Austin-based, rock/alternative artist, Hanna Barakat, announces her new single, “Wildfire,” ahead of the upcoming album, Siren, due out this Summer.
Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
- Hanna Barakat - Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/Producer
- Lisa Fazenbaker - Drums
- Anthony Basini - Guitarist
- Willie Jansen - Bassist
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to Hanna Barakat? How long has the band been around?
I am a solo artist. In the last 6+ months, I have gathered a team of amazing musicians to be my band, preparing my music for live performances, touring, and all the fun that is to come! I met my drummer, Lisa, in college over a decade ago. We just recently reunited and I convinced her to live in Austin, TX to join my band. Anthony, my guitarist, is also a Berklee Grad, who I just happened to meet a few months ago at a gig where we shared the bill. Willie is my Bassist. We essentially met the same day I met John Moyer, my producer. He was tracking bass for the new Dharma Kings record at Orb studios, and I showed up to meet John for the first time (he was producing their record).
These players are unique, kind, supportive, and amazing. We first hit the stage together back in October 2018, performing as the headliner for a 3-day residency at the Uber Radio Live Stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival. It was an intense and high paced scramble! We all had to hustle, sleep very little, rehearse almost daily for 12 straight days, and in this immense pressure, we all stuck together and pulled off a very last minute - magical experience. That was a big thing for me. I was so impressed and grateful for the work they put in and the way they held themselves together.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
My band name is self titled. My last name, Barakat, means Gods blessings in Arabic, and though I am not religious by any means, I love that my name is positive, uplifting, and genuinely unique. It ties me to my roots.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
I am a very stubborn person. I have been a solo artist for so long, and for some reason, I always felt I had to do it all myself. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that collaboration is a beautiful and unique thing, and I hope to do a lot more of it in the future, but on this record, I wrote it all. The songs on this record were written over a span of 10 years. I can hardly believe it, but its the truth. These songs have been my comfort and my therapy, as I’ve journied this world, witnessed injustices, engrossed myself in my ancestral culture, grown within myself, literally travelled the globe, loved, lost, failed, loved again, and struggled to reach the place where I am today.
Some songs travel through the complexity of relationships, the balance of strengths, messy breakups that resolve with constantly falling back into old habits with ones significant others yet again. While other songs touch on anguishing sociopolitical situations that plague the world today. I want to bring awareness to these situations, not by forcing any political agenda, but by pushing for love, understanding, and acceptance of all the other humans walking this earth together. Throughout history, there have been unnatural walls physically erected, or socially accepted and perpetuated, in order to divide people.
I want to tear those walls down. All of them. Through my music, with rock guitars, heavy drums, deep rhythmic bass lines, and my intricate vocal melodic lines and punchy harmony stacks, I have chosen to forge arabic instruments like the oud, kanun, frame drum, riqq, into my sonic landscape, where I feel they so naturally and appropriately belong.
I am always changing, and I know my music will reflect that constant motion. I am always seeking new inspiration to take hold and shape musical world even further.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Evanescence, Amy Lee, Breaking Benjamin, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Stain, System of a Down, Chevelle, Jessie J, Deftones, Traditional Arabic music from Artists such as Oum Kalthoum and Fairuz, and whatever else I stumble upon or feel the urge to listen to for countless hours...
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
I have been humming and singing since I was a toddler. I couldn't tell you exactly where it started, but music was always a comfort to me. When I was 3-4 years old I did a radio commercial for Radio Disney, and that day in the recording studio, behind the mic, eating pizza and screaming into the overhead mics, I felt nothing but pure joy.
I can say, hearing Evanescence, starting when I was 12-13 years old, absolutely blew my mind, opened my eyes, and gave me a new vision for what I could do and be. The intensity, emotion, and power coming out of Amy Lee, her music set me on fire! I wanted to be THAT. In my own way…but THAT. I wanted to be an artist, to pass that feeling on to the next generation of youth. My writings are different, and I touch on particularly different topics, but the essence, the power that that music imparted to me, has driven me forward for years and years. I just love it!
What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, etc …
I try to work out the day of my shows, to make sure I get my lungs heated up, my adrenaline going, and also to engage my core before I start singing. Sometimes it's to my detriment, because my trainer whoops my butt so hard, I’m already sore by the time the show's gearing up.. but thats a separate issue. I do vocal exercises and warm ups, and sing along to my own recordings while I stretch my legs and back, and massage my larynx! It’s peculiar, i know, but I have to be relaxed and loosened up before I can jump on stage!If I am feeling scratchy or strained, I drink excessive amounts of throat coat, but my real secret weapon, for particularly difficult vocal days, is french fries. The grease is amazing as a throat coat! Try it - It definitely won’t hurt!
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
I can honestly say, I have had some really awesome experiences on and off stage, but the biggest highlight for me has been working with my producer, John Moyer. He is one of the most genuine, kind and supportive people I have ever encountered. And what started as a business arrangement, to produce my album one song at a time, in my home studio, with a complete stranger, turned into a wonderful collaboration, friendship, and mentorship. It took over a year for me to finish my record, mainly because I funded it myself, but also because of Johns schedule with Disturbed. We had a lot of gaps in working together, over that year span, and in the down time, I worked harder than I may have ever worked in my life, to prepare for the next song, the next step, to make this record just as I always wanted.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
It would be a dream come true to tour with Evanescence or System of a Down. I think if you put me and Amy Lee on a tour bus, we’d right a couple records overnight. I would just love to be able to support and be on the same stage as such a huge force and powerful presence! She’s a phenomenal performer, writer, and singer. She’s the full package.
System of A Down have a wholly unique sound. They are powerful, political, aggressive, and still beautiful. Culturally, we have some overlapping connections, and I have always wanted to collaborate with Serj specifically. If I could just get on the circuit with them, I think we would end up making some crazy musictogether.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am so excited to share this music with the world. It took me so long to gather the recourses, fight the fear and hesitation, and make this record happen. And in a way, it couldn’t have happened any differently. I have an incredibly supportive husband, Blue, who’s been by my side from the beginning, encouraging me, helping me find gear, doing research, forcing me to learn how to use every piece of equipment in my studio, well before I ever ever wanted to. Somehow, it all fell together in such a way that I had the most incredible team of people working on this project with me.
My producer, John Moyer (Disturbed), my mixing engineer and long time friend, Martin Nessi, who’s worked with the likes of the Michael Jackson estate, Ariana Grande, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, and finally, my mastering engineer, Ted Jensen of Sterling Sound, who has literally mastered everyone! He mastered Disturbed, Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Green Day, Three Days Grace… I always say, he’s mastered at least one of everything thats ever been mastered.
It was a hell if a lot of work, and on some days, I can’t believe I finally did it, but here we are. Siren is here, for the world to hear! I hope you enjoy it!