Hype Machine's “Popular” charts are a reflection of which artists and songs are the most blogged about on the net. So when Oakland-based singer Hazel English's latest track “Fix,” peaked in the top spot earlier this month, it was a big deal.
“It's exciting..pretty euphoric. You just want people to connect with your music,” the Australian-born English said as we stood in a crowded bar in San Francisco.
English came to the Bay Area two years ago to study creative writing, but music was always been at her core. She played the tuba-like euphonium in her high school concert band back in Australia, which when looking at the maybe 5-foot tall singer, with straight-dark hair and features, tight jeans and doc martens boots as her base, is comical imagery to say the least. But now, when listening to the dreamy guitars and lo-fi ooh-ahh vocals of “Fix,” she seems to be right where she belongs.
English's debut single, “Never Going Home,” is a beautifully crafted pop song that makes you sink deeper into your mattress and stare at the ceiling, as the Bay Area indian summer sun's rays peek through the blinds.
“I've always preferred music that’s soothing and dreamy,” English admits. The track has already garnered more than 340,000 soundcloud plays and another quarter million spins on YouTube, where it was premiered by indie-tastemakers Majestic Casual and English is quickly building that powerfully twee fan-base of millennials. “Someone said to me 'Your music helped me get through my week!' And that's awesome cause you can be self-indulgent at times. So it makes me happy to see other people getting something out if and relating.”
If Hazel English's style is reminiscent of fellow-Oaklander Day Wave's beach-comber vibe, it's because Day Wave's Jackson Phillips produced it. The pair met at Oakland's Book/Shop — where English works part-time — that has become an artist hub of sorts in the Oakland indie scene. They started collaborating and Hazel English's music is a direct result of their chance-encounter. “I'm a fatalist,” she says of the way they serendipitously met.
Two artists, both on their own upward trajectories and both living in Oakland. Dare I say that there's a viable Bay Area indie scene bubbling up and getting legit national attention? Where it seemed like just two years ago, the prevalent sentiment in the local music community, was that with “garage rock moving out of SF”, the scene was, well, dead. But here's a show of promise in Oakland, with San Francisco shows lined up. In fact, English just opened for Small Black and Painted Palms at the Independent last weekend and along with her 4-piece band, joins Eleanor Friedberger at Wood Shoppe SF's monthly event at Brick & Mortar next Tuesday (11/3).
Each of Hazel English's three singles have popped off in the blogosphere, but she has a focused approach for the road ahead. “It makes you feel some pressure and a bar is set,” she admits. “Feeling like every song has to be good. But that’s destructive to your creative side, so I try not to dwell on it. And I use that to write more songs. I just want to keep learning and pushing my own limits.”
She sips her cider and in her noticeable Aussie accent, keeps waxing on what's been an unexpected year of internet success: “I was so unprepared when it began, but that's been the story of my life… not looking for things. Let go and the important things will happen. If you were always prepared for things that happened, you wouldn't learn anything.”
Hazel English at Wood Shoppe SF, Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St. Tuesday, Novermber 3rd at 8 p.m. FREE