q&a: hannah vs. the many
Hannah vs. The Many is some of the most unique music I’ve heard in the past 6 months. The band’s sound somehow happily blends lyrical arrangements of some of your favorite musicals with hard-hitting rock n’ roll riffs that stay with you long after the album, All Our Heroes Drank Here, is over.
Instead of doing an album review, I wanted to give you faithful Lip readers some insight into the mind of the woman behind it all: Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/self-proclaimed antiheroine Hannah Fairchild. Read on below…
How did you come up with the name Hannah vs. The Many? What or who does “the many” signify?
Ha! It took us forever to come up with a band name. However, I was thinking to myself one day how all singer/songwriter projects inevitably become “name of person + plural noun” and thought it would be kind of awesome if we were “name of person vs. name of thing” (this because I tend to be versus just about everything). So I emailed Matt (who plays keys in the band), and he sent back a page worth of Google search results from “Hannah vs”. He was just being goofy, but Hannah vs. The Many really resonated with me, so we went with it. A lot of my songs are about feeling isolated and critical of the world around you, so the title seemed to fit. The guys I play with are not The Many, by the way. I am absolutely not versus them.
Describe your sound in five words or less.
Some dude asked me this same question in a karaoke bar the other day, and I told him “Ella Fitzgerald meets The Replacements“. Then I had another hot toddy and sang ‘Sin Wagon’ by the Dixie Chicks.
Was there a particular moment or artist that made you want to pursue music when you were growing up? Who were your early influences?
That’s a bit tricky, because I’ve been singing my whole life but only writing and playing for a few years. When I was in musical theater my favorite composers were Stephen Sondheim and Michael John LaChiusa, who write very dark, strange scores that mix a lot of genres. When I first got into indie/rock music I really loved Bright Eyes (for his lyrics) and the White Stripes (for the rocking out). I think it was Neko Case and Fox Confessor Brings The Flood that made me decide to learn guitar and start to write my own songs.
Who are you into right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Titus Andronicus, I’m really excited for the new White Rabbits album this year, and this morning I discovered a band called Cloud Nothings that is excellent. As soon as I have ten dollars I’m totally buying their album.
What are your other interests/passions?
One of my goals for the new year is to push myself to try books/movies/music that I wouldn’t ordinarily read/watch/hear. For me that means watching lots of horror movies and reading lots of Hemingway.
The best advice I ever received was…
A few months ago New York City had a hurricane warning that shut down the whole city. I went over to my friends’ apartment and (naturally) drank Hurricanes. After several pitchers, my friend Joanna told me that I need to “throw away the charts”, meaning that you can’t measure your success by other people’s standards. I made her write it down on a post it note which currently hangs on my bedroom mirror.
Tell me more about the “underground indie musical theatre community” referenced in your bio. Have you ever been a part of one before, do they exist in other cities, what does such a community entail, etc?
The primary reason that I got out of theater and into music was that I found there to be a lack of inspiring work. Like I said, my favorite musicals were always the dark strange ones, and my audition opportunities were mostly children’s shows and revivals of old classics. That said, I’ve seen a lot of collaboration in the past few years between indie rockers, indie dance companies, indie theater companies, film directors and so on and so on. There’s definitely an indie arts community on the rise, and I’m proud to be able to be a part of it.
From your experience, do you think it’s more difficult for women to establish themselves in the music industry?
I think it’s hard for women to distinguish themselves and their sound. Women singer/songwriters tend to get lumped into categories, so if you play guitar you’re automatically “just like Ani DiFranco” and if you play piano you’re “just like Fiona Apple”. Maybe it’s because there are fewer established women to compare us to, and that’s definitely starting to change. I think for now a lot of really talented women get written off because no one quite knows how to label them.
Where is your favorite place to play?
Cake Shop in the Lower East Side. I saw my first live show in New York at Cake Shop, before I ever started playing, and I’m beyond honored to be playing my album release show there.
Greatest achievement to date?
I moved to New York six years ago and I’m still here. It’s harder than it sounds.
What’s next for Hannah vs. The Many?
I’m really excited for this next year. There will definitely be some music videos, definitely some touring, definitely some new songs. Can’t wait!
Hannah vs. The Many’s new album All Our Heroes Drank Here was released on January 17, 2012 and available now.