Sea Shoes

Formerly known as Post-Heather, the Sea Shoes EP sees Brighton's Hanya progressing by leaps and bounds, finds Nick Roseblade

I first came across Hanya – or Post-Heather as they were then called – in 2015. Lead singer Heather Sheret guested on a Yoofs tracks called ‘They Call it Fate’. I was captivated by the siren like backing vocals washing over a lo-fi backing track. Over the next three years the shoegazing duo released their debut single and changed their name to Hanya. On their debut EP I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t Sheret and drummer Jack Watkins worked out a blueprint for a sound that incorporated shoegaze, drone and Riot Grrrl motifs which allowed Sheret’s vocals to swell and contract when needed. Now they’ve returned with its follow-up the Sea Shoes EP.

The first thing you notice is the inclusion of guitar riffs and solos. Previously Hanya’s songs were built on a foundation of effective chord progressions and complementary drumming. This is what made them stand out from the rest of the guitar bands. Instead of showing her prowess for shredding, Sheret crafted simple but effective songs. Now her guitar parts are intertwined with captivating riffs and solos. This is down to Sheret maturing as a songwriter. In the past she wrote direct songs with sparse instrumentation, but now she is afforded the luxury of being able to elongate the instrumental sections thanks to the addition of guitarist Ben Varnes and bassist Dylan Fanger to the fold. Their inclusion has helped open-up the songs and let them breathe a bit. ‘Everyone’s Tired’ is a prime example of this. In the past Hanya would have launched straight into track. Now they can take their time allowing Sheret’s exquisite vocals to crest glorious peaks while guitars shimming below.

On previous recordings of Sheret’s vocals haven’t quite caught its live power, her ability to switch from gentle croons to full blown guttural bellows. On Sea Shoes, especially ‘I’ll Do it Tomorrow’, this has been rectified and is the closest to capturing that live experience. The way her vocals skew from breathy whispers to a full-blown maelstrom is mesmerising. But what Hanya do incredibly well is performing musical u-turns. Their songs may start off as an earnest ballad then – BAM! it’s a full-blown post-punk rager. Take ‘Cement’ for instance. Opening with Sheret’s lamenting vocals. Her vocals then rise sharply, then gently drift over the dejected choirs. You start thinking you have it all worked out. It’s a song about pretending everything is fine so you don’t have to admit something is wrong. Then wonky keyboards appear from nowhere and glorious stuttering drums kick in and before you know it ‘Cement’ has mutated from a gentle ballad to something akin to Devo’s monster ‘Gut Feeling’. Its fantastic.

What Sea Shoes shows is a progression not only in sound, but songwriting. With the new band members, Sheret now has a wider pallet for her sound paintings. It also shows a band just starting to gel and find their form, which in a weird way is more exciting than anything on Sea Shoes. That isn’t to take anything away from the record. It contains their most accomplished songs to date, song that ooze with a new level of maturity. At times it feels like fate that Sheret should be releasing songs of this quality, and to quote EP opener ‘Dream Wife’, the music she has created is “introspective and secure”.

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