Tanukichan’s Hannah van Loon Discusses Her Debut LP And The Animal That Reflects Her “Tomboy Nature”

'Sundays', produced by Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi, is due July 13

tanukichan interview

Photo by Marcy Gant

Oakland multi-instrumentalist Hannah van Loon is gearing up to release her debut full-length as Tanukichan. The album of ethereal shoegaze is titled Sundays and it’s due July 13th. The album was produced by Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi; the two artists previously collaborated on Tanukichan’s 2016 EP Radiolove.

Dan Redding spoke with Hannah van Loon about the meaning behind her moniker, her appreciation of melody, and more. Watch Tanukichan’s video for ‘Lazy Love’ here and read our Tanukichan interview below:

Dan Redding: Where does the name Tanukichan come from?

Hannah van Loon: It’s Japanese. Tanuki is an animal that looks like a raccoon – but it’s not. It has this folklore around it. ‘Chan’ is something that you call little kids or friends. It’s an affectionate term that you put at the end of a name – I would be ‘Hannah-chan.’

What appealed to you about the tanuki?

It has qualities that resonated with me. The mythology around the animal is that it’s a shape-shifter and a trickster. It always has a bottle of sake and it likes to drink and party. [laughter] Also, it has these huge balls. I’ve always kind of done dude things, you know? It felt right. I was like, ‘Yes!’ This is for me and my tomboy nature.

[laughter] How is that tomboy nature or masculine energy represented in your music?

Maybe in the guitars and stuff. The vocals are pretty soft.

Can you give me an overview of your training or background as a musician?

I started playing piano when I was really young – probably about three years old. I started playing violin in elementary school. I played a ton of classical music all through high school. In high school, I picked up the guitar a little bit. That was really the beginning of my exposure to music outside of the classical world. I played some bluegrass – I was still playing violin but transitioning to other forms of music. Bluegrass, jazz a little bit – improvising and expanding that way.

What do you think is the impact of that background on the music that you make today?

I guess whatever skill I have: knowledge about chords and theory, and the ability to pick things up and teach myself. Also, I think playing violin and playing melodies a lot – that effects the music I make now the most, musically. I really like beautiful melodies. That kinda comes from playing violin for so many years.

What about the shoegaze genre? Has that always been a part of your life?

I think the shoegaze aspect is probably more of a Chaz influence in the sound. The rock element of shoegaze just resonates with me.

Let’s talk about that collaboration with Chaz. How did you guys start working together?

I had met him through some mutual friends in the music community here. At one point, I think he was wanting to work with other musicians and produce other records. He came out to one of my shows and was like, ‘Hey, let’s work together!’ I was like, ‘Cool! That’d be great.’

Then I did the first EP that I put out before this, two years ago. I think we both liked how it turned out so we decide to do another one.

tanukichan interview

Photo by Jacob Romero

How do you see the evolution from your EP to this full-length?

This one feels more cohesive and complete to me than the EP. The EP was done a little bit quicker, maybe. I’m still super proud of the EP though. This was a little more complete in its direction and sound. I think it’s a little bit more cohesive and a little bit softer. I think the drum machines really changed the sound and pulled everything together in a good way.

Were there any lyrical themes that you noticed while writing the album?

Lemme think … Well the first song, ‘Lazy Love,’ talks about daily life and apathy and purpose. Those kinds of meanings, and how that has a place in my life.

What’s one element of a song that has to be totally perfect before you’re satisfied?

The melody.

Your new album is called Sundays. What would be an ideal Sunday for you?

Probably just chillin’. [laughter] A late brunch, maybe mimosas or something. Hanging out on the roof. And then playing a bunch of music, later maybe.

What’s one thing in the Bay Area that you miss when you’re away?

The first time I went on tour, when we got back to North Oakland, I got out of the van, and I smelled the air, and it smelled like the ocean. I was just like, ‘Ahhh!’ It felt so good.

When someone comes to visit Oakland for the first time, where’s the first place you take them?

Maybe a walk around Lake Merritt.

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