RIP EXCLUSIVE: A Conversation With Feminist-Rage Metal Band Hawxx
Hayley Rogers ⋅ Dec 20, 2023
2023 has been a huge year for feminist-alternative-metal band Hawxx; not only because of the release of their debut album Earth, Spit, Blood and Bones (which can be found on all streaming platforms here), but also with playing some iconic festival stages. All of this, plus their win of the 'PRS Women Make Music' award, goes to show how good this band is – they are definitely a band to watch for the future.
Hawxx's members Anna Papadimitriou (vocals and guitar), Hannah Staphnill (guitar), Jess Dann (drums) and Julia Cadau (bass), are currently touring Europe and the UK supporting Halocene. On the Birmingham date of this tour on December 1st, Rock Insider Press was able to sit down with the band and talk through the new album and tour so far.
Kicking things off, how has tour been so far?
Anna: It's been quite the thing to do 11 countries in such a short space of time.
Jess: It's certainly been intense but it's been very fun at the same time.
I can imagine it's been a pretty good experience though.
Hannah: It's been nice constantly seeing new things, such as new trees!
Anna: What place do you think had the best trees?
Anna: Did it have the best trees or the best scenery?
Hannah: Well it had the best mountains!
Jess: Which would effect our view of the trees.
Anna: I think the German trees looked really healthy.
Hannah: The German trees did look good!
Jess: I do love a good tree.
Anna: As you can tell we've all got a real passion for trees.
How would you describe yourselves for anyone that's new to you guys?
Anna: Punk infused alternative-metal, four part harmonies and chaos.
What is the inspiration behind your debut album?
Hannah: Everything. Every song is in its own, self-contained world. There are different themes and narratives on each track.
Anna: A big part of it is whatever is making the fire blaze in that particular moment. Feminist-rage fuels the fire very deeply. I think the main narrative in the album is that we write songs to feel less alone and we want other people to feel less alone too. Metal has always been such a specific thing in its narrative but we want women and queer people to feel heard and seen. That's something we've really seen in action this tour. People coming up to us after the show and saying that our music makes them feel seen and heard. That is so precious.
I bet that is such a good feeling to see people respond like that, especially when so much work goes into an album.
Jess: It's the best.
Hannah: It's actually the best feeling.
Anna: Exactly! We're really proud of it.
Hannah: It's translating live as well which is always good.
Anna: That's a huge influence but there is also some despair on the album too. In terms of the climate emergency, our love of trees comes into that too. Also just like letting your hair down and saying fuck you to the church.
Do you guys have a favorite song off of Earth, Spit, Blood and Bones – either to perform, or just in general?
Anna: This is a conversation we have between us all the time. "Bite (Holiness In Fuck)." That's my favorite to perform for sure.
Hannah: That's when you are unleashed from your guitar.
Anna: Yeah that's the one I get to take my guitar off for.
Hannah: But then you just prowl around.
Jess: "Fathertongue" is a favorite for all of us. We like that one.
Julia: Probably "Fathertongue" because it's so unconventional in the way that it starts. You listen to other metal albums and you never get a song that starts accapella like that. It's very unique.
Jess: For me it's "Reckless." It's very pretty sounding. When I'm performing, I think the more aggressive songs are more my favorite but when I'm listening, it's the emotional choruses that hit.
Hannah: I like "Death Makes Sisters Of As All," I like performing that as well. I feel like it's quite cathartic to play, especially that opening riff. Can do a good riff face there.
What was the writing process like for the new album?
Hannah: Last minute.
Jess: Some of them were well old like "Trust Your Rage." We gigged that for quite a few months before we recorded it, but we also recorded it a year before we did the rest of the album. So that one's really been tested. It's been around a while but it has changed as we've been playing it so long.
Hannah: What were some of the last minute songs?
Anna: "Embrace The Ugly" was very, very last minute.
Julia: "Jonty" was good!
Hannah: It's working title was "Jonty" until the last week.
Anna: "Bite" was very last minute too.
Hannah: We like a deadline.
Jess: That we do! The pressure forces us to do it and we'll end up sending each other stems of how about this idea?
Hannah: Or quick! Put a part down on this.
So the deadline just gives you all that final, extra push?
Hannah: We know it's there we're never worried about it.
Anna: There is a little bit of worry where we might not have a song and the thought of "what if it's shit" The deadline might come and we might not have a song.
Jess: I remember that session where we were writing the "Embrace The Ugly" lyrics in the live room whilst Paul, our producer, was mixing the drums which we had already tracked. So we were finishing half of it whilst the other half was being recorded.
Anna: We had the second verse but not the first I think?
Hannah: No I think we had the first verse down.
Anna: We were finessing. I remember I was working on a uni essay at the time and Paul had given me a quote for that essay. He was like "ah, cerebral" and then that got in. We put that in the song.
Hannah: Cerebral animal was it?
Anna: Animal cerebral cannibal. Just casually chucking cannibal in there. That was fun.
What has the response been like from the audience this tour?
Hannah: Very good. It has been very wholesome.
Julia: Lots of very emotional encounters after our set. We usually meet people at merch and it's gone from one extreme to the other. I don't want to go into specifics, but there's been some very personal stories that people tell you. They come to you with an open heart. It's quite emotional and amazing. There's moments where I'm like, this is a reminder of why we do what we do. Because even if we only make one new fan after a gig, there is such a deep connection that makes it worth it. It's been overall really great every single gig, people come up to us and say they've been really touched by the message, and the music, and what we do here.
