Track By Track: Hadda Be guide us through their debut album ‘Another Life’

Hadda Be‘s debut album Another Life, released today via Last Night From Glasgow, is a glorious interweaving of melancholic indie-pop and frantic post-punk, forged in the fires of the pandemic, Brexit and the multitude of other tribulations that we’ve all faced over the past couple of years, but coming through the fire with a note of hope left in their hearts. We asked the band to take us through the record track by track.

Our debut album was recorded in five days at Brighton Road Studios. We wanted to create a body of work that captured the energy and spirit of the band, something we feel sets us apart. There’s a vibrancy and an energy to our live shows, a distinct personality that we wanted to immortalise in our debut album. The songs were mostly recorded live, with some overdubs here and there. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the recording of the album was delayed twice. By the time we finally managed to get into the studio, in between the two national lockdowns, we had the songs down to an extent that we recorded most of them in only a few takes. That immediacy is palpable throughout the album; we achieved what we set out to do and captured the spirit of our band over the course of five intense and unforgettable days.

‘Apathy’ was one of the songs we got down on the first day of recording at Brighton Road Studios. There’s no great blueprint to how we make music, but the genesis of this song followed what has become a common trend of Matthew writing the music, then sending it Olly’s way to write lyrics to. There’s a lot of tension and release in the music of ‘Apathy’ and that inspired the lyrics, particularly in lines like “Fantasy, at last I’m feeling something” – the feeling of wanting to escape something, trying to find some respite in your imagination, but that safe space being invaded by forces you can’t control.

We hadn’t considered ‘Apathy’ as an opener for the album, but when we got the first mixes of the tracks back it seemed to have everything we were looking for. Recording live, you have much more control over the feel of a recording – the band’s working as one, greater than the sum of its parts. That accentuated the dynamics of this song, the loud / quiet sections, the heaviness in the choruses and the more tender moments. It seems to encapsulate the dynamism of the album as a whole.

Catch it on the Fall
‘Catch it on the Fall’ is an unusual one for us. The song is a reimagining of one of the first songs we wrote as a band, one that we could never get quite right – it was never performed or recorded. We broke it down into its sections and decided what we did and didn’t like. The main thing we liked was the bridge, so that became the chorus of ‘Catch it on the Fall’, and so on. When we’d got it down to its bones, we wrote around those sections and created the song you hear now. It’s a completely different track, much stronger after that editing process.

It’s also the first track on the album that uses a more narrative based approach to the lyrics. We wanted to introduce certain characters in the album that crop up here and there, not to focus on them as such, but more to frame the themes of the album from other people’s perspectives, rather than a first person account, whether that’s autobiographical or otherwise.

Another Life
‘Another Life’ was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. It’s taken on a whole other meaning with us having to change our name, due to a trademark dispute with a band in the US with a similar name to Foundlings. There’s a hope and an optimism to the track, something uplifting, but also an awareness of the challenges and strains that new beginnings and ‘breaking out’ can bring. This song, and the album as a whole, was made during a period of change, on a personal level as well as on a political and cultural level: we’d said goodbye to our original bass player Bryan, Ben joined as the new bassist, Matthew became a father. Then of course there was all the continuing political fallout with Brexit and Trump, the trademark dispute… the list goes on. Another Life feels like a breath of fresh air for us all in lots of ways.

Take it Away
This is a song we wrote when we first formed the band back in 2018. It was darker and heavier than most of our songs at that time, so we felt it didn’t really ‘fit’, as much as we liked the track. When we were getting the new songs ready to record, we came back to this one and immediately felt as though it had a place on this record. The energy and power of it felt in keeping with the newer tracks. Lyrically, it’s probably the most cutting and sardonic track on the album. It was written around the time of the Brexit referendum and Trump’s election; there was certainly a lot to be cynical about then, as there still is now.

Wait in the Dark
Similar to ‘Take it Away’, ‘Wait in the Dark’ is a direct reaction to turbulent political and cultural times. However, this is a much more visceral reaction. There’s a lot of anger and passion in this song. It felt liberating to have a moment on the album where we really let loose, not allowing ourselves to be wrapped up in analytical posturing. A bit like our first single, ‘Misery’, the track started off with a bass line and everything else was built up from there. We’re particularly excited about getting this one out on the road.

Unknown Places
At this point in the album, we wanted to take a breath and introduce a degree of reflection to proceedings. ‘Unknown Places’ takes on more of a narrative based approach to songwriting, returning to and introducing characters that embody the themes of the album of struggle, escape and hope. This wasn’t one that neatly came together over the course of a practise, like some of the other tracks did. We spent a lot of time whittling it down and rearranging sections. During lockdown, we made a DIY video for it with all the parts recorded at our homes. Hearing it back like that was very helpful when we went into the studio to get it down proper. When you’ve lived with a song for a while, you tend to lose perspective, so it was an interesting exercise to approach it in that way.

This Won’t End Well
The only time that a working title has remained the song’s descriptor. There’s a simple chord progression at the centre of ‘This Won’t End Well’, but otherwise no section repeats. The music aims at that fitful feeling of mulling something from various angles, but always returning to the same conclusion. That sense of not having an answer but knowing something’s amiss plays out in every element of the song – a familiar feeling for many this past year.

So it Goes
The first piece of music Matthew wrote after becoming a parent, ‘So It Goes’ comes from the perspective of having your identity challenged at every level in a totally new way. The experience of becoming responsible for another life, everything encompassed by that pivoting of perspective, is a transformative one – so it’s fitting that there’s an oneiric, lullaby-like quality to the final recording of the song.

‘Fire’ is a boisterous coming-to, an almost jocular release that starts loud and never backs down. Before writing the album, we became used to hearing how much faster, grittier we were live than our recordings let on – and in some way Fire helped to keep us tracking against that aspiration to capture something of our live sound: you can’t play it, or record it, any other way than flat-out.

Almost Over
A 12 string guitar and an extraordinarily versatile Boss Harmonist pedal were two of our favourite tools throughout the recording and, while we were often conscious of keeping the sound as organic as possible, we couldn’t resist including a bit of ornamentation on ‘Almost Over’. We’d begun incorporating it into our set list pre-pandemic, where it worked particularly well as the penultimate song in the set. It’s a song made for dancing to, and we can’t wait to get it back on its feet.

Nurse’s Song
‘Nurse’s Song’ is probably the most personal track we have. It was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, but of course it’s taken on a new resonance since then. Amber works as a nurse in the NHS. She wrote the words to this song as a poem, then we put those words to music. With such a personal context to the song, we wanted to broaden out the themes and look at the NHS’ history and how our perceptions of caring environments have changed since the NHS’ inception.

We found a recording of Nye Bevan, the Health Minister who founded the NHS in 1948, delivering a speech where he talks about the principles and ideals that it was built on. It was emotional just to listen to those words, as much of what he’s talking about is so undervalued now and is slowly being sold off to rich private companies. Using that speech in the final section of the song allowed us to put a first person account of working in the NHS as a nurse, or as any health professional for that matter, in context with Bevan’s dream for the future of this great institution. Like with much of our music, there’s an optimism that permeates ‘Nurse’s Song’, albeit subtly.

Hadda Be’s debut album Another Life is out now via Last Night from Glasgow – order on vinyl here or as a digital download on Bandcamp.
Follow Hadda Be on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Introduction by Paul Maps
Photograph by Luthiem Escanola

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