Eves Karydas chats the ‘Complicated’ story behind her latest single

Mental health, heritage, and a dream that no one should ever experience: the story behind Eves Karydas’ latest single is inspiring, to say the least. We caught up with the artist herself to break it down.

Eves Karydas (a.k.a. Hannah Karydas) is an artist speaking life into the shining walls of pop. Ever since her 2017 debut, the Brisbane singer/songwriter has been crafting songs that burst with all shades of life; the vibrant, the agonising, the inspiring. Her latest single sees this sensitivity develop even further. 

Where her past work would elevate nuance through neon synth, Complicated refrains; championing solitary guitar melodies that speak directly to the singer’s current mind frame. Poignant, considered, but still an addictive beat, the track highlights Karydas’ ability to convey fleeting and massive moments through melody. Still fresh of the release, we caught up with the artist herself to break down the track, her inspirations, and the journey that went into making her most formidable single yet.

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HAPPY: Hey Hannah, congrats on the new single!

HANNAH: Thank you so much.

HAPPY: How does it feel to have it out there?

HANNAH: It’s great. I mean, it’s more than I expected to get. I thought the song was really special, but you never know how things are going to go. Releasing music during COVID was extra nerve-wracking. So, oddly the song, even though it was written prior to all this, it fits what’s going on in this really weird, perverted way. So, I don’t know, I think it’s going really awesome. I’m completely blown away.

HAPPY: Yeah, I totally picked up on that too. I was like; wow, your whole message of finding positivity in the hardest of times is really perfect for right now.

HANNAH: Yeah. Very odd.

HAPPY: How long ago did you record it?

HANNAH: It was finished off last year. So, late last year we finished it all off in Stockholm.

HAPPY: Yeah, wow. Well, you’ve got a really amazing backstory behind the song. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

HANNAH: Yeah, well, most of last year I was overseas, hopping between Sweden, L.A., and London. I was just riding from day to day, living life, I was having maybe a bit too much of a good time [laughs]. Was maybe forgetting that I was supposed to be working, which is a recipe for disaster. I got to this point where suddenly it felt like this amazing trip just got really dark and I was really stressed, homesick, had writer’s block and I was in Stockholm and it all started to manifest in these crazy dreams that my teeth were falling out. That was the first thing that I sort of woke up that morning after having that dream and I was like; this is just silly at this point, I need to go and stop feeling sorry for myself, go into the studio. I felt really inspired and energised. And I went in with Calle [Lehmann] and Max [Thulin], who are just total legends and similar age to me, just living life, you know, doing the same sorts of things. Music is a really fun, dream-like career but it’s also so far away from reality that you end up like feeling like you can lose touch with yourself. Yeah, it was nice to connect with them on that level. And yeah, we wrote Complicated that day. It was all very quick.

HAPPY: Do your songs usually take a bit of work where you’re having to tinker with them? Was this is a bit of a different experience?

HANNAH: I mean, on my first record, I think Further Than the Planes Fly was another song that just happened super quickly. But I think once I put that record out, it took me a really long time to have that experience again. Complicated started to inspire this whole new direction for me, which was what I was looking for ever since I put that album out. Like, how do I move past those songs I love so much? Obviously, as an artist, you grow and develop and I found myself just wanting to be really direct and have my lyrics front and centre. The road I took on Complicated; there’s no synths on it, there is no escaping the lyrics [laughs]. So, that’s kind of been my motto moving forwards.

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HAPPY: Did you feel that you had a bit more freedom in the studio after releasing your debut album?

HANNAH: Yes and no. It’s kind of because that album did nice things for me and Further Than the Planes Fly did really well. So, you kind of live with a lot of stress after. Like oh man, how do I… that song meant so much to me! How do I top that like on a personal level? But I think because I didn’t put pressure on myself to do anything super quickly after the record, I was able to find my feet and find something that inspired me rather than just pumping stuff out.

HAPPY: Yeah, which is probably the best way to do it, hey? Like, you had a change of scenery, change of pace.

HANNAH: Totally. Like I said, I spent so much time overseas and last year was the first time I’d really spent time working in Sweden. I just found the energy of the people over there who work in music so inspiring and they’re very like-minded. The Swedish are quite similar to Australians in that they’re like; don’t be too much, don’t be too little, a pretty dark sense of humour [laughs]. It’s good. It’s a really nice environment for me, kind of like I found my people.

HAPPY: Yeah for sure. Were you listening to a lot of Swedish artists while you were over there?

HANNAH: Not too much. I was really regressive last year, I just listened to folk music which is my background. That’s how I got started and all this when I was like 13/14, listening to like Joni Mitchell and playing acoustic guitar and busking and stuff. Even though my sound has sort of moved past that, my preference for listening is still… like, when I get my Spotify roundups at the end of the year it’s always like Phoebe Bridgers and Kacey Musgraves, last year at least. Oh, I just I love it so much, I found their records really inspiring.

