From Office Intern To Label Signing: Hachiku's Story In Her Own Words
Sometimes you just have to ask.
Take Melbourne songwriter Hachiku - at one point she was the office intern for Australian label Milk! Records, hurling herself into the daily tasks. Writing her own material on the side, a unique turn of events found Hachiku signing to the label she once stuffed envelopes for.
It's a neat story, and her music is fully deserving of support; fun, literate, whipsmart indie rock with an alt-pop appeal, her new album 'I'll Probably Be Asleep' lands on November 13th.
Here, in her own words, Hachiku reflects on her journey to date...
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It is I, Anika. Coming at you from the almost-too-sunny-for-me-to-be-able-to-see-my-laptop- screen Melbourne.
Melbourne - or globally recognised the ‘most liveable city’ full of arts, culture, indie music, nice people and slightly tumultuous but okay enough weather. I do agree, it’s pretty special and exciting here. In particular in comparison to my OG village called Dansweiler - a small place 27 km from Cologne in Germany with supposedly more horse inhabitants than human inhabitants.
Dansweiler, where I’d spend my youth daydreaming about the whole wide world yet to be discovered by my curious innocence (exactly, lol). Dreams of one day winning Germany’s Next Superstar, dreams of becoming Broadway’s next musical sensation singing Wicked songs, my whole body painted green swinging my agile hips to salsa rhythms.
Instead I opted for the more conservative option and started a four-year degree in Biological Sciences. How long until I realised it was not my dream profession? Three months. How long until my teen dream of becoming a famous rock musician re-emerged? Three months and one day. How long to go until my degree was going to be completed? Four years minus three months and one day. But oh well - sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do it. And so I did it. And so I learnt about evolution and stem cell therapy and molluscs and inbreeding and why humanity is doomed forever, always at the back of my mind waiting for the right opportunity to live out my true calling - me on a stage swooning the audience with my mysterious aura and extravagant clothes and yet-to-be-developed French accent (further details TBC).
Eventually, a slither of hope presented itself in a third year exchange to a destination of my choice - Melbourne, Auckland or Singapore. A little research revealed a sort-of-paradise previous me never knew existed - Melbourne, the music capital of the world, with more venues than Austin, Texas, USA and 62,000 annual live music concerts (which on a side note would translate to 169 per day, might need to fact check that, Wikipedia?).
I was convinced, packed my bags, cried a little that I wouldn’t see my dog for 12 months and boarded a 24 h plane to Australia - my 50 Euro Stratocaster rip-off in check-in luggage and my fleamarket Casio keyboard in my carry-on. The first show I went to was in this dingy underground bar in Melbourne’s CBD and a loop-station artist was performing (‘I could do that for sure, right? She’s not even THAT good… and what’s that name, Tash Sultana lol’)
The second show I went to was by this local label called Milk! Records that I had vaguely heard of through this new indie rock sensation Courtney Barnett and the bands about to play were apparently all part of her extended friendship group that she signed to her label because why not.
Sounded fun, and so I went and I watched and just like that my true musical awakening began. That was exactly what I wanted to do. A group of nice friends just playing a show and being friends and people watching being friends and everyone knew everyone and I had never experienced such a friendly environment full of support and community. I was desperate to be part of it. A friend of The Friends.
So I sent an email volunteering to help out and cook coffee or send their letters or just tell jokes in the office. No one replied. Oh well, whatever. I won’t be a friend then.
But then there goes fate. Eight months later I received an email by a Jen Sholakis: “Hey Anika, we got your email from the other year. Would you be able to help us out with the next Jen Cloher 7” vinyl mailout? We are needing some extra hands.”
They were desperate but I had been desperate too I guess so I was happy to be their last resort. Yay. I was actually thrilled to be honest. I started helping out regularly on a weekly basis enjoying banh mi’s and mushroom pies during 25 minute lunch breaks with my new ‘colleagues’ - packing t-shirt after t-shirt, vinyl after vinyl, joke after joke. 15 x banh mi’s later, I was attending East Brunswick All Girls Choir gigs, selling merch at the Milk! Christmas party and Jen Cloher shows - hanging out, having fun, being friends.
Eventually someone realised that I also played music. It was pretty low-key at that stage, some local shows here and there, open mics, bedroom recordings - very much in the spirit of the Melbourne DIY music scene. One thing led to another and I released my first single as part of the Split Singles Club, a collaboration between Milk! and Bedroom Suck Records. Then the Hachiku EP followed, I found my amazing bandmates, we did a couple of great Australian support tours with The Breeders and Jose Gonzales, then a couple of international ones with Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett.
Now we are about to release our first LP on Milk! and UK based label Marathon Artists and l am quite excited.
To me, that feeling of belonging and true connection always was a priority. I had no real intention of trying to somehow get in there to be signed by a label. I personally don’t think you can fake your way to the top (or at least that’s how it would run in my universe, maybe I live a slightly romanticised version of the world and the reality might look different - it probably does look different). But do your thing and maybe some people will like it. Maybe they won’t. Maybe you’re lucky and you get to release on a label like Milk!. Maybe you are in a completely different place and you just need to find your own community of like-minded people. They are definitely there!
If you are out there reading this dreaming up your music career, here are a few words of wisdom that I’ve picked up along the way:
1. There’s not one way to do it. Everyone has their own path. Some people come to it late, better late than never.
2. You need to see this as a job long before anyone else will. Most people define a job as a money-making activity, in reality music as your job is a lot of or writing articles like this for two hours before you go back to pouring beers at a bar for actual money freaking out that you’re not going to be able to buy a house ever. But, again you just suck it up and do it because it’s worth it. Because if you don’t believe in the possibility that one day you’ll be able to have a sustainable music career, no one else will.
3. Redefine success. You need to figure out your own journey and what will make you feel accomplished. My bandmates describe it as ‘the thirst’ - nothing will ever be good enough if you keep comparing yourself to the person that is one, two or seven steps ahead of you. This is definitely much easier said than done!!!
4. Everything’s better in hindsight.
5. Don’t be desperate. Sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s okay!
I might still be far from doing splits on a Broadway stage (to be honest, I am yet to finesse crossing my legs) and I will never have a French accent looking mysterious or extravagant on a stage, but I think looking back I feel like I’m pretty close to where I never imagined myself to be. And that’s okay!
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'I'll Probably Be Asleep' will be released on November 13th.
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