As humble and introverted the Liverpool duo appears at first glance, hesitation is not very much King Hannah’s thing. There may be artists carefully developing a unique sound throughout a number of EPs and even on a first record – but these lads are not like that at all. Their first LP is about to be released and its bold title I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me already says all you need to know. These two have come to stay and change the game, and they’ve got plenty of talents down their sleeves.

“We’re saying this is us and this is what we sound like, we’re not sorry for it.”

The last time I spoke with King Hannah was about a year ago in a joint conversation together with Berlin’s Sultans Court and for the duo, time has been running out of their hands as chief guitarist Craig Whittle is quick to note: Since last year, it all “felt like non-stop, it felt like we haven’t had a second since we last spoke”. From “writing to finishing it”, singer Hannah Merrick inserts, “the whole thing was done in the space of eight to nine months”. They have spent their time busy designing their record.

Setting Up The Scenery

“We’re making a statement, that’s what we do” with this record, Hannah emphasises and in order to get behind that, one is well-advised to turn to the title-giving track itself, which actually features both of their voices, a new constellation so far. As softly as the track flows, constituting the last quarter of the record, as pointedly it stands as a dreamy and yet shining beacon of the album.

Looking towards a bright future? Craig Whittle and Hannah Merrick (photo by Katie Silvester)

“It’s a song we both love equally. We took a long time choosing the album title, didn’t we? That line just stuck out the most really. It’s quite romantic too. It’s got a lovely feel to it … And again that song on the album is a moment where everything drops a little bit, it gets a bit quieter, more intimate, it just made sense. We had like a few runs and lines that were in certain songs. But this one felt the best.”

As for the entire record, I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is an affair of many layers and as it turns out, my own impression of it feeling sort of a soundtrack to an imaginary film is not so far-fetched at all. “We love the idea of an album taking you through, like a landscape or a film”, Craig remarks and actually shares that watching films sparked a lot of the writing. This debut, with its hazy and hypnotic feel of slow-burning desire, is an experience in itself, as it evokes a coherent series of moods and images in the run of things. To create an expansive sound may be one thing, but to piece together a world of sentiments that permeates every fibre of the songs and remain a wholesome work of art in the end, is quite an achievement King Hannah has set out to fulfil. 

“We sort of just know it’s that greeny, filmy kind of feel. We sort of just trying to hit that with the music.”

“The Moods That I Get In”

It is needless to say that King Hannah’s sound owes a lot to a particular 90’s flair. Well, admittedly. “We’re big 90’s guys”, Hannah confesses, but that is not something either of them tries to hide in any way. Somewhere between Mazzy Star, Portishead, Slowdive and yet also PJ Harvey and Bill Callahan, King Hannah create lo-fi Americana-fused dream pop for the here and now. In that, there is a distinctive gloomy aura surrounding the songs. “I think we’re quite the melancholic, nostalgic, sentimental people… That’s what we love most in all forms of art”, Craig asserts, while Hannah adds that “it’s very natural … to write that sort of style”.

“I think, that when you’re in a sort of mode of thinking about songs and thinking of yourself as a writer or an artist … you’re always thinking about music, thinking about what could potentially be a song. We never really switch off from that.”

I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is then largely an expansive and dramatic journey through the myriad spectrum of shadow-coated observations and reflections, though not without spice and the necessary amount of wit. All throughout the foggy lo-fi vibes of A Well-Made Woman to the beat-ridden All Being Fine up to the vast noir balladry of The Moods That I Get In and the final noisy clamour in the ultimate It’s Me And You, Kid, there come to surface many shades of grey, one might find, but it’s not without the lingering reflection of glowing life that this record leads us into the ashes only to majestically rise out like a newborn Phoenix in the end. The a-capella eruption of “I’m all I’m ever gonna be” at the heart of said final song is already now one of my remarkable musical moments of 2022.

“Quite Romantic And Also Scary”

And how do King Hannah outline the contours of the record on their own? “I always think of the record as being quite red, very warm sort of colours, but also with quite a lot of darkness in there as well”, Craig states and his bandmate jumps in, describing the songs as “warm and dark”. At the core of it all stands the “moody”, as well as a “cinematic” quality, next to “raw, authentic and anything unpolished”.  Above all, as Hannah reflects, a “romantic” side is key to King Hannah’s DNA, adding that they “always wanted to sound that way”. “We just hope that it moves people. That people can get lost in it”, Craig concludes. Well, the duo has done so with strong dedication and an uncompromising passion, as Hannah neatly sums up:

“When you do it, you got to make sure you love it. That’s really important. If you don’t love it, you just carry on until you do… It was never an option for us to hand in something and not love it.”

King Hannah‘s debut I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is out on Feb 25 via City Slang and they also have a tour happening this spring.

Photo by Katie Silvester