Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: SUBROSA [Levi Hanna (bass)]
“To play Hellfest is very humbling and honoring”
Levi Hanna – January 22, 2017
How the hell are you, sir?
You’ve had… A hell of a year…
It’s been a crazy year, I lost my wife, that was a huge bummer. I started sky diving a lot too. It’s been a roller coaster of a year and Subrosa has done a bunch of touring and released a new album so that was awesome.
To what extent did the personal drama impact the music?
I think it impacted us all a little bit. Various members were more or less close to her. When Psycho (Las Vegas) happened there were a lot of emotions going on and it impacted our emotions and the band dynamic quite a bit. We had to work through a lot of stuff but we used that to our advantage.
How do you feel about the band dynamic of Subrosa right now?
We’re tight. We’re a family unit. Everyone has a role in the band, is happy with their role and knows where they fit. I’m bass player number nine or something like that but they all say it’s their favorite lineup. It seems to work.
Something I’ve always enjoyed about you is that Subrosa was your favorite band before you joined, what did it feel like to get that call?
I used to go to all of the shows and just hang out. Andy used to record my other band so when they decided they wanted me in the band Andy the girls he wanted to be the one to ask me. He said “I know you’re in a bunch of bands but do you want to be in one more?” and I thought it was for his band Oxcross – not Subrosa! I was hesitant but when he said it was Subrosa I immediately cleared it with my wife. I was in a state of shock for a while.
What initially attracted you to Subrosa?
The emotions behind the music. They know how to convey emotions in ways that lots of bands don’t. The songwriting is pretty simple, especially my bass parts. It’s not challenging to play but there’s an emotion behind it that we try to emphasize over technical performance.
How do you tap into those emotions?
I don’t know how to answer that. That’s something we naturally do. We write what we are feeling and that’s what happens.
So you just are sad?
(laughter) Yeah! I don’t have the nickname Eeyore for nothing.
How did you get that nickname?
Just by being a Debbie Downer!
Tell me about your Hellfest 2014 experience…
That was crazy. It was my first time playing overseas and only my fifth show with Subrosa. We got to Hellfest and we were soundchecking and there was like ten people kind of camped out in the biggest space we had ever played. I thought no one cared and it would be a bus but then we came back out and it was packed and everyone was totally into it. It was the biggest show we had ever played and it was an intense and magical experience. It was awesome all around. The festival is run really well. To play is very humbling and honoring. I’m not quite sure what to make of it but it’s awesome.
Now that you’ve done the doom festival circuit, how does Hellfest compare?
It’s one of the more well ran festival and in terms of the people it’s the biggest we’ve ever played. It’s a lot of fun to hang out with all of our friends. It definitely is well run compared to other festivals we played and they treated us right.
Do you want to tell me some horror stories?
I don’t know if I have any horror stories. It’s just rough sometimes because things aren’t very well organized and we have to figure things out on the fly. I like it when things are laid out and we know what we are going to do.
In this coming year you have you’re playing Roadburn and Maryland Deathfest and a one-off in Brooklyn and playing Hellfest. Is Hellfest the highlight or is it all a highlight at this point?
Everything will be a highlight for different reasons. We are doing something special at Roadburn so that will be cool. We’ve never played Maryland Deathfest so that will be a highlight too and Hellfest is of course special on its own.
Can you tell me more about the special subdued set you are doing at Roadburn?
It’s not acoustic, we don’t play acoustic instruments but it’s mellow. That’s why we call it subdued. We revisit old songs and play them mellow and have a different take on things. We are writing some new songs for the subdued set but I don’t think we will have them ready for Roadburn.
What was the inspiration behind that?
Rebecca has been doing stuff like that for years and it started with just her but it turned into the full band doing it. I think it came from some solo stuff she did just for fun when Subrosa couldn’t play.
What’s your role in all of it?
Rebecca writes all of the songs I just kind of construct my parts around it. I try to find what works and what doesn’t.
What I wanted to get at with you was that there would be new songs in the subdued set, will there be a subdued record in the future?
We’ve talked about that, whether or not it will happen remains to be seen. I don’t even know what to say about it because I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about it!
Subrosa has a superfan appeal, why do you think that is?
For the same reason Subrosa was my favorite band before I joined. People connect with Subrosa on a deeper level .We are far more emotionally driven than other bands and that’s why we have superfans. It’s kind of weird to have people like that sometimes. I don’t know how to comprehend it. I never thought I would be doing the things I’m doing now in music much less having avid fans of my band. It’s weird.
How do you feel about the general reception of the new record (For This We Fought the Battle of Ages – 2016) ?
I honestly haven’t paid that much attention to it with everything else that is going on. I haven’t read any of the reviews but what I have seen is that it has been received really well. I don’t think there has been any harsh criticism and that feels good. People connect!
What attracts you to skydiving?
I’m on my 163rd jump at this point so it’s no longer about the adrenaline for me. It’s more about living in the moment. When you are free falling you switch modes. For that minute of free fall I don’t have to worry about anything else in life. That’s what keeps me going. There’s a whole community around the sport that ends up being more like family than friends. We have a good support system there and people are totally stoked to live life. It’s a positive environment.
You were raised Mormon but left the religion later on, is the need for a support system derived from that?
I think everyone needs a support system. For me going through everything with my wife I basically lived at the drop zone. I don’t have any family in town outside of Subrosa and my skydiving family.
What do you love so much about music?
It’s an emotional release for me. I connect with things emotionally and that’s why I connected with Subrosa as a band. I’ve always tried to write emotionally driven music. It’s just my outlet.
Interview: Matt Bacon.