We interviewed Ha Vay, a genre-defying, San-Francisco based indie artist. Maddy, the vocalist and creative mind behind Ha Vay, characterizes her music as “romanticizing her life to cinematic proportions.” Previously known for “we fell in love at the party” Ha Vay has recently exploded with her gorgeous latest album, “ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE.”
In this interview, we touch on how Ha Vay’s star sign reflects her artistry, the themes of the “unhinged woman” in her work, and how she romanticizes every part of her life, from the mundane to the extraordinary. We also touch on how her ADHD impacts her life and her artistic work, her past experiences in Paris and her love of the French language, and the wide range of musical influences that can be heard throughout each unique track in her discography. Finally, we touch on her love of film and fashion, particularly the works of director Sophia Coppola.
What’s your star sign, and do you feel it reflects you as an artist? Why or why not?
So I’m on the cusp, actually. And I feel like, honestly, it does really reflect that. I’m on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. And I think that’s really accurate, honestly, because I’m very wordy and very airy. And I’m flitting around all the time, and kind of taken by whatever’s happening. And also, in terms of writing lyrics, I really love words, which I feel is a big Gemini trait. But I’m also very moody and very emotional. So I think that they definitely both apply, as well as my moon sign. I’m a Capricorn moon. And I feel like I am a hard worker. So, it’s kind of a funny combination, because I’m flying around all the time. And super emotional. But then there’s also part of me that’s like, “Okay, well, we have to do something with all of this,” and write it down and make something out of it. So yes, I would agree with that.
It’s a funny combination in me, because I’m simultaneously super impractical. And then there’s this part of me that’s like, “But you have to organize your emotions and make sense of it!” at the same time.
Your upcoming EP “HYPERACTIVE ROMANCE” follows your February release “we fell in love at the party”. Two EPs in the span of a couple months sounds pretty ambitious! Do these two projects connect with each other thematically?
They’re definitely related. “we fell in Love at the party” is basically… I feel everything I do is partly autobiographical. And then partly imagined, it’s like a little bit of both. But the idea with that one was basically, that EP spans one night and it’s supposed to be a story of two people meeting at a party and running away together. So you can see these elements where maybe some of this is true. And then some of this is imagined.
But coming off of that, this one is kind of, to me, I think is a lot about getting into a relationship. So in my mind, it’s kind of a story of these people met, and now they’re starting the relationship. And then for me what I’m projecting onto it for myself, is some true stories from my life. But it’s largely how I feel at the beginning of a relationship, which is kind of all over the place. And so that’s kind of the hyperactive element. I have ADHD. So there’s a lot of just like, my mood is changing every hour. And so therefore, getting to know someone and starting a relationship, how I feel about that, will also change every hour. So that was kind of the idea with that. It is ambitious, to do so much at once. But also I can really hyper focus on creating stuff. I think I was going to do five songs for this upcoming EP, and it just kind of turned into nine. It is so ambitious, but I’m doing it anyway.
Feminine rage and “the unhinged woman” are big themes in your work. Angry women often are looked down upon in society— how have you learned to navigate this in the world of music?
I think it’s really interesting. I think my mom, who I look up to so much, is a very strong, upfront, and at times angry woman. And I think growing up, I saw how the world would at times be like, “Oh, why is she being like that?”. So I kind of made it my goal to be more soft and feminine and you know, acceptable. But as I’ve gotten older, lots of things and particularly lots of men that I interact with can make me really, really angry, and I’m getting more and more angry.
As I’m getting older and dealing with that, it’s like, “Wow, I understand why my mom is the way she is.” And I really value her for just being upfront about it. But I think, for me, music is a great way for me to express those feelings without just punching the next guy who hits on me at a bar. It’s interesting, because I didn’t really project that feminine rage in my music until this project, I feel like for the most part. As I’ve been starting to promote it, I’ve definitely noticed that a lot of girls and women are gravitating toward it, which is really what I want. Versus when I was doing stuff that was a little bit softer and happier, I was getting a largely male audience, which I was not really happy about. So now there’s men mad at me in comments. But there’s lots of girls who are like, “Oh, I relate to this.” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s what I wanted.” So yeah, it’s interesting.
As an artist who “romanticizes her life to cinematic proportions”, how do you translate your experiences into lyrics that capture this greater sense of romanticism?
