Interview: If I Had A Hifi
"I guess if I have one hope it’s that some women hear these songs and feel slightly less alone, or feel that someone’s putting voice to feelings or experiences they may not be able to share themselves"
If I Had A Hifi are an exciting, emerging London based duo consisting of Hannah Morgan (Vocals, Piano, Violin) and Laura Perrett (Vocals, Piano, Bass), who draw on their experiences of existing as women and workers in a patriarchal capitalist society and channel those feelings into their songwriting, resulting in catchy folk punk influenced anti-pop.
Welcome to the World is their debut EP, and will be self-released on Bandcamp on 2nd April 2021. A video for Pentagrams and Hexagons, the first single from Welcome to the World, is released today (26th March). Ahead of the release, Adriana sat down with the band to find out more.
(((o))): What instrument did each of you first learn to play and when did you start playing said instrument(s)?
Laura: I learned to play piano first, aged about 7. It was mostly through watching my older brother play because I’m terrible at reading music. I did have lessons for a bit but gave up when I started writing my own stuff at 14. I taught myself to play bass about three years ago – it’s so much fun but SO different.
Hannah: I learned to play piano first – I think at a similar age to Laura, and then I started learning violin maybe a year later? I had lessons and did grades until I was about 18, which I wasn’t always grateful for at the time but I’m super-grateful for now!
(((o))): What and who inspires each of you to write and play music?
L: My biggest inspo is Amanda Palmer / The Dresden Dolls. She plays piano the way I do and it was so good to discover an established artist doing that when I was a teen.
H: Oof, I’ve got no idea to be honest! It was an ex-partner of mine who first suggested I join a band (that band became Rumour Cubes) and I’ll always be incredibly grateful to her for that. Before then I never realised it was something I could do, to be honest. I was classically trained and I played in orchestras and at school concerts and oh god I *wanted* to be in a band so much, but who’d want a nerdy violinist? And then it turned out that post-rock existed and quite liked nerdy violinists and that gave me the confidence to say ‘yeah, maybe this is something I can actually do’. So yeah, Chloe is the reason I write and play music!
(((o))): How did you both meet and when did you decide to form a band together?
L: I met Hannah on twitter! She put a call out for bandmates and i jumped on it. At the time I had only just started to learn bass so I figured I’d just wing it and hope for the best.
H: Rumour Cubes is great but there are six of us and we’ve all got busy lives which makes it difficult to get together that regularly – it’s also an instrumental band and I’ve always wanted to sing. So I put a call-out on twitter for anyone interested in starting a band and Laura got in touch!
(((o))): How did you come up with the band name If I Had A Hifi?
L: Because it’s a palindrome. Well – because our music is a mix of songs and instrumentals and we wanted our name to imply the two sides of what we do. But also because palindromes are cool.
H: What Laura said. She found a bunch of palindromes and it was between If I Had A Hifi and Evil Olive. We felt If I Had A Hifi was better for a band but we might write a song called Evil Olive at some point!
(((o))): On April 2nd you are set to self-release your debut album Welcome to the World. It’s beautiful, incredible, witty, relevant and poignant. When did you start writing and recording the album? Was it during Covid and if yes, what was the process like to get it recorded and completed?
L: We actually finished writing it in 2019! We recorded it at Shaken Oak studios during the summer and actually managed to play a couple of gigs afterwards. Unfortunately 2020 happened and everything inevitably got delayed. We’re so pleased it’s finally ready to be released.
H: Yeah we were lucky to get it finished before everything happened. The very last thing I did before lockdown was record some synths for HB481 at Jay Malhotra’s studio in Tottenham, I’m so pleased we were able to go ahead with it! We were so lucky to record the majority of the album at Shaken Oak Studios, it’s a beautiful farmhouse in rural Oxfordshire and it’s got rooms so you can stay there while you’re recording. It’s an incredible space and it made the recording process feel very special.
(((o))): The album cover is pretty cool. Who is the artist behind the artwork?
L: Thanks! We made it. It’s a collage made from a bunch of free magazines and papers you can find in London.
H: We’ve done a bunch of collages, every now and then we have a day where we just sit and cut and layer and stick, it’s very relaxing. Laura made the image we’re using for Pentagrams and Hexagons and there are a bunch more on our instagram
(((o))): The album is made up of six tracks, some touching on themes of sexual assault, street harassement, reproductive rights and the housing crisis. While listening to it I felt an array of emotions. I was struck by the lyrics and the emotive instrumentation, at times I was left quite emotional, yet empowered. What was the writing process like for each of you and how did you/do you manage the emotional aspect when playing each track?
L: I’m glad you felt empowered! I would say most of what has been written for Welcome to the World is based on life experience and the need to get those feelings out in the open. A huge amount of it is sheer encouragement from each other though. Sometimes I’ve written things and thought “oh god, is that too much??” and Hannah has always said “no, not at all!”
