At its best King Hannah's music acts as a portal into another world. Together Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle can veer from light-hearted whimsy, such as Merrick's trials with both the precarious housing situation and a spider ("Meal Deal"), to the unapologetic family portrait painted on "All Being Fine." The lyrical openness is backed by Whittle's dark and bluesy backdrops, which range from lo-fi to cinematic but are always underpinned by an unshakeable groove. Their debut album, the perfectly titled I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me, is that rarest of things — an introduction to a band with a fully formed identity and a confidence that is magnetic.
I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me is out tomorrow, February 25, but can be streamed today via The FADER. The album works so well as a whole because, well, it was written that way. "We didn’t want the album to just be a collection of songs," the band says. "We wanted it to flow and tell its own story." Check out the whole album below and read on for Merrick and Whittle's take on each song on the record.
"So Much Water, So Close To Drone"
The idea behind this track was to introduce you sonically to All Being Fine. We wanted it to be gnarly and fuzzy, and we recycled the nylon string from "All Being Fine" to place it in the same physical location.
"Ants Crawling on an Apple Stork"
This was a song that Craig had written in part a few years ago, and that was finished and given its current form towards the end of recording the album. Inspired by slowcore '90s artists like Smog, Mark Kozelek and Jason Molina, it’s a lo-fi track about childhood and memories, with all the hiss and analogue-ness that we love most in music. The verse describes abstract images that have stuck with Craig since childhood, “long shadows in the park” and “ants crawling on an apple stalk”, while the chorus deals with the regret of youth, or more specifically how it is taken for granted, and how it’s only in adulthood, when looking back, that we see it for what it really was.
"The Moods That I Get In"
A large portion of this song was written back in the early days of "Creme Brulee," which Hannah had been dipping in and out of ever since. Its warm, consistent rambling and swaying, ride-heavy drum beat, inspired by Mazzy Star, help bring out the romance in the song, and we love it. Lyrically, there’s sheer, unapologetic confidence in every word, whether those listening like it or not. Towards the end of the track there is a tempo change, and the smokiness that has permeated the track so far dissipates a little to make way for a Neil Young-inspired widescreen ending, full of '70s style guitars and hazy synths. We wanted this track to have lots of space and room to breathe, it was so tempting to just fill up every corner with noise and to make the ending huge, but we held back and we think the song is better and more emotive for it.
Originally, several other songs, and the very last to make it onto the album (which it almost didn’t!), and influenced by Portishead’s gnarly, heavier tracks, the line, “stop acting like a baby” is about somebody close, who was acting a little spoilt at the time. The electric guitars for this track were the last parts we laid down for this whole album, a few days before we handed it in. The song didn’t sound quite fitting with the rest of the record, and so Craig went to the studio one night and put down the heavier sounding, grungey guitars, which really helped the song fit in with the rest of the album.
"Death of the House Phone"
Craig wrote the piano part to this interlude when we were recording "Go-Kart Kid (HELL NO!)," and we loved how emotive and cinematic it was. The piano used throughout the album was Hannah’s great aunties, who kindly let us put it in the studio, and so all the piano parts on the album are really special to us. It also ties in with a lot of the themes of the album, about childhood and memories and sentiment, and so it was important to have a track that really highlighted all of that. The drone from this track runs straight into "Go-Kart Kid (HELL NO!)," which is possibly the most personal song on the album, so "Death of the House Phone" is the perfect way to lead into that song.
"Go-Kart Kid (HELL NO!)"
Probably the truest song on the album, and drafted in a stream of consciousness writing style, "Go-Kart Kid (HELL NO!)" is about Hannah’s childhood, and the gratitude she has for both, her parents and grandparents for creating the most loving and safest upbringing imaginable for both herself and two sisters. The lines, “We were just girls in a field, growing into ladies. And now we’re girls in a field, looking out for Sos”, hints at the circle of life and how the fields that Hannah and her sisters once ran around are now the same fields that Hannah’s 3 year old nephew runs around too. Originally, a melody from a whole other song that never made it past rehearsals, we decided to re-record the whole song from scratch, just to include this line.
During this episodic, slow burner, Hannah and Craig subtly chant “HELL NO!” and “HELL YEAH” throughout, whether as reactions to the dog that chewed the handle off Hannah’s go-kart or the big yard that Hannah ran around as a child. The song gradually builds, with wailing synths getting wilder and more distorted before exploding during the final instrumental, which is loud and noisy and doesn’t hold anything back. We love how the warmth of the acoustics and Hannah’s vocal blends with the wildness of the electric guitars and synths, held together by a simple drum beat and bass line; it sounds, to us, like it was recorded live in a room in the '90s, and we love it.
"I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me."
One of our favourite songs on the record and probably the quickest to write, this song came together very very quickly; chorus, including lyrics first, verses second. With this order in mind, it became very clear very quickly, what lyrically the song should be about and so from then, Hannah and Craig spent time writing down what individually, they are not sorry for. The lead guitar line was heavily influenced by Nels Cline, in particular a live video of Wilco playing "Impossible Germany." Cline is one of Craig’s favourite guitarists, because he always does the unexpected and there is a perfect balance of spontaneity and melody and wildness that lifts whatever song he plays on. We wanted to bring an element of that to this instrumental section, and by making the guitars slightly more angular and jazzy I think we achieved that.
This track was heavily influenced by Yo La Tengo, in particular their work on the film Old Joy which features on their soundtrack album They Shoot, We Score. The song started with the simple acoustic track, then the drones and the electric guitars and drums were layered on top. The whole thing came together really quickly. The lead guitar lines were recorded initially as scratch ideas, but we loved how natural and spontaneous they sounded so we kept them in. To us it feels like the end of an indie film, full of warmth and emotion and noise, like the sun going down somewhere, or just rising.
"It’s Me And You, Kid"
This song is completely and utterly about the two of us and this musical journey we’re on together. We came up with the line and track title, ‘It’s Me and You, Kid’ while casually playing around one evening in our living room, but it wasn’t until much later that the song took shape. It was important to keep the verses small and lyrically building, into the final section, of loud, almost aggressive chanting “it’s me and you, kid” until it hurts. Deliberately placed at the end of the album to enhance its purpose, it’s an almost anthemic, repetitive song with big, overdriven guitars, a kind of celebration of the album that would linger in the mind and chest of anyone that has listened through the entire record.