Australian artist HOWQUA recently released is debut EP Naked, with a packed Melbourne launch show to celebrate at Howler.
After funding the production of his debut EP with the assistance of a Pozible crowd funding campaign of $12k and an Arts Victoria grant of $10k, HOWQUA’s loyal following have been eagerly awaiting this release.
We caught up with HOWQUA to chat about how he got into music, Mangos and more.
Have you always played music? When did you start writing your own songs?
When I was younger I would write poems in my school diary. It got to a point where I wanted to start putting music behind my words. So when I was 19 I picked up a guitar and haven’t looked back since.
Do you find songwriting a long process of trial, error and experimentation or do songs have a tendency to pour out for you?
Definitely the latter. Any time I try and write a song it just all comes out wrong. I generally get a certain feeling and I know I need to pick up a guitar, write some words down or hum a little riff into the audio recorder on my phone. It’s usually just after I’ve gone through something big in my life. But sometimes it pops up down the track out of nowhere.
How do you feel now, when you sit back and listen to your own songs? Do you feel a distance from them now that they have been recorded? How do they make you feel when hearing them back? Different to when you play them to yourself or when you play them live?
I base a lot of what I do around a little chill I get down my spine, you know the little goosey’s you get when you really feel something. If they’re around it’s definitely a good sign and I just kind of go with it. It’s hard when you are in the moment of the recorded stuff because you get so caught up in all the takes and changes and edits, that you start to get a little bit confused about where that feeling is. More recently after a breather from the tunes it’s been good to go back, listen with fresh ears and get that feeling back. I love to perform them live because I can really connect with the energy from the room first hand. So if there is a little feeling of something special, it spreads throughout the room and amplifies that feeling.
How do you feel about sharing your songs with a wider audience?
It’s something that took me a while to accept and the concept of sharing my inner thoughts with others really freaked me out. But I love to create, help people feel and connect with people. So to have the opportunity to share my music and words with a wider audience I now find really exciting.
Your songwriting is honest and often exposed, making the words clear to hear. Do you ever feel a degree of trepidation to share things so personal?
When I first stared writing music I would hold back and not really say what I was feeling because it may have been too confronting or it would have exposed myself too much and I was terrified to share my deeper emotions with others. It was just under two years ago now that I made a decision that if I was going to create music to the best of my ability that I would be 100% honest with myself and to the people listening to it. Yeah it still scares the hell out of me when I think too much about putting myself out there and letting the guards down. But I suppose it’s based more around an instinctive thing. If it feels right I’m king of just going to go with it.
What do you hope of your music? Do you hope that people will relate in a way that you have done, perhaps with musicians that you listen to?
I want people to be able to feel when they listen to my music, to be able to hear words that they wanted to say but couldn’t quite get out. I want it to be a voice for others where they can sing the words to a song and feel as if they have written it themselves. And like I connect with other artists I want people to connect with this.
How did you come to work alongside Hayden Calnin?
I was in WA on a little soul searching trip and I put together a crowd funding campaign with the aim to record some of my music. I had some amazing support and I successfully surpassed my funding goal. This meant I was in a position to look at different producers to work with. When I came across Hayden’s work online and after a brief chat on the phone I knew he was the lad I wanted to work with. He agreed to get on board so I hitched a ride from Margaret River to Red Hill and we took it from there.
What new things did you learn during the recording process?
How important it is to be in the right headspace when recording. How many countless hours go into getting something solid and how hearing the same song 1000 times does your head in.
Naked. Why this title for your EP?
For me the title was one of those moments that once it clicked it didn’t seem like it could be called anything else. There were a couple of reasons why I connected with this name. One was, although all of these tracks are very personal I wanted the underlining theme to be about being human, about the different feelings we feel, the ups and the downs. Even the album artwork hides the face of a person photographed who I have never seen. Who is that? What are they about? What’s their story? It doesn’t matter because it’s not about them and it’s not about me. It’s about all of us feeling and it’s about the fact the each of us were born the same. Naked. The other reason for naming the EP Naked was based around how much I have chosen to expose myself for this. I’ve put it all on the line and to just stand there ‘Naked’ in front of the world. Not so much in a literal sense, but hopefully you get what I mean, haha.
Did you have a particular song that stands out for you on the EP? Would you describe each song as a stand alone track, or did you endeavour to have a narrative woven throughout all of the songs?
I’ve always viewed this release as a journey from start to finish. From the opening line in Art Beat, “I think I think about my thoughts too much” to the closing line in City Sounds, “As I stand amongst these sounds, the heart of Melbourne town.” I feel as if it definitely has a narrative woven in there. It’s your choice if you choose to unravel it.
‘My Mindset’ is a powerful song and film clip. It is a good introduction to you as an artist. A year has past since that video was first posted. How do you think you have progressed/changed/grown since then? Are you still proud of that song and clip a year on?
As I mentioned before, I made the decision to kind of drop my guard and keep things as honest as I possibly could a couple of years back. My Mindset was a really big step for me to prove to myself that I was willing to do this. Releasing that clip was certainly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I look at how I feel in myself now compared to then and I’ve made real progress in many ways. I will always be proud of that song and clip because it was a real big ‘all in’ moment and something that signified to myself that there was no going back.
Do you like to think of your songs as capturing one moment at a time, and perhaps act as a nice preservation of that time or memory?
I used to cringe when I heard old stuff I’ve done. But I think now I’ve really learnt to accept that was the place I was during that particular time in my life. It was how I was feeling and it’s indicative of my songwriting abilities at the time and so on. This is the place I am now and there is somewhere else that I will be in the future. And if that wasn’t the case then I would never grow. So I’ve really learnt to respect the preservation of a track and therefore the moment or feeling within that track.
Who has encouraged you the most to pursue music?
My family and friends have always been so supportive of me to continue to make music. At a time when I had zero belief in what I was doing they have always found a way to encourage me to pursue my passion to continue to create. I’ll always be super grateful for that.
Who are some of your favourite musicians?
I really connected with Bon Iver when For Emma, Forever Ago was released. Early on I got right into Xavier Rudd and more recently it’s been some artists that play with more electronic flavours such as James Blake and #1 Dads.
Aside from music, what else do you love? Films? Novels? Skateboarding? Cooking? Art? Science?
What do you consider to be the most worthwhile thing about making this EP?
Meeting some amazing people and the fact that I can say at this point in my life as a package this is the best piece of art that I am capable of putting forward and I’m really proud of it.
All the best. I wish you every success. Keep enjoying the music.
Thanks so much for the chats. Do you have any mangos?
HOWQUA’s EP Naked is out now in Australia and New Zealand.