeeze in any exercise. After a few days that drives me a bit mad. So I try to go for runs when I can, or just work out in someone’s living room if we’re staying with friends.  

If you could partner with anyone for anything – a cause, a song, an album, an art installation – who would you work with, and what would you create together?

We’ve all mutually decided that we’ve fallen in love with Buke and Gase after seeing them at the Michel Berger weekend in Berlin. We actually ended up sitting together at the same lunch table. Don’t think any of us had the nerve to suggest a collaboration.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in the arts?

In the past I’ve been a little precious about projects or songs that I’m working on, and have waited and kept fine-tuning until what I thought would be the perfect moment to release it or share it with people, even with the band. Taking music seriously has taught me that at some stage, it’s healthy and productive to be regularly releasing work, so that you can progress to the next project. It’s helped me to evaluate and learn from each project, and made me much more open to taking advice or collaborating with others.

What else can we expect from you in 2017?

Now that we’re based in Germany we’re hoping that 2017 will be the year that we start properly gigging around Europe. We’ll be announcing our 2017 tour dates soon, and there are a few German and French dates in the mix already.

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She Knows EP is out March 17, 2017 via Veta Records. Keep up with Hawk here.

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