Joy, Over Perfection: Hannah Bahng Interviewed

Her new EP is a profound journey of self-discovery...

Singer-songwriter Hannah Bahng is a complete artist, and her new EP ‘The Abysmal’ proves it. This collection of seven engaging and profound songs captures her emotions and marks an artistic journey that began in her teens. “I was navigating a turbulent journey of self-discovery… My teens were about trying to understand myself and finding the words to describe what I was feeling, and music is the one outlet I can fully do that with,” Hannah Bahng tells CLASH.

During the creation of ‘The Abysmal’, Hannah explored different sides of herself. “I definitely explored different aspects of myself that aren’t always positive, and each song dives deeper into one or more of those different aspects. Through that creative experience, I feel like I’ve grown to not just understand myself better, but to accept some of those different sides of me too. The most common definition of the word abysmal is ‘very bad,’ but another definition is ‘very deep,’ like an abyss. Both of those definitions together is why I named it ‘The Abysmal’ EP.”

A unique EP that many people can relate to, there’s a reason this project is so special. “A lot of the first ideas, chords, lyrics, symbols, or themes from each song quite literally come straight from my journal! Metaphorically though, this EP is genuinely so intimate and real for me, which is why it feels just as vulnerable as tearing pages from my diary and sending them out into the world.”

In July 2023, Hannah released her debut single, ‘perfect blues’, whose music video she directed herself. It received high praise for expressing her artistic side so well. “I was surprised and felt super grateful that my music was able to resonate with other people! I think music is such a bonding and human experience, and I love connecting to people through it. And seeing how that first single was received, it’s continued to inspire me to create music that hopefully resonates with the people who listen to it, and to continue working harder and create more memories.”

Just as before, she fully immersed herself in the music video for ‘Abysmal’, returning to ballet after years and taking classes three times a week. “It was fun to reminisce about the past since I hadn’t danced ballet since I was 12! I actually filmed the music video before the song was completely finished, so I think that filming those ballet scenes first really helped inject some of that extra nostalgic feeling I felt while dancing into the song through the strings recording, production, and mix.”

Extremely close to her family, in the track ‘hannah interlude’, she included her mother’s voice, one of the people who most encouraged her to pursue art, as well as piano and dance lessons. If this motivation used to make her dream of her career while sleeping, now, when she opens her eyes, it will still be there because she made it happen.

“Using my mom’s voice memo was definitely a symbolic moment because she’s one of the biggest influences in my life! She’s someone who keeps me grounded, and when I’m going through a hard time, that’s who I go to for advice. She always has such a positive energy, and she always makes me want to be a better person and improve myself, and I’m so grateful to her always! I really hope that all those feelings can be felt when you listen to the interlude.”

The title ‘POMEGRANATE’ alludes to the myth of Hades and Persephone in Greek mythology, where Hades gave pomegranate seeds to Persephone, binding her to him and making her return every six months to the underworld to be his queen.

“Pomegranates themselves also are associated with a lot of interesting classical symbolism, and it’s definitely very influenced by that too. So this song is about recognising those obsessive and paranoid tendencies, as well as the insecurities that they’re drawn from, and trying to accept those sides of myself. But I like to think that in the end, Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds on purpose because she wanted to stay with Hades in the underworld,” says Hannah.

‘Abysmal’, on the other hand, was written during a moment of deep introspection, capturing her vulnerability through piano and string arrangements. “I think so much of the vulnerability I felt could only be expressed through the piano and strings. While lyric-writing can be more cerebral at times, I think composing music comes straight from the core of me, these emotions flowing out of me unfiltered. I think that’s why the vulnerability is able to shine through the instrumentals in a very special way that I hope you can feel when you listen to ‘Abysmal’.”

When asked about the song with the most challenging or unique creative process, Hannah said it was ‘Vertigo’, whose piano composition and arrangement flowed so well that she completed it in a single 30-minute session.

“But I really struggled with the lyrics for months, constantly changing and rewriting things more than any other song on the EP. I had drawn inspiration directly from my journal entries and had written down the lyrics as if I were having a conversation with myself in the mirror, but because I had expressed my emotions so perfectly through the piano composition, I felt like I couldn’t quite perfectly find the right words, which is why I struggled so much.”

“Funny enough, I had originally tried to write lyrics for the bridge a few times, but in the end, I realised maybe the words that could express what I wanted to say just didn’t exist,” says the singer.

Full of surprises, Hannah thinks through every step and process of her music, which is why her work is so unique and personal. Before positioning herself as a singer-songwriter, she also considers the perspective of a listener. “Another unique thing about ‘Vertigo’ is that I decided to record it without a click because that intentional ‘imperfection’ makes you really feel that dizziness of vertigo I want you to feel when you listen to it (which is exactly how I was feeling when I first composed it).”

‘The Abysmal’ EP is out now.

Words: Isabella Wandermurem
Photo Credit: Darlene Park

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