Get to Know: Hannah Jadagu
Radio Milwaukee’s stations introduce you to new artists every day. This is your chance to learn a little more about them beyond what you hear on our playlists. Consider it a meet-and-greet, CliffsNotes and elevator pitch all rolled into one.
Hannah Jadagu’s debut full-length for Sub Pop, Aperture, just saw its official release and — on first listen — is a nostalgia trip back to the heavier shoegaze pop of the classic 4AD ’90s era that Lush and Cocteau Twins dominated. On closer listen, it’s apparent Jadagu is an expert arranger as the nuances start surfacing: her clear voice rising above the guitar fuzz and the interesting layers sucking the listener into the album’s swirling elements.
Jadagu threads R&B and electronic moments into her indie-rock structures. She cuts her own form while showing that her influences (artists like Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Jean Dawson, beabadoobee, Steve Lacy, Charli XCX, Haim, Phoenix, Snail Mail and SZA) are never far away, bleeding into her musical atmospheres and emotive storytelling to carry a relatable and hopeful weight.
Jadagu first caught Sub Pop’s attention with “Pollen,” a song she wrote as a teen. The label scouted and signed her while she was still in high school, releasing her self-recorded What Is Going On? in 2021 — a five-song EP created entirely on her iPhone using GarageBand with a guitar and an external microphone.
Jadagu made the EP in a scrappy fashion because her self-recording skill set was already pretty well honed from playing around on GarageBand since she was a child (and, more realistically, because funds were limited). What Is Going On? beautifully showcases Jadagu’s producer mind and budding sonic layering techniques.
For Aperture, Jadagu traveled to France’s Greasy Records to work with French producer Max Robert Baby. The two paid close attention to every nuance of Jadagu’s songs, adding unexpected layers, countermelodies and ear-grabbing rhythms.
During the recording process, Jadagu graduated high school in smalltown Mesquite, Texas, and headed to NYC, where she’s currently entrenched in full-time studies at N.Y.U. for music business (only putting her studies on hold to write her new album and tour).
We currently have “What You Did” — Jagadu’s latest single from Aperture (which you can pick up on her Bandcamp page) — in rotation on 88Nine and wanted to catch up with her about the album and how she’s adapting to the life changes of the past few years.
In your music, there are elements of multiple genres (although forward-facing, you create “indie pop”). Did you grow up with a lot of different genres in the background at home?
Honestly, I did not grow up with too many different genres. We listened to mainly R&B, hip-hop and Top 40.
What drew or inspired you to start making music at such a young age?
I just always was captivated by anything music-based in school and around the house. Not sure what it was, but I’ve always been obsessed.
What was the first instrument you picked up? And what was the first instrument that felt like the best fit for you, creatively and skill-wise?
The first instrument I picked up and actually practiced for was the recorder. We all played that in elementary school. After that, I became a percussionist. Those both came naturally to me and inspired me to learn other instruments later on, like guitar.
Ultimately, how did you find “your sound”?
By listening to my favorite artists and pulling bits and pieces from what draws me to them.
What is the vibe and what are some of the themes that your new album Aperture centers around?
The overall vibe is an album that gives a peek into my world for the past two years. Some of the themes explored are: relationships, family and all the stuff that happens in my brain.
When and how did you discover that you could make music using your phone? Do you consider yourself a hands-on learner when it comes to music-related programs and technology? For production on your new record, what tools has your expertise lent you?
I started making songs on my phone using this app called GarageBand when I was 12. I started making them a little bit better when I was 16. I am definitely a hands-on learner and have to see the ways that changing a preset can affect your sound/creativity. I also used a lot of YouTube when I hit any roadblocks when I was younger.
For the new record, we did this in a studio outside of Paris, so I was out of my element in the best way. We had analog synths, acoustic drums — all things I had never used before. But because I’m always eager to try new music tools and trust my sense of melody/ears, that was a tool in itself.
You grew up in Texas. How has the transition to living in New York been? And how much of that transition found its way into Aperture?
A lot of that transition was weird because it was during the lockdown stage of the pandemic. I think the album gets weird sonically in little moments, and lyrically it's everywhere on the album. I speak a lot about the fears I have within my newfound relationship with myself and others.
What are some of the nuanced things that brought you to New York City?
My schooling, the diversity and the change of pace.
Did you grow up going to shows as a teen in Texas? Do you feel yourself drawn to going to live shows more, now being based in NYC?
I only went to a few shows when I was a teen (partially because I’m a picky person and loved to save any amount of money I had). Now that I’m in New York, I go to a lot more shows!
What’s the current “sound” and feel of the NYC music scene, and has it affected or influenced you in any way?
That’s a tough question because I feel like, in New York, everyone is making anything. It really just depends on who you hang with/where you go out to see shows. I've got friends who make different types of music, but I would say I’m not directly influenced by it.
What’s it like being on Sub Pop Records? What’s your favorite non-you Sub Pop band?
Being on Sub Pop is a treat. My favorite artist when I originally signed was Yuno, actually! I think Frankie Cosmos is the blueprint as well.
You’re finishing up school for music business but have mentioned that a year of touring taught you more than school could. Are you looking forward to more time in “touring school” once your university degree’s been earned?
Haha, I’m not sure. I love being in school and learning, but there is something to be said about working in the field you are in school for and how accelerated the learning can be. That being said, acceleration can often provide a bit of bigger obstacles, such as all that comes with touring as a new artist. But I love the act of performing music itself, for sure.
What do you have planned for this summer, surrounding the release of Aperture?
I think I am going to rest. Maybe get started on making the new album. But first, rest!