Meet Hana, the synth wondergirl turning heartbreak into harmonies.
Taken from the Summer Issue of Wonderland.
White cotton hoodie by TOPSHOP, perspex jewelled choker by VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
Hana Pestle, with her purple plaited mane, looks like a pixie version of Lara Croft. Pestle has been intermittently touring with our cover star Grimes for the best part of a year, but despite the sudden worldwide attention which is part and parcel of touring with an alt-pop superstar, the 26-year-old singer is still an open book — both on the record and off it.
“I’ve just been really lucky with how it’s all turned out,” Pestle grins when I commend her for securing tour slots alongside Purity Ring, Shamir and Lana Del Rey. “I was a complete emotional mess at the end of Purity Ring because that had been such a great experience and then I’m announcing all these dates for places all over.” In a previous incarnation, HANA was just Hana, a 17-year-old girl arrived in LA from Montana “where there is literally more cows than people” playing bluesy-rock songs and Leonard Cohen covers, to mild success.
“I just felt really stagnant for a while,” she sighs. “I had gotten into a routine. I got into the college market, so I was playing around tonnes of campuses around the country. It was amazing and I felt really lucky because I was able to pay my bills doing what I love, which is playing music, but I didn’t feel artistically fulfilled.” The end of a five year relationship pushed Pestle towards a fresh start and in 2013, she dropped her last name, capitalised all four letters of her first, and swapped acoustic guitars for synths and switchboards.
Pestle moulded heartbreak into harmonies, unpicking her experiences to create what would become material for her first EP under her new title. “‘Chimera’ is one of the oldest ones I wrote when I broke up with my boyfriend,” I tell her it’s my favourite of the five tracks her publicist has shared with me on the sly. “He was treating me like I was the devil, so I thought: ‘Ok well, if I was some evil woman, what would I say?’… I took some of the lyrics from emails I got from this guy where he’s like: ‘You’re a vampire woman!’ And I was like: ‘Well I’m not, but if I was…’” She raises an eyebrow and erupts with a crazy fairy cackle.
As is seemingly the norm in this digital age, Pestle’s return first surfaced quietly online but despite this new, understated façade, it wasn’t her intention to be so enigmatic. “HANA to me is a completely new project. That was the only thing I was prioritising, I wasn’t trying to be super-mysterious or anything. It went better than I could have hoped. It was really exciting that first day when we posted ‘Clay’ and a couple of my friends posted about it, and then the whole day I was like: ‘Wait, who else posted about it?’” Turns out Lorde and Grimes had both tweeted out the innocuous Soundcloud link and that was that. No pomp, no ceremony, just talent admiring talent.
12 months later, “Clay” has been joined by “Underwater” and “Avalanche”. Muted thuds of pulsing beats slide down her cascading calls, always softly harmonised and somewhat digitally-enhanced, but only ever enough to still sound like magic, rather than the binary noise of technology. In the year since that first day, HANA’s fans have found comfort in the artist’s honest lyrics and willingness to share. “It’s nice to remind myself what I went through and what I learned,” Pestle concludes. “It was crazy on these tours getting letters from young girls who say that’s helped them get out of bad relationships. Things like that are why I restarted and put a new focus on me being in control, that’s the basis of what this whole project is about.”
White cotton hoodie by TOPSHOP, white mesh ruffle dress and white trainers both by NICOPANDA
Photography: Nuria Rius
Fashion: Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Hair: Scott Jordan using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE
Makeup: Jolanda Coetzer at LHA represents using URBAN DECAY COSMETICS
Fashion Assistant: Umar Sarwar
Words: Lily Walker