Much like the rest of the industry, Havvk‘s plans for 2020 will have no doubt been hampered by this hellscape of a year. Still, many find creativty through adversity and Havvk are no different.
Last month Havvk teamed up with friends across the Irish music scene to put out something real, collaborative and a continuation of their own work. Havvk combine political and charged lyrics with a firm control of dynamics, equally at home in the world of considered and ethereal or hard riffs, often transitioning through the two in a single song.
Plans with Friends is a departure. The EP features five Havvk songs, including covers by Participant, Jess Kav and Maria Kelly, an Arvo Party remix and an acoustic rendition of an older track from the band themselves, all ranging from the soulful and the delicate to the ethereal. An inventive and intriguing reworking of their music.
For our latest track by track we wanted to hear from the band and friends on how the release came about and the thoughts of each artist involved.
Operate ft. Participant
Matt: Back when gigs were running we were hosting our regular Veta Sessions nights and Participant was one of the first artists to play. We really loved his sound and set up but the vocal style on his recordings was also totally different to what we had typically gone for ourselves. We asked if he’d like to be involved and were delighted with his take on ‘Operate’. We actually listened to it for the first time in a random car park on the car stereo and were both surprised at how emotional we got hearing one of our songs done so well be someone so talented. It’s brought out a softer side to the song which is easy to forget about in the context of our shows and album.
Stephen: I was drawn to ‘Operate’ as I thought it would be a really fun challenge to try and reimagine something so driving and up-tempo. I aimed to keep it stripped back, but as I worked out the song on my acoustic I couldn’t shake the idea of adding some textures and percussion to compliment the great vocal melody.
Julie: As a song about isolation, it’s never felt so poignant to me than when I heard Stephen’s version. I was really humbled hearing it back in his voice but it also made me very aware of how universal that feeling of disconnection can be, especially now. Creating the video is possibly the most ‘lockdown’ thing I’ve done this year! By the time we had the final mix, we had just gone into lockdown. That entire first week, I was really anxious and not sleeping well at all. I badly needed a creative outlet to put a few hours into a day. Stop-motion is super time-consuming and meditative, so it felt like a good way to ease my mind and ended up being the perfect way to capture what I was going through. Each scene is a little snapshot from those early isolation days – panic buying, avoiding social contact, feeling cut off from the world, getting way too much screen time.
52 Dark Remix – Arvo Party X HAVVK
Julie: This was actually the song that triggered the whole process, and made us realise how much we wanted to work with other artists in the community. Arvo Party had gotten in touch asking if we would be interested in hearing a remix and we were beyond flattered and very interested. The result is amazing. His remix is full of angst and frustration. When we wrote ’52’, it was about the impact of the Brexit vote on the political and social landscape in the UK – we were based in London at the time. Now, releasing the remix during such a divisive year, feels cathartic and important.
Arvo Party: As soon as I heard ‘52’ I absolutely loved it and then eventually hit round to pestering the band to let me remix it. It’s such a wonderful song with an incredible vocal and it really resonated with me. I was delighted when the band agreed and even more delighted when it was featured on the Plans With Friends EP with all the absolutely amazing artists on there. I’m really happy with how the remix turned out.
Always the Same ft. Jess Kav
Julie: Jess is a good friend of ours and we have wanted to work with her since we toured with BARQ in 2017. We started working on the track just as the BLM movement was getting huge media coverage, after the George Floyd murder. We knew we wanted to contribute but were also aware that we didn’t want to interfere with important voices that needed to be heard at the time. Thankfully, Jess was really keen to work with us and we worked together to release the track as a fundraiser for MASI. We ended up created a merch campaign called ‘PUSH BACK’ (which is still on BandCamp for those interested!) and so far it’s raised over €500 for MASI.
Jess: I knew ‘Always the Same’ as this fuckin’ awesome punk song. I call it a punk song but my partner calls it a ‘post rock’ song – depends on who you talk to! The song has such fire in its lyrics and its musicianship. I went into the studio and Matt had the new version of the track set up – and it was a ballad. It was beautiful. It really touched me emotionally and it wasn’t what I expected.
Keeps Me Out ft. Maria Kelly
Matt: For those that don’t know I produce Maria’s music and she has also lived with Julie and I for the last few years in Berlin and now Dublin. She had said some nice things about ‘Keeps Me Out’ when we released it and happened to be in the next room when we were thinking about people who could sing the track. We already had a stripped back instrumental recorded and we ended up tracking Maria’s vocal in about 30 minutes that same day. It’s really nice to hear Julie and Maria sing together in the second half of the track.
Maria: HAVVK and I have worked together for years and somehow never collaborated on the same song together until now!! It felt so special to join forces and to sing on ‘Keeps Me Out’ – felt even more special that we were able to put it together in under an our in our home studio!
Once Told – Acoustic Version
Matt: This is a bit of an oldie that we had released a video for before the Repeal vote. Julie was vocal prior to and during the years leading up to the vote and this track gave us a platform to share opinions and start important discussions. This version has never been released officially and we felt this was a good opportunity to do that as it fit so well with the tone of the other tracks.
Julie: This song isn’t taken from the album but it was a really important moment for us when we released it back in 2016, a couple of years before the Repeal vote. ‘Once Told’ is about lifting the stigma and taboo of talking about abortion and about no-longer brushing history under the rug when it protects systematic oppression. I can’t believe how much has happened since then. It’s a very personal song for me, having been living away from Ireland for a good few years and then really coming to terms with what was happening there. It was a moment when I decided – we all decided – we wanted our music to speak up for something bigger than our day-to-day issues. We included this because we love the acoustic version. But I’m constantly reminded that its sentiment is still important – just two weeks ago we saw the Irish government block amendments that would release information to victims of Mother and Baby homes. History and oppressors are still being protected above those who need it – so, to me, the message is a relevant as ever.