As shiny as Hannah Diamond’s world is, she’s not as tough as her namesake. On her debut album, ‘Reflections’, Hannah is human and heartbroken, perhaps unexpectedly as a member of the hyperreal, alternative-reality PC Music collective.
Starting out as a visual artist, Hannah joined AG Cook as part of PC Music in 2013, where, with the release of her debut ‘Pink and Blue’, she transformed into one of the most innovative voices in pop. Still, six years later, there’s no one quite like her.
Even with producers AG Cook, SOPHIE, EasyFun, Danny L Harle and more imposing their industrial, metallic, slamming-pots-and-pans-in-the-studio sound on the mainstream, Hannah’s steely vocals paired with heartfelt lyrics stood out against the pure party bangers the rest of the PC Music crew were creating with Charli XCX, Madonna, Rita Ora and Carly Rae Jepsen (that’s quite the name drop).
“In a way, I’ve always been a performer because I used to dance when I was a lot younger,” Hannah says from over the phone in London. “I’ve always been on stage and doing shows and making my costumes and stuff like that, but until I started making music, I hadn’t really thought about that.”
While Hannah became just as well known for the glossy, retouched imagery that accompanied her music, she doesn’t let it alter anyone’s perception of her music or artistry. If anything, creating those hyperreal photos is a particularly personal process for her.
“The whole package of the music relates to the visual side of things, although the lyrical content is sometimes quite emotional and quite sad, which seems like the polar opposite of this hyperreal imagery, something that I guess some people think looks like commercial imagery, which is you know, normally not seen as being something quite personal for them.
“For me, the correlation between the two isn’t so far apart because making those kinds of hyperreal images is quite personal, because it’s something that I started being interested in when I was a lot younger. I started out as mostly an illustrator, I guess. When I was really young, I was into jewellery. I used to do hyperreal pencil illustration.
“For me, it’s just an extension of that. Even though people might see it as being a purposeful, grounded thing, like a conscious decision I’ve made to represent myself visually, I feel like it’s just a continuation of what I’ve been making ever since I started making visual stuff, which was when I was really young.”
It was those images she created while at university that caught the attention of AG Cook, who helped shift the same shiny, over-edited concept into song.
“Before I was friends with Alex and Polly, and before I met everyone, I was mostly just doing visual stuff. I guess through like finding this group of friends that all had a similar vision for things that they wanted to make. And then starting music with Alex, that’s how my projects turned from just being visual to audiovisual.”
It’s a testament to Hannah’s vision that ‘Reflections’ never really changed that much. Originally an EP and containing songs from 2015 onwards, ‘Reflections’ still feels as future forward and fully formed as it would’ve if it had been released as an EP years back.
“It was only going to have four tracks on it, and then I was still writing and recording all the time, and it kept growing. Once I got to six tracks I was like, I might as well make an album because all the music that I’m making feels like it’s in the same sort of world.
“Once I decided it was going to be an album, we had the kind of stuff I wanted to do with it visually as well. I really upped the stakes for what I wanted to achieve. The number of songs changed, which technically in music industry terms changed it from an EP to an album, but for me, it’s always been the same thing.”
Upping the stakes obviously turned out to be a good thing, as it helped Hannah through some really rough patches, particularly the title track. Although most of the record details – in a super blunt and often simple way – Hannah falling in and out of love, the song ‘Reflections’ quite literally reflects on her personal struggles and ponders how others in her life feel about her own depression.
“I was really going through it for a few years when I was working on this record, and I was really struggling with my self-esteem and myself worth. I had a few days that were like, really, really bad. It’s kind of hard to think about, but I had a few really tough days. And I remember my mum and dad came down to London to see me because they knew I was having a hard time. I remember my mum being a bit upset and sort of like, ‘What can we do? I don’t know why you feel like this’.
“Then I guess the day after that is when I wrote ‘Reflections’, because I remember trying to think of myself from my mum’s perspective and how I would feel if I was her kid. Like, if one of my friends felt the way that I felt, it kind of helped me to have like some like self-compassion, so that song to me is kind of like bit of a self-help song, just like the reminder to look after myself. Some of the lyrics are about like seeing yourself as new and stuff, and its sort of a reminder to myself to love myself and not take myself for granted.
“I feel like through working on the album, I’ve overcome hurdles I didn’t think I was capable of; in my career but also like, emotionally and personally. I feel like writing it and making it’s helped me to learn a lot about myself and who I am. I feel a lot more confident in myself for doing it as well.”
Stepping away from writing her own songs, the album also features a cover of trance classic ‘Concrete Angel’, which was created when Hannah and AG were looking to create their own ‘hardcore trance track’, as she says.
“I’ve always been super, super into trance, and really into UK garage as well, it’s been a huge inspiration for me, but it didn’t really come in on this album. It’s been a song that I’ve loved for ages and ages. It feels right, even though it’s a cover. I feel like lyrically it’s still in that kind of world and I was listening to that so much at that time as well, I think I must have been relating to it more than normal. It feels like it fits in emotionally for me.”
With all the years behind her perfecting the ‘HD sound’, ‘Reflections’ is as pristine and glossy as the imagery that vitally accompanies it. But be aware, there’s nothing commercial or run-of-the-mill about this album; it’s 100% Hannah Diamond in every way.
“One of the reasons it was so great to work with Alex on this whole album is, because I started making music with him, I feel like we’ve been developing what the HD sound is. By making this album just purely with Alex, we’ve really solidified that and made this sound that’s just me, and I’m really proud of it.
“With my music and my lyrics and my artwork, I always want it to come from me. Whenever I’ve written songs where I’ve tried to tell a story or get into an idea just because it’s fun. I never end up wanting to use them because I’m like, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel so real, and I feel like it’s easier for me to go up on stage and perform if I know that it’s all true.” P Hannah Diamond’s album ‘Reflections’ is out now.
Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork. Hannah Diamond’s album ‘Reflections’ is out now.
Words: Abigail Firth