I think that the key to it is that I think all of us, I mean, I assume. I don’t know how everyone’s brain works. But I think most people romanticize their lives in some capacity, especially when looking back on things that already happened. And I think that that’s something that’s really relatable for people. So my focus is, in doing that, is I kind of take out a lot of my personal biographical details out of the lyrics. I leave some in, but I try not to get extremely specific a lot of the time about what city was I in and what was happening, so that people can kind of project their own fantasy of their life onto what I’m making.
I think it’s about taking out some of the specific details, and focusing more on the characters and the tropes of the characters that we can kind of put ourselves into. And the storytelling of that, if that makes sense. Which I really want people to be able to relate to what I’m saying. If I get really specific, it won’t be that relatable, probably. So I think kind of focusing on the grandeur of the big feelings, and kind of ,I like to add little references to films, and to stories that we know a little bit, to give it that feeling.
So your pitch mentioned your “experiences of love through the lens of ADHD.” As someone who also has ADHD, I’m curious to hear you share some of what this means to you.
A big part of my ADHD is a lot of emotional dysregulation. So I think, you know, it’s great when you find a partner or like, once you’ve developed a relationship with someone long enough, that they understand your varying moods are really just… they’re so fleeting for the most part. And I think when you’re starting a relationship with someone, which is kind of what I wanted to center this project around, I feel like at least for me, I always felt like, “Oh, I must seem so crazy.” Or I’m trying to mask a lot of stuff, I’m trying to seem normal. While internally, I’m like, “I’m so annoyed with them right now.” And I’m like, “Oh, but try not to be, you know, because there’s a quick kind of pipeline to frustration.” At least for me. And I think for a lot of people with ADHD, you can get frustrated really quickly, or you might get distracted by meeting someone new, for five minutes at the coffee shop, and be like, “Oh, well maybe I like this person?”. And “Why am I in this relationship?”. Or just kind of all those chaotic feelings that are constantly like, “Oh, I’m over here, over there.” But I feel like for me, if you’re thinking about layers in the psyche, that’s a really topical layer, when you are probably actually really satisfied and really happy where you are right below that.
And it’s kind of about trying to look past the constant, overstimulation and the constant just daily life and crazy stuff that’s happening and being like, “Okay, but below this, I do really like where I am, I want to be in this relationship. I like this person.” I just try not to get so distracted by everything else, to remember that I want to be here.
For me, this is cathartic. The songs are cathartic, because it’s kind of fun to express all of those feelings. In a certain sense. It could be like, the entire EP happened in one day of emotions or something, right? And by the time you get to the end of it, it’s like, “Okay, now, I’m centering, I’m back.” And like, this is not to say that none of its real, but none of it is permanent, if that makes sense.
You seem to be a person who has already lived a lot of life–living in Paris, attending 4 colleges under 4 different majors and dropping out of all of them, couch surfing across the world–to name a few experiences. How have these life experiences shaped your storytelling?
I think it gives me a lot to look back on and add into the stories. I think I also, I’ve had the great opportunity to meet a lot of people from a lot of different places. So you’re talking with people, understanding the difference between my perspective of what’s happening in my life versus obviously everyone else’s perspective. And how me sleeping on someone’s couch in Spain, or whatever, I’m dropping into their life, but their experiences of that time has a totally different context from mine. And I really like that idea. And in terms of storytelling, I think it’s fun. It’s fun to romanticize my own life while also having the perspective, very much so, that it’s all very subjective.
And anytime I’m creating a caricature of myself, I guess I have the understanding that this is how I perceived it, if you ask the other person, they’ll probably have a completely different story and a completely different take on it. So I think I really like it in that sense. But it definitely gives me a lot to write about. Now I feel like I’m in a more stable place in my life, where I’m like, living in one place. And so, I have a lot archived that I can draw upon, which might be more interesting than now being like, “I went to the grocery store.”
Yeah, so I would say that and…I didn’t know, I had ADHD until I was an adult, I guess. And I had already done a lot of this traveling and stuff, and dropping in and out of school. And I was like, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.” And now that I know that, I’ve figured out ways to kind of keep myself more stable and in one place, and not to just like, make random decisions all the time to be like, “Oh, I’m gonna go get on a plane and go to Asia,” or whatever.
I’v heard from lyricists and writers that from within that medium, you can make writing from the most mundane experiences interesting. What’s your perspective on that?
