The experimental sounds of Juno and Hanna are of both an eccentric and elegant palette. The Johor-born duo, likely among Malaysia’s most popular siblings right now, has been described by critics to be a dream-pop band, with their electro beats always managing to add a tinge of surrealism to the atmosphere.
They provide a deeply immersive and abstract soundscape — a result of the ethereal concoction of Hanna’s haunting vocals and Hanif’s downtempo electro-pop production. It is the kind of sound that is best experienced live.
After having performed on both renowned local and international stages, the two siblings will take the stage once again at this year’s edition of the Cyberjaya Multimedia Festival on the 11th and 12th of August at Centrus Mall.
Nearly a decade ago, before Juno and Hanna, there was JunoHana; a 2008 five-member band consisting of four siblings and a close friend. Then 11-year-old Hanna was too young to join the band herself but helped her older siblings out with some of the lyrics and melodies. Once Hanna was old enough to make her own way down the singer-songwriter path, she teamed up with her brother, Hanif, to create what would be their family’s second musical project.
Their first EP, Air, debuted in 2016 and featured six tracks; all melancholic and dreamy in nature. Though based on emotions of heartbreak and longing, Juno and Hanna seem to find strength in being vulnerable.
Hanna’s vocals are both crystalline and haunting. In most tracks, her delivery makes the lyrics nearly indecipherable. It is as if her vocals are being used as less a tool to deliver lyrics and more as an instrument and added a layer of emotion to an already surreal and otherworldly rhythm. The emotion in their sound is clear. Hanna’s vocals sometimes shift so deep she almost sounds ghostly. It’s unnerving but it pulls you in all the same.
In gearing up for their big performance this weekend, we thought we’d try get to know Juno and Hanna a little better. So read on if you’d like to know more about everyone’s favourite local duo!
(Get your tickets here!)
The inner workings of Juno and Hanna
You have a knack for producing music that is very ambient and entrancing in nature. Do you make music solely for self-expression or knowingly try to immerse your listeners into a world they can relate to?
The sounds or beats that we choose evolve over time but there are definitely some sounds/presets/samples that we just can’t move away from. Somehow, even when we do force ourselves to have a different vibe, it always comes out the same.
HANNA: It’s really funny whenever Hanif shows me something new he has produced. I’d still hear his signature sound since he first started composing back in 2008 and he’d be whiny and sarcastic about it. I think every composer deals with this problem (if it could even be considered to be a problem). Nonetheless, for our debut EP, we had less thoughts like “what people would think about it?” or “what would it sound like live?”. We just did the best of what we wanted to satisfy ourselves — having something self-made become something that could be real. However, our second upcoming EP is a different story.
What is your songwriting process like?
We each often produce something on our own and then play it in front of each other. If we both like it, Hanna will try to sing a melody to fit into the song. If we are satisfied with the melody and vocals, Hanna will then write the lyrics in depth. Mastering and finishing, is then done entirely by Hanif.
After lots of intense bickering and sarcasm (which we both enjoy so much), we will finally agree to the song. Besides these times, we rarely disagree with each other.
Do you sometimes feel a certain sense of vulnerability on stage when you perform songs that are about your life? Or does singing help you come to terms with it?
Of course, the vulnerability of performing is often there. Sometimes it’s feeble and not as strong. The vulnerability often comes to us when we are thinking about our performance and whether or not our music will be good for this type of audience/ ambiance. It’s more about the technical issues rather than any personal feelings. Since we’ve both agreed to write about it, we have already internally agreed with exposing what happened.
However, there are still some lyrics that Hanna writes that nobody really understands; not even Hanif. So for Hanna, her secrets and vulnerability lies too discreet between the lines of the lyrics that it makes it impossible for anyone to understand unless she explains it to them. For Hanif, he buries his secrets within the music he produces. We think that’s what makes us cope with it — the fact that nobody would find out even though we sing every day.
On working with family and their inspirations
Music seems to run in your genes. What is it like working with family? And do you still make music with your other siblings?
We thank God each day that we are doing this with family. We are really grateful that our family shares this passion with us and rarely feel alone or unsupported. We are both indecisive in nature, so it is really difficult for us to decide on something. But this is not the case with our other siblings and parents. They are very strong and more capable of reaching logical conclusions. Recently, Hanif got married, so that’s another addition to the family which supports and helps us along the way.
Sadly, we don’t make music with our other siblings anymore since they are busy with their own agendas but we definitely ask for their input every time.
Are there any bands/groups that musically inspire you?
For Hanif, it is Blonde Redhead. For Hanna, it is Sade. This never changes but we have other inspirations too like Mew, M83, Iggy Pop and sometimes, the Harry Potter soundtrack. Anything that may spark that creative idea in our minds.
HANNA: Right now I’m also listening to De la vitesse à l’ivresse by Poom, which may affect the answers I’m giving.
Electro music and their favourite gigs
Do you feel a change regarding how people have perceived electro music over the years? For example, do you get better comments on your YouTube videos now?
Yes, there is. We can’t say that mainstream media has totally opened up to this genre, but there’s definitely growth in people accepting and enjoying this genre. This is also thanks to the indie music scene in Malaysia. We do hope more people will delve into it.
As for comments, we have seen changes. Previously, we would only receive good and hearty comments, but now we also get negative and hate comments. But we love it! We make a totally big deal about it in our family’s Whatsapp group. It’s a sign that people are getting more knowledgeable about music and won’t accept just any crappy music claiming to be electro.
Tell us about your most memorable gig so far.
There’s been a lot of memorable gigs. Each one of them, without a doubt, sticks distinctly in our minds. In terms of the crowd, our most memorable would definitely be our first gig in Ipoh for Ipoh Calling, and also Oceansation. The memories still leave us tingling.
In terms of the hospitality, the most memorable was definitely Baybeats in Singapore and Goodvibes 2016. LiveFact events are also dear to us. We hope to create more.
On their upcoming album, CMF and future plans.
Many fans are now looking forward to the release of your upcoming EP, ‘Epiphany’ after the success of the downtempo melancholic beats of ‘Air’. How has your sound evolved over the years?
It is difficult to say if ‘Epiphany’ would have the same impact as ‘Air’ did. We do think we have evolved in music making. We now take into matter things like whether or not it would sound great live and so on. The lyrics have completely changed into something other than heartache and pain of love.
We personally think the track ‘Air’ is distinct on its own and that the whole EP ‘Epiphany’ has its own depth and weight. Since it hasn’t been released yet, it’s difficult to describe it in a way that would make sense. But what we can say is that ‘Epiphany’ has more strings in it.
What can we look forward to during your set at CMF?
To those coming to CMF, our set brings you the familiar vibe that you might be missing after our long hiatus and new vibes for those who have never heard us live before. We will do our best to express our honesty into the set. Favourites are definitely in our setlist along with some additions. You’ve gotta experience it yourself to know.
You’ve played on several stages for both local and international audiences since first starting out. Do you have any other big plans for the future?
For now, our plans are grounded to releasing ‘Epiphany’ and the music video for the single ‘Sara’. Once we get those done, we can see how it goes from there.
You can check them out along with many other local and international artists this weekend (11th & 12th of August) at the Cyberjaya Multimedia Festival 2018 at Centrus Mall. Get your tickets here!
Featured Image Source: Juno and Hanna’s YouTube channel