From a mining town in the far north-west of Western Australia, HAAi is a London based DJ best known for her Saturday night residency at London club, Phonox. With vibrant sets and eclectic mixes, she’s gained widespread recognition; her latest single, ‘Be Good’, echoes her former work as lead singer and guitarist of Australian psych-rock band, The Dark Bells. The track was released on her own label Coconut Beats. Wistful vocals are contrasted against driving drums, rattling percussion and dark synth chords. It’s a stirring yet understated anthem that reflects her taste for the “bassy, textured and percussive”.
DJing was never a first thought for HAAi. In fact, it only began one evening when she was playing records at Ridley Road Market Bar and was asked to support Jacques Greene on his upcoming London show. “The led to me supporting him at Phonox”, she said, “and here we are. Almost a year to the day into the residency…”
Despite growing up in a remote Australian mining town characterised by “red dirt, bull ants and scorching heat”, music has always been HAAi’s life. “This is all just hobby that’s got out of hand” she laughed, but in doing so reveals a deep-rooted passion never fails to colour her sets. “I just want to keep people excited and dancing”, she said. It’s a simple and honest mission, but one that HAAi completes effortlessly each and every time.
The narrative behind her latest single, ‘Be Good’, is “a bit of a love story”, that addresses the limitless bounds of love. “I guess it’s true”, she added, “I guess this track represents what was going on in my life at the time. Sonically and romantically”. Ever since she was a child, HAAi has dreamed of music. She taught herself to play the guitar, but never though it would turn into something she could live from. Describing her style as “percussive, building, psychedlic and embracing”, she’s certain the music industry is thriving right now.
“I like music to be bassy, textured and percussive,” she said of her approach in the studio, as well as the DJ booth. “I wouldn’t say there’s a definite process” she continued as I asked her about her process for working on new material. “For me, that headspace is either there at the time or it isn’t. It’s not quite as ritualistic for me as it is for some. Some days you’re just bombarded with ideas, and then others can be pretty dry”.
‘Be Good’ exercised another side of HAAi’s production that wasn’t there previously. This track was about experimenting with hardware, harsh EQing and plugins to develop different sounds. Her style proves to be experimental with inspiration coming from around the world; “I also love harsher frequencies in tracks and lots of looping. Weatherall and Ivan Smagghe are big influences in terms of their mixing and general transcending mood. I love it. I learned a lot from playing with Dan Avery too when it came to track selection and mixing”.
Her time in Dark Bells taught her that she “never wants to be in a band again”. She laughed as she said this, but spoke honestly. “More importantly it taught me to have faith in your own vision and taste. I think I spent so long buckling to other people’s ideas and feeling musically inferior that I forgot to follow my gut. It wasn’t until I started producing as HAAi that I grew more confident”.
Her sets at Phonox are 6 hours every week, and she comments on how she enjoys the slow builds. She prefers “long lasting pleasures” over “instant hits of gratification” within her DJ sets. “It’s nice to get everyone locked into a groove with you”, she said. “For me, there’s more togetherness in that. However, I’m sure if I were to play a much shorter ‘peak time’ set that it wouldn’t totally be all about long winding mixes. It’s nice to be tapped on the should with a banger every now and then”.
But above all, music keeps HAAi sane and happy. “It has a certain gift for restoring an emotional and mental PH level for me, I hope it does for others too. I just want people to smile, and dance, and feel good. I want people to feel free”.