I was really moving around a lot until the pandemic started, basically, at which point, I was like, “Okay, now I need to stay in one place, I cannot go outside or go anywhere.” And I think at first I struggled a lot with that, as obviously everyone did, but I’m finding inspiration from it now. And I think what it’s really come to is understanding that my internal emotional life is equally as interesting now as it was at any other time. I’ve just learned to see it that way.
And also realizing that someone whose brain works really differently, even if they went and lived in Paris, they might not have had the roller coaster of emotional experiences that I had while I was there My best friend in the whole world, we’ve been best friends since we were seven, our brains work totally opposite. She’s so logical, she’s an engineer. And we lived together for a while, and I realized, “Oh, wow we were such good friends. But our brains work totally differently. Like we’re living together, we’re going to the same events, we’re meeting the same people. And the way that my brain works is always like, at 100%. Moving around everywhere. Like, “Everything’s so crazy. Everything’s so exciting. Everything’s so stimulating. Everyone’s so interesting.”
And her brain is kind of like, “Cool. All right, we’re at the party. Okay, cool. Let’s go home, I’m gonna drink some water and go to bed.” And mine’s like, “Oh, we met so many people. And that person said this crazy thing that made me think of this other thing, and made me think of this other thing!”. And my brain is lighting up like a Christmas tree. And so, I think it made me see that no matter where I am, my brain is just constantly taking everything in at that speed. And so, I think you can find a lot of really interesting things, in just whatever is happening. In the most mundane things, too.
You just mentioned Paris being an emotional rollercoaster for you. What did you learn in Paris that has most impacted your artistic and musical career?
Oh, that’s a great question. I feel like I learned so much. It was also the first time I ever left home. I graduated high school and went straight to Paris, which looking back…it was insane. And was kind of crazy. I was learning all of the life lessons that I think everyone learns the first time they leave home, just on kind of an elevated level of being in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, which just made everything a little bit crazier.
But I think it really taught me that nothing is permanent, in a good way, that kind of feeling, that each thing that would happen, like “Oh, my roommate made poison gas in our apartment one time,” and calling French poison control, and I don’t really speak French. Everything that would happen felt like, “Oh, this is the end of the world. I need to go home. This is insane.” And as each thing happened, over time, I was able to acclimate, and become more and more comfortable. I think it taught me to appreciate the kind of wild moments, and know that I can turn those into art, but also having the perspective that they’re just moments and they’re gonna pass and like, I’ll continue living and doing more things.
And every time you know, some random French man breaks my heart, it’s not the end of the world, it’s gonna be okay. And I think yeah, applying that to the art, I think as well as just getting perspective, I guess, is the biggest thing, as well as living in a foreign country, you realize that everyone perceives everything differently. And also being perceived as an alien, as someone who doesn’t speak the language, or speaks the language really badly and doesn’t fit in, and all that kind of stuff, was a really interesting perspective as well.
On the opening track of the new EP, you do speak French—have you learned since then?
I would definitely not say I’m fluent. Especially now, since it’s been a while since I’ve been in France. I’m actually going in June, though, for a few days. So we’ll see. I think I’ll probably brush up a lot. Whenever I’ve been back, like for a minute, it comes back pretty quickly. But if I tried to speak French right now, it’d be pretty bad. I have a terrible accent and terrible grammar. Because I didn’t take classes, I just kind of learned on the go. I can speak in present tense, I can speak a little bit of past tense, probably, pretty shaky.
I think it’s funny. I think when I’m at my prime, I have really good practical French, anything for public transport or going to the grocery store, or just being conversational with someone. But I know I have a lot of blind spots as well. I think it’s funny because I put a clip of that song on Tik Tok to kind of start promoting it. And there’s been a handful of people like, “Your accent is really bad.” There are several people, like English speakers who are like “Your French is bad,” but then a French person wrote in French, and they were like, “Oh, your accent is so cute.” When lived there and people said, “Your accent is cute,” but I was like, “Well, I’m an American teenage girl, like, they’re probably just gonna say I’m cute, whatever I do.” I’m hoping you know, it’s cute. It’s my accent. It’s okay. I love learning languages. I think it’s super fun. It doesn’t mean my accent is always going to be perfect.