HAPPY: How good were they! Do you find your folk inspirations coming out in your music, even though you’ve got this really pop-aligned sound?

HANNAH: Well, I think it’s been a journey for me over the last six years. I think it’s just been this full-on journey of getting to this point where I figured out how to mesh those singer-songwriter roots which is all very confessional and about storytelling, mixing that with my obsession with pop music. So, in Complicated, for example, Complicated wouldn’t sound like that if it weren’t for me being like; nope, take everything out of it. Just have guitar and these weird little sounds. Yeah, it’s all about the storytelling and that’s why I love Taylor Swift. Like, far out, I’ve been listening to her album non-stop. Like, holy shit, it’s so good.

HAPPY: It’s been quite a hit, hey?

HANNAH: Oh, I just keep listening to it and I’m like, we’re not worthy [laughs].

HAPPY: We need to bow down.

HANNAH: Yeah, she’s one of the greats.

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HAPPY: Speaking of T. Swift, what I found really interesting about your music is the way you’re able to unravel these deep moments under really upbeat sounds. I know for some artists they do that as a way to kind of counterbalance the deeper elements with the more positive elements when they’re writing a song. Is that the same for you?

HANNAH: Yeah, I think with the themes in Complicated, it being about things being a bit shit, I didn’t want it to feel preachy at all. So, it was really important for me to keep it shadowed in those feelings, rather than like; things are really complicated, but don’t forget to smile! It wouldn’t hit the same way. I was talking about it last night actually, just saying how that’s often the best therapy, just acknowledging that you’re feeling a certain way. For me personally, last year when I was travelling around, I just kept pushing all of those negative feelings to the side and just ignoring them until it reached a head. That’s what I decided to face it front on and that’s what I wanted to do with this song as well. It sort of went hand in hand with me facing my mental health for the first time in… probably for the first time in my life I looked at it seriously and was like, alright, I need to stop ignoring this stuff. Because, even though I’m laughing at myself for feeling sorry for myself, if you’re feeling bad, there’s always a reason and you should always take that seriously.

HAPPY: Definitely. You also recently spoken out about the influence of your heritage in your music. Is Complicated also significant for you in that regard?

HANNAH: Yes, so my Pappous, my Greek grandfather, he grew up in Greece during the Second World War and served in the military. Then after the war, there’s no jobs left in the Mediterranean and Australia was inviting these people from southern Europe to come over and work in like farming jobs. So, he got on a boat and immigrated here by himself when he was my age. There’s like a stoicism to him that I’ve always wished I could embody, but there’s no way I will ever embody that unless I go through what he went through. It’s always been very inspiring. And when he passed away, it hit me harder than I thought it would. I just started ruminating on that a lot when I was overseas last year. I couldn’t go to his funeral and then it just like simmered in my brain for months and months and it ended up just like; oh my God, why am I complaining about stuff? I didn’t have to grow up during the war. It’s like I said before, everyone has their own battles but it just was a bit of a perspective check for me.

HAPPY: Has the experience of releasing a track during COVID changed your perspective on music or releasing at all?

HANNAH: It’s been a real mindfuck. Figuring out how to reach people and make fans feel seen… well, it’s actually been pretty easy on the Internet to do that. But yeah, it’s the same with everyone in the music industry right now. Like, you put so much hard work into this industry, this job, and this line of work. It’s that same old thing of like nothing is an overnight success, even if it looks like it is. When it hit, I was just so stressed; is all my hard work going to pay off or is it just going to fall into this nether world? I was sort of lucky because I got all my assets, my videoclip, and photos done just before, so I was able to present the song the way I would have anyway. But yeah, just without doing the promo, it was pretty strange and I think it’s given the song a different trajectory. Maybe this is what it was always supposed to do? Like we said earlier, it just being weirdly relevant and it’s like finding its people. I’m amazed, especially now that it’s like all over commercial radio right here. I’ve never even been played on commercial radio, absolute childhood dream. So yeah, I’m really stoked.

HAPPY: Aw that’s so exciting, congratulations! Was there anything else that you’ve got in the works at the moment? I know you’ve been doing a lot of virtual gigs and performances…

HANNAH: Yeah, I did a Zoom thing last night with some fans and that was just so sweet. I was worried about performing on Zoom, you have to get the sounds right, because your computer microphone is picking it up and it’s like, oh, man, I just want to make sure it sounds good. Then I went into it and it was actually just so wholesome and beautiful. Everyone here is so nice and it’s so important to be able to like connect with the lovely people who like my song, I think we all have a very similar way of doing life. That’s what I like about this job. It’s like a big club.

HAPPY: That’s so cute!

HANNAH: It was very sweet. I hope to do more. But what else am I figuring out? We’re starting to talk about when to put some shows on. I know that won’t be until next year. But it’s nice to talk about it at least.

HAPPY: Thank you so much for the chat!

HANNAH: That’s okay, thank you so much! I really appreciate you wanting to talk to me.

Complicated is available now. Grab it here.