H: Yeah I think we both find putting things down on paper quite cathartic, in a way. And then belting the lyrics out on stage helps too! It can be quite an emotional experience, sometimes when we rehearse there are certain songs we don’t want to play on particular weeks, for example, but I think we’ve both benefited from getting things out in the open and saying “this is what happens”.
(((o))): The lyrics are witty and succinct in representing the theme on each track. One of my favourite tracks is titled ‘Pentagrams and Hexagons’, for which you also have a beautiful video. A line in the chorus for this track stayed with me as it painted a beautiful picture, “synesthetic vision with kaleidoscopic sound”. Can you tell us about this track and how the video was put together?
L: This track is one of my favourites because the chord structure is so simple but it’s been made to sound so huge and beautiful by Hannah’s violin and the incredible mixing involved. I wish I could tell you what the words are about – it was an amazing experience – but our parents might read this interview!
H: The video is mostly a collection of video clips I’ve shot on my phone over the last few years! There’s a lot of festival footage in there, mostly from Bearded Theory which is a wonderful place to be; there’s some footage from the courtyard at Shaken Oak Farm, some from Brighton beach. It’s just a kind of medley of these little snapshots in time when things were joyous – we wanted it to feel quite dreamlike, to match the mood of the song. I want to give a shout out to Jay Malhotra here who mixed this track and did some incredible sound design on it; we said to him “can you make this sound like an acid trip” and he just did the most amazing job.
(((o))): On the track ‘HB481’, it touches on the theme of reproductive rights. The lyrics also include the album title, Welcome to the World. For those that might not know, could you tell us what HB481 refers to?
L: HB481 references Georgia HB481, an American anti-abortion law preventing doctors from performing abortions beyond six weeks. I believe the bill was repealed but there have been many more introduced since. On top of that, my heart goes out to all women fighting for their reproductive rights in Poland as of right now (when this is published). I wrote the words for this not long after the news broke about HB481 – I was so angry! To be at this point in our modern society where women are still at the mercy of people who wish to control how and when we have children is unfathomable. These laws are not about protecting half developed cells, they are about controlling women. I am and always will be fiercely pro-choice.
H: When Laura first played this song to me I cried, it hit me like a punch in the gut. It feels as though reproductive rights are being curtailed worldwide and it scares the hell out of me. I believe the right to choose is fundamental.
(((o))): You both inspire and represent female artists with your music and art and your lyrics have laid bare some of the ugliness and injustices women face everyday. What do you hope listeners will come away with after listening to the album?
H: To be totally honest, I don’t really know. I guess I don’t feel like we’re saying anything that hasn’t been said before, or isn’t said over and over again by women everywhere all the time. I wish I could say I hope that some men listen to these songs and re-examine their behaviour, but it feels like we’ve had many supposed ‘watershed’ moments over the years and I’m not convinced they’ve really changed society all that much, and the launch of our debut EP is far from a watershed moment. I guess if I have one hope it’s that some women hear these songs and feel slightly less alone, or feel that someone’s putting voice to feelings or experiences they may not be able to share themselves. I think it’s important to say, though, that our lyrics are based on our experiences as cisgender white women, and these are not the experiences of women everywhere. The ugliness and injustices we face are nothing compared to those experienced by trans women or women of colour, for example.
L: I would really echo Hannah here. Sometimes it feels like no matter how loud you shout, nothing ever changes and you’re just banging your head against a wall at the futility of it. But then I remember going to a Dreamnails gig for the first time and relating SO HARD to everything they were playing. I hope our music reaches the ears of other women and provides some solidarity and catharsis in the same way.
(((o))): In light of the pandemic, many bands are turning to live streaming. Do you have any plans on doing that in support of the new album?
H: Hah, um, maybe?! I dunno, I’m not sure I really want to broadcast myself live to be honest! We’ve been recording tracks in our lounge from time to time which we’re uploading to YouTube but I’m not quite sure how I feel about doing a live stream!
L: I floated this idea a while ago but honestly I’m not sure how we’d go about it or what we would need to make it happen. We’ve been enjoying making YouTube videos at the end of our rehearsals which has been super fun but I’m not sure live streaming is on the agenda just yet. I do miss playing gigs though and we can’t wait to start doing that again when we can.
(((o))): Lastly, thinking about your gear, is there an instrument and/or pedal you can’t live without?
H: Well, my tuning pedal is the one that gets the most use 😉 I do like a bit of reverb though.
L: It’s got to be my keyboard. It’s a proper 88 key weighted thing that I’ve been lugging around since university. I’m surprised it’s lasted this long considering it’s taken a fair beating but I love it.