Anna: You don't know what's going to happen when you're on a support tour because they're not your fans. We come as we are and see what happens. I do love that about us though! You can put us anywhere with anyone and we will do our thing.
Hannah: We always find our people.
Jess: Every gig it's like creating a little community, which is so nice. I think someone said they wanted to start a band!
It must be pretty touching to have all these people come up to you.
Anna: It's almost unexpected, it's like they're talking to me as if we've known each other a really long time. But I guess music does that.
Jess: It creates that connection even if it's just a half hour set.
Anna: We're exposing ourselves for what we are. I don't know if you guys find this as well, but gigging every night, you learn faster how to get to that immediate place of emotional truth. Sometimes with gigs, at least I felt, I need to put up a barrier because I feel vulnerable. But doing this every night feels like laying down that barrier and being like, "okay this is it, here we are, fuck it y'know." It's quite hard to get there. That's the good thing about doing it night after night, you get to the purpose of what you're doing quicker.
Hannah: I think we've gotten pretty comfortable with being ourselves on stage. We just kinda let out whatever we need to let out of us, and even if something goes wrong it's not as much of a panic.
Julia: I think this comes from a place of mutual trust as well. We work very well as a machine, and when you're on tour you spend a ridiculous amount of time together. We're always together, and gigging together you end up trusting each other. We've had some minor disasters, or near disasters, where we've kind of looked at each other like, "what the fuck do we do now?" But it's always fine, and there is that vulnerability on stage which can be powerful. It's a really good place to be because again, you're making that connection with the audience and freeing yourself – showing yourself for who you are, and it's pretty powerful and it's a special experience. I'm so grateful I get to do this.
Hannah: No faking, it's very very real. If you look at social media and the way musicians communicate these days, there's more of how it really is without trying to sugar coat it, without making it seem like it's something else.
Anna: Sometimes you don't have a choice. Like in Prague, where we were like "let's go on 5 minutes early and be leisurely," my guitar peddle, like the screen, was completely fucked . And you've got the whole crowd watching you, and you're just like "am I going to have a panic attack or no?" But then it's just fine.
Hannah: Do you remember that girl?
Anna: Yeah there was a girl in the audience who was just, thumbs up and hand on heart. And I was like thank you!
We've all been there. If you guys could tell your fans one thing what would you say?
Anna: One thing? This is difficult for chatterboxes like us.
Julia: I'd probably say don't be afraid to be yourself. Which is super banal and boring, but it's not easy to do. I think once you reach that point where you know who you are, and you know how to express yourself without being afraid of the consequences of potentially not being accepted by the people in your life for being who you are – it's a really powerful journey, and it can make you happier as a person. For me it would be that.
Anna: It would be disobey. I think in a nutshell that's what we do, that's what we wanna do, that's what we want to put out there. It just means a certain thing to be a touring band; it means a certain thing to be on stage; it means a certain thing to play metal; and we just want to disobey, disobey, disobey. Do the same thing.
Julia: I like disobey.
Hannah: Much easier than be yourself.
Do you guys have any stand out moments from tour?
Jess: Our day off was pretty good.
Anna: To be fair it was awesome. We'd been booking Airbnb's, they're cheaper than hotels and you also get a little kitchen area and stuff like that. In the Netherlands, all the hotels were really expensive so Airbnb was the way. We stayed in the country in a 2-person yurt and a 3 person cottage. There were deer in the village, it was a stunning village.
Hannah: Deer in people's garden that come up to you and nibble your hand.
Like snow white.
Hannah: Yeah exactly like that! There was an owl living on the grounds!
Anna: I'm a keen bird watcher, so I was in heaven. There were feeders everywhere, I even saw a yellow wagtail.
Hannah: We could hear cows from the yurt.
Anna: There was a cute little log fire, it was so nice.
Hannah: We probably shouldn't say the day off for tour.
Jess: But I think like Paris.
Anna & Hannah: Yes Paris.
Jess: All of us were so giddy, just being like, "we're in Paris! Wooo!"
Hannah: On this tour, the crowd does not compare to Paris.
Anna: But even before the crowd, we were all just so excited to be in the city and running around like tourists.
Julia: It was good chaos, lots of really good energy.
It's one of those places you have see at least once
Anna: Staying in Paris was very cool.
Jess: Yeah it's so close; yet it felt like a whole different world compared to Germany and the Netherlands, which seem more similar to us somehow. Not sure if that's just me I'm not going to lie. We also had a little bit more time in Paris.
Anna: I mean we didn't really, we just ran out the venue.
Anna: Right before sound check.
Hannah: We used that time off in a very interesting way.
Jess: We sacrificed our warm up for espresso martinis.
Julia: They were spectacular espresso martinis.
Hannah: We went to the bar man like, "we've got 20 minutes! Can you make 4 cocktails? We'll drink them, pay now and just run out." He understood the assignment very quickly.
Anna: Strongest espresso martinis ever I think. It lasted 24 hours, the amount of caffeine intake.
Hannah: They were insane.
Jess: It was delicious.
Julia: It should be our signature drink. Every gig.
Thank you guys for talking to me today, I'm looking forward to catching your set later.
Anna: Let us know your thoughts! Now you and your readers know all about our secret panics, and what goes into all this.
Be sure to check out our gallery from Hawxx's December 1 show at the O2 Insititute Birmingham (here).
Keep up with Hawxx and their future show dates here.
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