Finding home comforts in a riotous, oddball world of their own creation, Lily Blakeney-Edwards zeros in on the band that have found their sound and success by staying true to themselves.
Meg Grooters sits centre screen on our Zoom call. Surrounded by home comforts, she’s telling me about her life amid Covid. It’s a cold, digital set-up that has the potential to be impersonal, but Meg instantly eases any awkwardness as she spouts off stories about living with her ex mid-pandemic, and her eventual move to her eight-person household. Guitarist Ashley Snook pops up on the screen and joins the conversation.
Equally charismatic, he chats away about new jobs and a general feeling of lockdown déjà vu. Meg offers up a comment on the freshly painted lime green walls he’s encased in. “You painted your house green!” Meg points out with a laugh. “Not the whole house, Meg,” he fires back, the two reverberating off each other with ease.
Even through the static of an online call, there’s an air of mischief that sits between the two bandmates – one reminiscent of the sound HANNAH’S LITTLE SISTER have been playfully dishing out over the last few years. “We just bring out a side in each other that brings out weirdness,” Meg tells me with a grin. Ashley agrees. “We just try to make each other laugh. That’s what this started as, and slowly got more severe.”
Made up of Grooters, Snook and fellow members Nina Himmelreich and Will Brown, Hannah’s Little Sister’s oddball persona is deliberately extreme, but comfortably sits on the back of the group’s riotous sound. Founded while at university, the group have been turning heads with their misfit inspired music ever since their formation. They became staples of the Liverpool live scene and collected a die-hard fanbase in the process – all while only having a single recorded track to share.
“We just got so lucky. Things really snowballed for us in terms of gigs, and I think because playing live really works with our sound, focusing on gigs at the start made a lot of sense,” Meg admits, when asked about the group’s beginnings. “Not overstretching yourself is also a massive tip we learnt when we were first gigging,” Ashley adds. “And avoiding stuff that doesn’t make you happy, make you money or make your fans happy,” Meg agrees.
However, despite being surrounded by a myriad of musicians when starting out, the group soon found that their district flavour set them apart from their fellow bands. “Personally, I think that when we were coming up, it was clear that we were very different to who we were around, sound and style wise,” Ashley contends. “Other people’s style was what we weren’t, because no-one around us was really doing heavier indie, or the waily-screamy kind of stuff we do.”
To say Hannah’s Little Sister produce a unique sound is something of an understatement. With thrashing guitar riffs and yelping vocals, their music feels worlds away from any particular genre, pulling from a range of inspirations such as 00s pop-punk, to 80s synth wave. It’s a style that cannot be entrapped, but the band feel comfortable with their ungroundable sound.
“We’ve tried to come up with so many different ways to describe our sound without putting a distinct genre on it. I don’t think ‘genres’ really exist in a linear sense any more, especially for us,” Meg tells me, with a pause. “We’ve all got such different tastes, that all comes into play in how our music ends up sounding, so it’s hard to pin it down to one particular sound. If people want a substantial definition, the best we’ve come up with is ‘a bombastic racket for people who like to smack it’,” she adds humorously in her Lancashire drawl.
Ashley chimes in: “We were so worried when we put that in the press releases. We were like, ‘Is that offensive?’” They both laugh in sync. “I had to double check I knew what bombastic means!” she smiles back.
A lot of the band’s success to date owes much to their first single 20, a ground shaking punk anthem that seemed to capture the anxieties and excitement that come with being thrown into adulthood and having newfound freedom. It’s been over two years since the track was released and the group recently made a triumphant return with their debut EP, EP.mp3.
Despite the gap in releases, the band seems to feel that the new tunes will serve as a reintroduction. “We’ve been sitting on these tunes for a few years now. It’s an introduction to us, because these tracks are the first stuff that we’ve done together,” Meg tells me. “I don’t really know what people will take from the EP. I mean, I hope people like it, but to think about what people should get from listening to it is quite a heavy burden on your brain. I just hope people have fun.”
