Ode to the Free Spirit: An Interview with Ha Vay

Described by the creative mind behind Ha Vay as a “hyperactive dream state,” San Francisco-based duo stopped by The Griffin last week for their first Vegas show. The project, a pandemic baby, was born amidst the shutdown while Ha Vay (vocalist/writer) and Elliott (guitarist/producer) quarantined together:

“We started producing some of my solo songwriting projects then and spent the first half, or longer, of 2020 kind of just experimenting and not really putting anything out. It was a really sweet development… which has been quite a journey since then.”

Ha Vay mentioned how a music career was something she put off and never thought she could actually pursue, but then she met Elliott who encouraged her. She explains, “He had more of that drive initially than I had, so we make a good combination, a good pair in that sense.”

I sparked up a brief conversation with Ha Vay after their show to talk a bit about her life and influences, what drives her, and all things music regarding this dreamy up-and-coming, indie-pop duo, starting with the significance of the name Ha Vay:

“Ha Vay is my Chinese name, it’s in a dialect like an offshoot of Cantonese. My dad is Chinese. My grandmother consulted an oracle before I was born to predict my life, and she used that to name me… ” 

Ha Vay explained how it’s not her legal name, which she prefers to keep as private as she can, and how she chose it because it felt right and honors her heritage. 

“Ha means summer, I was born on the summer solstice, and Vay means something along the lines of street smarts and grace…”

I asked her what she thought of Las Vegas, explained how it’s one of those places that people either love or hate, and gave her full permission to be as honest as she wanted:

“I’ve been here one other time. I was like seven or eight. I came here with my parents and I thought it was like the craziest place I’d ever seen in my life! So it’s really funny coming back now. It’s like being a little bit more grounded in reality and seeing it as a city, not this strange, magical carnival that’s super overwhelming. It’s cool, it’s a lot, it’s overwhelming, it’s also very dusty and windy outside which makes it feel really dramatic.”

Ha Vay talked about how she has a love for every place she visits and loves visiting new places in general. Ha Vay is known through her online presence as being a free spirit, and this very much influences her music. While she has musical influences like Mazzy Starr and Lana Del Rey, I asked her to talk a little bit about her life’s influences and her philosophy on being a free spirit and girlhood:

“I think that it’s funny being free-spirited because I feel like I’m simultaneously very cautious and thoughtful. I have a huge hunger for adventure and going out and doing a million different crazy things. I think as a girl or a woman, or a girl turning into a woman, there’s a lot of judgment, a lot of danger, a lot of different stuff that’s wrapped up in that and that’s been so much a part of my experience growing up. That’s where I write from. I also am really happy with the experiences that I’ve had and being as true to myself as I can… It’s very much my experiences, but I am also thinking about my audience as I’m writing and want to share that… There’s so many amazing women that raised me and I look up to them so much. I take influence from the stories that they’ve told me when I was growing up and how that all trickles down.”

Ha Vay proceeded to explain that, while she has musical influences when it comes to making and writing music, she doesn’t necessarily reference anything, but instead is inspired artistically and spiritually by where the artists are coming from. That aspect of the music is what really resonates with her and what she mainly grasps from them. 

I let Ha Vay know how special her music is and how inspiring and important music that exudes strength through feminine energy, not in the sense of gender or social constraints, but in the archetypal sense, is for those who resonate with that energy. In relation to that, we talked about the spectrum of emotion that inspired her most recent album release ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE (2022):

ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE is a really special project to me. It was literally made in my bedroom. It feels like a collage to me. It’s very patchwork made, very DIY, and very much from the heart. I have ADHD and that’s where the title comes from as well. It’s very stream of consciousness for the most part, very up and down, and conveying a lot of different feelings. All of that was a really big part of making the project and, from what I’ve heard, a lot of people, especially a lot of feminine people, have really related to those daily ups and downs of embracing your feelings, embracing when you might feel crazy, when you might feel angry.”

Ha Vay explained how presenting strong feelings in music doesn’t always have to be so heavy. Ha Vay’s ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE (2022) tackles the fickle nature of love, the exciting, romantic, delusions that come with being a free spirit, someone hungry for adventure, and the romance of life itself. Ha Vay’s lyrics and melodies are poetry, they are edgy, saccharine depictions of ethereal youth. There’s feminine rage in the form of unrest and constant coveting for everything life has to offer. Something very important that I shared with Ha Vay is how influential her music has been to my own exploration and romanticization of life.

Eager to know what’s next for Ha Vay. I asked her to talk a bit about what the future might look like:

“I am in the process of writing an album. I’ve really always wanted to make—to me ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE is closer to an EP than an album, because it’s only like twenty minutes long—i’ve always wanted to write a really full album that has a really clear story arch and a kind of beginning to end. I’m writing something that’s covering a chapter of my life… I’m in the process of doing that. I don’t have a plan of how or when I’m going to record it yet, but that’s definitely very present in my mind, very much in a writing stage right now, and I’m really excited about it. So, I really want to make that happen. Other than that, more shows, more touring, all the stuff…”

Their set included two new songs that are currently unreleased. Ha Vay gave us permission to share the titles and also shared the inspiration behind them:

“The first song that we performed tonight is called “Avalanches And Unfamiliar Ways to Die.” That will be the next song coming out. We’re filming the music video for it on the road, so we were running around outside filming some of it right before the show. I wrote it when I was camping alone in the mountains of Idaho, also kind of in the quarantine era. So that is a little picture, and a little piece of that. The other one is called “His Favorite Dove.” I don’t know when that’s coming out, but it’s a really angry one about grooming, age gap relationships, and all of that stuff. That should be coming at some point as well.”

We ended our conversation on a fun note and talked about Ha Vay’s astrological big three in relation to her music:

“My sun sign is really funny. I was born right on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer and, for most of my life until more recently, I did not know which one I technically was. I’m technically a Cancer by like an hour or something… I think Cancers can be misunderstood… I think that something that’s missing a lot of the time is this intense desire to try everything in life and live really fully and live really deeply. When I read anything about that, that really resonates with me and like, wanting to live every day and every moment so fully and so presently and so deeply… I really do resonate with that a lot. My moon is the exact opposite of that, it’s Capricorn… I tend to say I think it’s saved my life in any kind of sketchy situation… Being kind of free spirited and running around the world, having that very stable earth moon that’s watching out for me and saying like, okay that’s too far, don’t go do that, or whatever it might be, and having those kinds of limits and awareness around that. I definitely also analyze my emotions a lot and I think having the Capricorn moon is really tied into that… It balances in a really odd way with the Cancer sun. So, I think I have a lot of feelings, but I also really analyze my feelings quite a bit and that probably comes through in my music, I would imagine, because I think making music for me is a means of trying to understand myself and trying to understand the world. My rising is Scorpio rising, which I definitely think is present. My best friend who’s right over there, the other day, was joking that my scorpio rising is something very, very present, but I think it comes out most when I’m on stage. That’s my big three!

Listen to Ha Vay’s album ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE on Spotify or Apple Music and stay updated on Instagram for future gigs and music releases. 

Ha VayInstagram TikTok | YouTube | BandCamp | Spotify | Apple Music

Article by: Erika Nunez

Photos By: Astro


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