Days of the week have definite moods to them – Monday inspires dread. Wednesday the mid-week hump. Friday you’re in love! And why wouldn’t you be with happy hour and the weekend just around the corner? Sundays the title of Bay Area artist Hannah Van Loon’s debut album - as Tanukichan - suggests the haziness that comes with recovering from nights out but also a clarity that comes with having to face the world when the partying ends.
Sundays is filled with childhood memories of watching cult Japanese TV series Ultraman, reflecting on where she's at in life and how she can take it all on. That answer lies in the moniker she has chosen for herself: Tanuki is the Japanese raccoon dog who is oft depicted in modern cartoons as a jovial, chubby character. You'll find it In Japanese eateries as a sake-totting statute, often next to the Manuki Neko cat. in reality, it is an adorable canine that resembles a raccoon in its features but is closer to a wild fox or wolf than fido. It holds a special place in Japanese mythology and Von Loon explains to AXS why she picked it as her moniker.
Opening for In The Valley Below at the Rickshaw Stop tonight, Von Loon who has just been announced as the opening act for Kero Kero Bonito's tour in the Fall, also talked shoegaze and working with Chaz Bear aka Toro Y Moi.
AXS: Sundays start with so much possibility but by mid-afternoon, my mind wanders to what I have to do for work. What are your Sundays generally like and how does it relate to your album title?
Hannah Von Loon: There’s definitely a part of it about prepping for the week to come and all the stuff that's going on in your mind. It's really reflective time. Thinking about what's coming up next and what you have planned for your life! Also a lot of times for me, it's like I'll go out on Friday or Saturday, so there’s that lingering, recovering from being out and all that nightlife. (laughs) It's different worlds and requires a different mindset.
AXS: On the title track “Sundays” there’s an outro in Japanese – what does it say, and why did you decide to put it in there?
HVL: Ha! It’s a clip from an old Japanese live action TV show, Ultraman, it’s a superhero show I used to watch when I was really young. It's like monsters and a giant superhero.
AXS: I used to watch that too - and all the other big rubbery dinosaur-like creatures Ultraman used to fight like Godzilla.
HVL: Yes, we always watched it at our house.
AXS: I think my favorite song of is “The Best” – it’s like the best of shoegaze, layered, evoking a strong melancholy. It reminded me of the music of Alvvays. Though I could not make out the lyrics. It starts as abruptly as it ends – you’re sort of left lingering how to make sense of it. Could you tell us what was in your head at the time of writing this song?
HVL: I get those moments when I am overwhelmed with emotion, and with this song, it wasn't about being the best but feelings of regret...maybe, wishing I was better... it was overwhelming and almost paralyzing. Out of that came this song which was about having that emotion and accepting it. That realization that some things you can’t change. That experience of watching myself repeat these patterns.
AXS: As in the patterns of weekends?
HVL: No, not necessarily. But it could be? I like to think of things in fairly general terms; many different experiences can have similar emotional reactions.
AXS: The distortion on "Hunned Bands" is very 90s MTV-Indie and Pixies-like. What is that spoken clip it begins with?
HVL: I don’t know what that one is. (laughs) That one was Chaz, he's like 'here, there's this song.' I thought it sounded great and it was really fun for me to sing. I can’t tell you too much about it because he wrote it. I don't know what "Hunned Bands" even means. (laughs) It's kinda nice to sometimes sing something that you haven’t spent a lot of time with. It was an interesting exercise to make it personal to myself. And of course, I did feel it was appropriate for the record; it was a good fit with all the other songs that I had written.
AXS: When did you meet Chaz Bear and how did your friendship form and lead to you recording your own solo album with him as co-producer? Was he instrumental in helping you realize this shoegaze sound that you’ve taken on in Sundays?
HVL: Yes definitely. We met through mutual friends in the music scene here in the Bay Area. I was just starting my project and doing live shows. At the time, he was looking to work with other people. He came out to one of my shows, kinda liked it and offered to produce it basically. We do have a mutual interest in music. For this project, there were a couple of times when there were multiple different directions that we could have gone down. And either one of us had to make direct calls. Chaz is very open to whatever I was imagining, and I think it all organically fell together. For example, “The Best” initially I had it quite different with these big guitars. Chaz took it in a more in ‘90s rock direction. I thought there was still a lot going on, so I suggested it be emptier and cleaner. I wanted it all to be drier so we took out a bunch of parts; in the mid-section we just cut stuff so it was really minimal. And that really worked. That's the kind of thing we did with a lot of songs.
AXS: You were in Trails And Ways for four years so you're used to listening to other people's opinions but here you got perhaps a nudge to a different direction but it's essentially you who holds the reins, how important was that for you?
HVL: It’s really important to take the reins where your musical vision is concerned. It can be hard to be coherent when there are multiple people battling for direction. For me, it's important to balance being open to other people's ideas and having your own. For example, with Chaz I really like his music and I respect his talent and opinion; and I want to be open to everything he can bring to the table as a producer, but I know when I like or don’t like something.
AXS: You were trained as a classical musician – how did you end up with a shoegaze album? I guess both classical and shoegaze thrive on largely letting the music take you there, words aren't as important.
HVL: They're all different sorts of expression. Growing up it was classical music that gave me an emotional outlet. In that way, shoegaze is similar, in the way that you can pour out yourself, and put yourself into something. As for shoegaze versus classical (laughs) ... it's just so different, style-wise and relevance, it's place in pop culture, I don't even know how to talk about it?
AXS: Tanuki is a Japanese raccoon dog but what is it’s significance to you? There's a lot of Japanese myth and folk-lore around it but is just also just a really cute creature.
HVL: I do like that it’s really cute. But I also do like the Japanese mythology around it: Tanuki is this masculine character that has really big balls, is a trickster and always drinking sake. For me, it's so appropriate, I've always been a tomboy (she is also a carpenter and currently building a deck) and when I wanted to pursue music on my own, I had to really go for it. If you add ‘chan’ - which in Japanese means 'affection' - it’s something that you put on the back of a name for girls or kids. So growing up, I was called Hannah-chan.
AXS: Do you miss being in a band and touring?
HVL: I'm starting to tour again and playing with people so I feel like I still have those things. It was a good time while it lasted. I don't know if I'll say 'I miss it.' I really wanted to play music at the time and it was great to do that with Trails and Ways. I learnt a lot from the experience. It's like I was saying earlier, it is kinda hard to have a coherent direction if there's so many people. I think that was always a bit of a challenge for me so it actually feels good to have a project that I am directing.
Tanukichan Tour Dates (Opening for In The Valley Below)
July 25 - San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop
July 27th - Brooklyn, NY - Union Pool
July 29th - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
Aug. 1 - Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie
Aug. 3 - Washington, DC - Songbyrd
Oct. 16 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall +
Oct. 17 - Brooklyn, NY - Elsewhere +
Oct. 20 - College Park, MD - MilkBoy ArtHouse +
Oct. 23 - Atlanta, GA - 529 +
Oct. 24 - New Orleans, LA - Hi-Ho Lounge + Tickets)
Oct. 25 - Houston, TX - Satellite Bar +
Oct. 26 - Austin, TX - Barracuda +
Oct. 27 - San Antonio, TX - Paper Tiger +
Oct. 28 - Dallas, TX - Deep Ellum Art Company +
Oct. 30 - Norman, OK - Opolis +
Nov. 1 - Tucson, AZ191 - Toole +
Nov. 15 - Detroit, MI - Deluxx Fluxx +
Nov. 16 - Toronto, ON - The Garrison +
+ w/ Kero Kero Bonito