by Chris Bryson
Through the use of her loop pedal and violin, Hannah Epperson has created a sound that’s classical yet modern, lustrous yet mournful, and altogether haunting in its charm. Her newest album, Upsweep, is a sweeping rush of emotion and sound, an aural escape into the deepening reaches of Epperson’s enchanting mind, a genre-defying mix of pearly-eyed, post-apocalyptic pop.The Salt Lake City native, who moved to Vancouver when she was 14 with her folks and now resides in New York, has been playing the violin since she was 6 years old. The path to where she is now has been filled with a vast array of inspiration but hasn’t been without its difficulties. But Hannah and her music, and the characters that inhabit the spaces she’s created for them, have all be growing along the way.
Epperson learned how to play with a loop pedal while busking while living in Berlin. “It was pretty cheap living in Berlin so I could get away with busking three or four times a month to pay for rent,” explains Epperson. “So I did that a lot. I would plug my violin into a loop pedal and then play it through a battery-powered amp under bridges in Berlin.”
After returning from Berlin back to Vancouver and finishing university Epperson says she began playing a lot of little tiny café gigs experimenting with songwriting and “not taking it too seriously but not being able to not do it” either. “So organically over time I had a small repertoire of songs,” Epperson says. “And I graduated from university and like a lot of people who graduated with degrees in the humanities I didn’t really have a direct plan of action so music kind of filled that space. It really came out of a deep love.”
“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by really wonderful musicians in my life that have brought alive that world for me,” explains Epperson. “I don’t think I necessarily would have arrived there on my own. But the people who played and created music around me were usually innovative, exciting people. So that became a really lively realm to participate in.”
Community is very important to Epperson. “People think that the big mission in life is to discover themselves,” she says, “but I think the way that you do that effectively is through participating in bigger projects with other people.”
Over the course of her career as a musician with learning how to use and experiment with her violin, Epperson eventually learned how to use her own voice as an instrument as well, and although she’s “still uncomfortable with it,” she says she’s now “comfortable with that discomfort,” and that it takes getting more comfortable with your own voice (whatever that voice may be) in order to learn and know what it’s all about.
“I feel aware of my edges, like the edges of what I’m comfortable doing and now that those are really defined, I can push into them,” explains Epperson. “I think knowing or feeling really aware of what all of the edges of your abilities are and having an intimate knowledge of what that contour is, it enables you to exist inside of it fully.”
Finding meaning in life and in her music is something that Epperson has at times had to strive and fight for, nevertheless she seems to have gotten to a place where she’s found stable ground and solace in the knowledge that despite what life might sometimes try to say, there is always meaning to all this.
“There’s a lot of moments in life where I feel halted by the potential for everything to just be meaningless. And knowing what that feels like or feeling aware of the possibility for things to feel meaningless makes me feel very fierce about fighting to make meaning, because we have the capacity to. It’s a really crazy thing to be alive. It’s really wild. And I take it seriously,” Epperson says with warmth and earnestness. “I lost a person that was my closest person in the world. He was my brother. And he was a really creative force. And I felt the loss of that life really profoundly. And it makes me feel this huge responsibility to live a big, full, meaning-filled life.”
Epperson finds much of that meaning in the connections she makes with fans and the connection her music creates with others.
“I feel like if I started making music that didn’t translate to something or that didn’t hold space for people to have a meaningful personal experience, I wouldn’t do it,” explains Epperson. “It’s a big thing to have people meet halfway to receive music or anything in this life, to receive any kind of energy or effort; it’s always a meeting in between. I feel always full of awe and so much gratitude that I have a tool that I have been gifted with to be able to communicate something that people respond to, because I benefit a lot from feeling that connection too.”
In a kind of continuation to her most recent record, Upsweep, Epperson has been working on the second volume to her “Iris and Amelia project.” Iris and Amelia are characters in a screenplay she had been writing that was stolen from Epperson’s touring vehicle while she was in Portugal. Iris and Amelia are also the terms in which Epperson describes the dichotomy of the songs on Upsweep, and are also the “divergent voicings” through which Epperson expresses herself throughout the record (more on this can be found on Epperson’s Upsweep bandcamp page). She now sees the experience of losing her screenplay in more positive light.
“It’s fine because all of the characters exist very intimately in my mind. I know them really well now,” explains Epperson. “I think I was going through a bit of a hard time in my life when that story almost appeared as a way for me to structure the way that I was feeling about a lot of things, including the loss of my brother. So those characters, the space of that narrative and the characters in it, I think exists now for me almost as this alternate reality where I can go and consider things that I am having a hard time maybe addressing in a head-on way. The nature of the characters has shifted over time, just as real people do, and my relationships with the characters has changed. But at some point I will pin them down to the page again, and I really want to be able to explore and share that world.”