It’s a hurricane from start to finish. From track to track, the group push their clutter-filled sound to its very limits, with tunes ranging from explosive anthems with walls of sound, to softer minimalistic tracks that contain a frantic energy in each pulsating beat. Highlights of the works include Bin Mouth and Anywhere. Energetic and exciting, Bin Mouth feels like a frantic explosion of accusatory chatter, with the group’s laughing and conversations with each other being layered over the repeated line “What ya being a bin mouth for?” Anywhere, on the other hand, plays with contrast, with pulsating vocals and dreamy synth noise juxtaposed with venomous guitar melodies and standout basslines. The album needs repeated listens for the mix of sounds to be analysed in full. The listener’s attention will certainly be drawn to the complex make-up.
“When the first single came out, I had the wrong idea of the type of person who’d enjoy it,” Meg confesses. “Even people like my piano teacher, who’s a proper fancy classical lady, absolutely fucking loves it. I think that’s so cool. It relates back to trying to predict what people will get out of it, I think it’s kind of impossible.”
It’s somewhat surprising to learn that the purveyors of such wiry tracks dabble in classical piano, but the appeal is a testament to the band’s infectious nature. “I think we speak to the weird side of 80s pop that people like my mum would have grown up with,” Ashley continues, “so even though she’s the type of person now to listen to BBC Radio 1, she also really likes our sound.” He pauses. “That’s my mission, really, to get the fucking parents into our tunes. Or to be on a Now That’s What I Call Music! That’s the dream.”
But don’t be deceived. Despite the chaotic nature of the band’s tracks, there’s method in the madness. Among the whirlwind of sound, the lyrical subject matter remains refreshingly grounded. The stomper Gum focuses on the bombardment of consumerism we face daily, while Payday Junkie dealing with the tedious existence of a dead-end job. They feel like a treasure to discover among the noise, adding yet another layer to the intricate tracks. “It’s a pretty intentional choice,” Meg giggles when asked about her reality-inducing lyrics. “When I start writing, I get such a clear idea of the things that bother me, especially in terms of our society. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder as well.” She hesitates for a moment. “When I came to university, I was much more focused on folk music, but the lyrics I was writing then were much lighter than the stuff I write now. When I started messing around with stuff for the band, it inspired different types of lyrics on much broader issues.
“With Gum, for example, I like that the sound is really chaotic, because it fits really well with the subject I was trying to write about. The combination is like a big dopamine hit. So, I think our lyrics are a secret way of sneaking a more important message into our songs. I’m just hiding the fact I’m secretly serious,” she splutters. “You don’t need to hide it though because you’re good at it,” Ashley reminds her, “that’s what really separates us from the other acts, I think. Oof, that was a bit of an internal compliment.”
Even though 2020 was a success for the group in terms of releasing music, they are still dealing with the gaping hole that the cancellation of live music has left in Liverpool. As venue doors shut, and gigs are forced online, the wish to return to performing grows ever more prominent. “I miss playing music, and everyone so much, it feels like it’s gone from my life at the moment,” Ashley admits. “I also feel like us just hanging out… it’s a huge part of what makes up the band, what we get out of it, and what comes across. I think not having that, I feel like it’s been a big hit,” Meg ponders. “I’m so scared of [gigging], but I really miss it at the moment.” It’s a confession that spurs delight in her bandmate. “She’s finally admitted it!” Ashley teases. “Well, it’s a big thing that we all do together, so it’s definitely been something that’s been impacted,” she responds with a grin.
The absence of live music has not dampened the group’s spirits, and despite the uncertainty in the air, the band are still looking to the future. “Hmm… making more music would be nice,” Meg admits when asked of the group’s aspirations for 2021. Ashley is on the same page. “Yeah, just to keep making more music, it would be nice to just carry on.” It’s a sentiment filled with expected uncertainty, but with their collection of oddity-powered anthems, the group seem on track to skyrocket.
EP.mp3 is available now via Heist Or Hit Records