Hana Vu on Razor Scooters, Tumblr, and Her Album Public Storage

By Devon Chodzin

Photography courtesy of the artist

Hana Vu is not afraid to call attention to herself. In her years as a California bedroom pop artist, Vu consistently lunges forward with emotion, coaxing her listeners into feeling with the same intensity that she pours into her production. Public Storage, her debut full-length, exudes that same fervor. 

Across 12 tracks, Hana Vu draws from grunge, disco, new wave, and more to construct a record with garage-rock intensity that maintains the bedroom pop vulnerability that put her on the map. The diversity in her sonic approaches remain grounded by her iconic contralto, which soars through lyrics that achieve a thrilling acuity. Even as the songs on Public Storage careen between subjects & feelings that appear disparate, there is little doubt that each of these aural vignettes tessellate. Each new track opens a different box, a different facet of life, owned by the same person, much like one might find rifling through a self-storage unit, the peculiar transitional space that served as inspiration for the record.

We interviewed Hana Vu in advance of Public Storage’s November release to chat about the album’s development, Razor scooters, and charting your own course in your local DIY scene. Additionally, Hana brought her camera around the spot where she’s spent the most time as of late–peruse those pictures & read more below:

Slumber: The first thing that struck me about Public Storage and even “Maker” when it came out was the cover artwork–it’s up close & personal. What inspired these visuals?

Hana Vu: I was inspired by a lot of the close-up portrait series by Ann Hamilton and the photo studies by Bruce Nauman. I really wanted something up close and hard to look at. I wanted a really gritty, grungy look and so I worked with graphic designer Collin Fletcher to get it there.

Slumber: You make reference to how prominent a role self-storage played in your life growing up in different homes around SoCal–do you have any particular memories of something that was perpetually in storage or something that you always wanted to extract from storage growing up?

Hana: I think my dad has some pretty nice chairs in storage that I want. I don’t really remember any of my own personal things in there; mostly just art and furniture was kept in there. I think maybe my old Razor scooters are in there. I used to ride those around in the public storage building

Slumber: Where did you bring your camera for this feature? Can you tell me a little about these photos?

Hana: I just took pictures around the house. Seeing as though this is where I have spent most of my time the last months, I felt it was the most accurate representation of my life.

Slumber: For Public Storage, you linked up with a co-producer (in this case, Jackson Phillips) for the first time. What was it like to collaborate on the production like this? Did anything surprise you about it?

Hana: Working with Jackson really freed me up to focus more on the writing and bigger picture of this record. Jackson is a very talented and diligent collabor, so it was very easy to communicate with him what I wanted this project to be!

Slumber: I love what you said about your art being “very invasive and intense sounding music;” I agree that your music demands full engagement. How do you harness that intensity?

Hana: I just like to think that singing and performing is like the only socially acceptable form of screaming in public. I think my type performance is a cry out for attention and so maybe that’s where the intensity comes from.

“[I] feel like I'm not as much a player as I am a singer, so with that in mind, the sound of my music can wear a few different colors.”

Slumber: What are some of the continuities you see between your previous releases and Public Storage and what are some of the creative departures that mean the most to you?

Hana: I’d like to think that each subsequent record of mine since my first builds on the foundation of truth in song. And that with each record, my truth is revealed more and more to myself and my audience.

Slumber: Between the shimmering synths on “Aubade” and the bold grunge on “Gutter,” you bring together a lot of influences really effectively. Were there any particular musicians or musical eras that you listened to a lot growing up that made you feel like you could make music the way you wanted to?

Hana: In the time span that I’ve been alive, I feel I’ve gone through so many musical identities. When I was a child, my parents played a lot of ‘80s-new-wave-type stuff and, at school, everyone would listen to the Radio Disney hits of the time. And then as I became a teenager, I was in the Tumblr sphere listening to a lot to the electronic artists of that era. When I started playing shows in LA around the same time, surf rock/punk was really big here and was kind of the type of bands I would play around with at house shows and such. I just feel like I’m not as much a player as I am a singer, so with that in mind, the sound of my music can wear a few different colors.

Slumber: Is there a song on Public Storage that you’re most excited to perform live?

Hana: I’m pretty excited to play the title song, “Public Storage.” That was one where, when I was writing, I already felt like it would be good live.

Slumber: What meal or beverage would you pair with Public Storage?

Hana: I would drink an Apple Sidra and listen to it, probably.

Slumber: Where is the ideal place to first listen to Public Storage all the way through?

Hana: Maybe walking or driving around your neighborhood at night. That’s the only time I can really ingest songs.

“I'd like to think that each subsequent record of mine since my first builds on the foundation of truth in song. And that with each record, my truth is revealed more and more to myself and my audience.”

Slumber: Part of your origin story is coming up in a scene dominated by surf/punk at a time when that wasn’t the music that you were listening to or really wanted to play that badly – do you have any advice for newcomers in DIY who are wondering how to make the music they want to make in a scene that’s seemingly only hospitable to something else?

Hana: I would say to just do whatever is true to yourself. Following prescribed social trends and cultures will make you one of many.

Listen to Hana Vu’s new single, ‘Gutter’ is streaming now. Check out a live video below and pre-order her upcoming album ‘Public Storage’ out 11/5 on Ghostly International.