Music Interview Interview

Huw Evans – otherwise known as H. Hawkline – wrote all the tracks on his new record in just one month. Building on the sounds of his previous releases, Huw describes his forthcoming LP, I Romanticize, as “catchy music people would enjoy at home.” Going by the two singles already released, The Last Thing on Your Mind and My Mine, we’d be inclined to agree.

Set for release in June via Heavenly Recordings, the album’s recording process saw Evans divide his time between contrasting locations. Having written the lyrics in the Welsh market town of Narberth, Evans flew out to LA and formed a quartet that matched his ambition, tapping long-time collaborator and friend Cate Le Bon as well as Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and composer Josiah Steinbrick, before laying down the tracks at producer Samur Khouja’s Seahorse Sound. These polar opposite locales underpin the record’s aesthetic, a sound that merges lyrical intimacy and expansive melodies.

We caught up with Huw in his adopted LA, sharing an insight into his fruitful relationship with Cate, touring with Devandra Banhart, and how the album’s limited time frame gave him a sense of ease and musical freedom.

Sarah Roberts: How is your tour with Devandra going?
Huw Evans: Good, I’ve just finished our two week US tour. We also did an extensive six week tour, where I played in his band and supported each night as well. I have some time off now, so I’m contemplating taking advantage of being here in LA and making another record, but we’ll see whether that happens or not. I’ve also got another tour with Devandra in June and July.

Sarah: Can you tell us a little about your forthcoming album? How do you think it’s different from your past records?
Huw: I think it’s different in the sense that if you do something for long enough, it naturally either mutates and becomes something different, or it becomes more and more refined. This record is just a refinement of what I was already doing. The longer you do something for, the more comfortable you feel doing it, and the less you get hung up on trying to make it sound like other things. I’ve become more comfortable with my music just sounding like the thing it is. I think when I’ve made a record previously, I’ve always wanted it to sound like a certain artist, or wondered if it sounds too much like something else. I no longer mind doing something silly or slightly ridiculous here and there, whereas previously I might have second-guessed it and thought it was a bit cheesy. 

Sarah: You’ve said that this is the first record you’ve made where you felt as though everything came together completely naturally – why do you think that is?
Huw: I think it’s just doing it for so long, and probably having less time to think about it. Writing all the songs in the space of a month, I wasn’t really afforded the time to sit down and think about them too much, it just had to happen. It was a nice test for me in that sense, because it was either going to come together or it wasn’t. I think that’s why it felt natural, because I didn’t have time to tinker with things and change them. I just wrote the music and what came out was what it was going to have to be. I was worried about that at the time, and it wasn’t until listening to the record afterwards that I realised how quickly and easily it had come to me.

Sarah: You’ve described this record as being ‘easily accessible pop’, would you say that applies more to this album than to any of your others?
Huw: I think my music is always fairly straightforward. In the past I’ve been afraid of making something too poppy so I’ve tried to make it weirder or less obvious. But with this record, I just wanted to make music people would enjoy at home. Pop music generally means music that it is popular, which doesn’t really apply to me, but it also means something that is catchy; you can listen to it a couple of times and then find yourself whistling it down the road, and I think this record has that going for it.

“With this record, I just wanted to make music people would enjoy at home.”

H. Hawkline. Photography by Sophie Caby.

Sarah: You wrote and recorded the album between LA and Wales – can you describe that process?
Huw: Recording the album in LA was out of necessity rather than anything else. I’d actually moved back to Wales after making the previous record, and then I returned to LA to play shows with Cate Le Bon. I had about two weeks off in LA before going to New York. I think I only had two songs written at the time, but I found myself there in an empty apartment on my own, so I thought it would be a good time to do an album. After the show in New York, I flew back to LA and booked the studio I had used to make my last record, with Samur and Cate Le Bon as the producers. We recorded the whole thing in seven days, but I hadn’t written any lyrics, so I left the record for about six months. When I moved back to Cardiff, I was living out of suitcases for a while, which made it difficult to write. As soon as I moved into my own place in Cardiff, I wrote all the lyrics in about a week. Being in LA and having Samur and Cate do the production was a big influence on the album. It’s as much about the people that play on it and work on it as it is where it was recorded.

Sarah: How do you think your relationship with Cate Le Bon has been formative for you as an artist?
Huw: The relationship has been formative for me both as an artist and as a person. We’ve spent a lot of time together, and I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I feel like it’s difficult to make decisions without checking things with one another. We’ve always had that kind of dependency on each other when it comes to music. I’m always asking her what she thinks of things, and I value Cate’s opinion over most. I think she has a very singular way of looking at things, and she can dismantle a song and put it back together in a way that I don’t think many people can. What I enjoy most about working with her, is that we’ll work on a song, and she’ll hear something in it that I don’t hear and she’ll zone in on that element of it and encourage me to see the song differently.

You can preorder H. Hawkline’s album ‘I Romanticize’ here.