There’s a wide range of musical influences that can be picked up from the upcoming EP, with each song offering something new sonically. How has this project influenced the way you want your music to sound like?
I think I was able to have a lot of fun with this. Since I started making music, I’ve had a really hard time defining my sound and kind of sticking to one genre, largely being because I’ll get really excited about a new genre each day and just kind of be like, “Oh, now I love hyper pop, let’s make a hyper pop song.” And I think I’ve tried thus far to try to be lik, “Okay, well, with each project, I’m going to try to stick to one sound and you need to define what it is.” And I’ve realized I just don’t think that’s the kind of artist I am. I take a lot of influence from everywhere.
And I think a part of what’s so fun about creating, for me, is trying out lots of different stuff. And I’m very inconsistent, I think in a lot of ways. Just like, “Oh, today I’m going to dress like you know, super sleek. And then tomorrow I’m going to wear a fairy gown.” And it’s just kind of like, whatever I feel like , ‘m just going to try things on. So I think it was really fun for this project to not try to define the sound, and let each song take on its own emotion and its own character. And allowing myself to not worry about like, “Okay, I need to make an indie rock EP,” or, “I need to make a pop whatever.” I was just like, “Each song is going to take on a life of its own, and its genre will kind of come from the core emotion of the song.”
So I’m really happy that I did that. I think hopefully people will enjoy that. I think people like consistency. But I think that can I feel the consistency is its narrative. It’s the personality. And I hope and think that comes through. And I listened to a huge range of music. So it’s also really fun to take influence from all different genres that I enjoy.
In addition to music, you take inspiration from other mediums like film and fashion. How are each of these artistic areas fulfilling to you?
For me, it’s all connected, it’s very much like…when I write a song, I can already see a movie with it, and the textures of all the clothes, and whether it’s iridescent silks and in the ocean, or if it’s going to be a city and leather boots or whatever. It’s all super connected. For me, each song really has a character—which I guess is probably a facet of myself in some form—and has a setting and has a storyline. So, for me, when I have the opportunity to create a video to go with something, to get the style, the outfits for it, and everything like that, that’s really exciting for me, just because there’s a more complete form of it that already exists in my head. So being able to then bring it outward into the world is really fun for me, when I have the opportunity. But for me, if I just hear the song, it’s all already there. So it’s just a matter of how much I’ll be able to have the time to bring out that into the world.
You mention directors like Quentin Tarantino and Sofia Coppola influencing your songwriting. I love The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, and would love to hear more about how film impacts your work.
I think film is such a complete work of art. I feel like because you have visual, you have sound, you have design, there’s so many elements there. So I feel like, in a certain sense, I feel like I take more inspiration from film in my music than I necessarily do from other music. When people ask me what my musical influences are, I’m like, “I don’t exactly know.” I love that you mentioned Marie Antoinette because—I love The Virgin Suicides too, but Marie Antoinette the just like feasting, the images of it, is such fun. And I love the soundtrack. And the juxtaposition of that. I love looking at photos, I don’t know if you’ve seen all the photos, like, of the actors like fully in costume, but then they’re using a cell phone, or eating pizza ,or something. And I love that juxtaposition. Just seeing that, too. I think that’s really fun.
I got a little bit lost in my train of thought there. But I love the way, I think the directors that I mentioned, I love the way that they create their characters, and each character having a signature look, a really kind of distinct personality. And it’s usually pretty intense as well. So I feel like in making music, I want each song to really have a strong character like that, that you could bring out into the world, dress up, and put into a setting somewhere, and it would all feel really complete. So I think I really take inspiration from the characters and the character design from those films.
Do you want to take this last moment to plug any of your upcoming plans?
Sure. We just finished booking a tour for the summer. We have shows from LA up to Seattle and back. We’re stopping in a lot of smaller cities and stuff too. So really excited about that. I’m mostly in the Pacific Northwest, which, we don’t have a lot of listeners my area as far as I know yet. So if anyone sees this, come see us in August. I don’t know how you’re publishing this, sees it, reads it, whatever. Lots of Bay Area shows. And then I just finished editing a music video for one of the songs, so that will be out. And we found Elliott, who produces all the music with me, we found his parents old VHS camcorder. So we’re filming everything on that. I want to make videos for everything. I’m going to be in Paris. I’m going to film some videos while I’m in Paris. Be on the lookout for all that stuff.