HOWQUA – Naked

Back in November, a supporting act for Little May took the stage at the intimate Newtown Social Club. And as the first performer of the night, the crowds slowly rolled in and took their seat (like they were sitting down on the floor) towards the back if they could ( I admit it was strange but it did add that level of informality).

Without  trying to look too keen I continually tried to inch forward, encouraging my friend to do the same. Deep inside I had this strong urge to move to the empty front to watch this guy’s performance – with the equally alluring accompaniment on keys – as they gained momentum in their heartbreaking folk-rock balladry.


Melbourne’s folk/electronic HOWQUA has a heavy heart. His ability to sonically and lyrically express these emotions makes him compelling and relatable.

After announcing his name several times throughout his gig, I failed dismally to hear it. How who? Howwa? Hakka? How quaint. It wasn’t one of those names you could type in Google search just knowing the smallest information to give you a list of suggestions. And so the story goes I did not know who this singer was for over a month. And sure, it dawned on me many times. That audacious voice. The man with the scruffy beard with the big heart.

You’re probably thinking, “Why didn’t you just look up the supporting acts for Little May?” You have a point there, but the good news is I solved the mystery of the nameless man. HOWQUA * ‘qua’ musician who released his debut EP later in the year, is an exciting edition to the electronic folk scene – this vulnerable, raw, patient, intense storyteller has an exciting future ahead of him.

HOWQUA’s debut EP was released in Australia and New Zealand November last year (remember folks it’s 2015!). With Melbourne producers Hayden Calnin and mixed by Tim Carr ( Matt Corby, The Herd) at Studios 301 in Sydney. With a sound that experiments with folk/ rock/ electronica, HOWQUA swings between moments of quiet, drawn out reflection, to unstoppable, atmospheric chaoses of emotion.

A confounded 6-track EP of painful yet painstaking blows to the chest with its heavy beats. You are constantly left on the edge as any moment this man who spills his guts with every note could just break down, but instead he takes strength in weakness to help him sing or strike his instrumentals much more vehemently – emotion can wreck us into a fragile mess, or with careful control it can be our drive to not fall in a trap that we don’t deserve.

Lyrically, Time remains clear and honest, exploring a theme we all know to be true but don’t stop enough to contemplate – very relatable. Technically, this track is a perfect example of HOWQUA’s cross genre and ability to create a deep sense of space amongst the layers of noise. My Mindset captures what powerful stadium rock would sound like if it was performed by a lone man and  confined to a smaller setting; modestly restrained to not stray away from the focus of HOWQUA’s vocals, who despite outstanding instrumentals, remains the artist’s priceless asset. Expect the elements of these two track in the rest of the EP.

Coming away from a successful debut EP release and supporting Little May on their tour, 2015 remains a time for lesser known acts to gain the recognition they’ve been working towards, HOWQUA is one of them.

* The name HOWQUA was inspired by the name of his grandparent’s investment property in Howqua River. It is also the place where the ashes of his loved ones have been spread. How beautifully poignant.