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Meet Hannah Park of Shiro

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hannah Park.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am an Asian-American non-binary musician (any pronoun) that had their start in music at the age of five. I didn’t really have any interest in music at first. It was kind of a forced thing. My mom urged me to play piano, so I ended up having a foundation in classical music. I learned to love music over time as it became a great source of emotional refuge for me. I came from a turbulent family background and experienced some childhood abuse by a former family friend which greatly shaped my life and made me afraid to have close relationships with people for a very long time. I used to be a very extroverted child, but the abuse made me very quiet, to the point people thought that I was mute by the time I entered first grade.

What I lost in speech, I gained in the ability to listen. Classical music still didn’t move me, but the contemporary music around me started to make sense as an expression of deep emotion. Music became the only thing that really seemed to inspire me or make me excited. I had a variety of people who informed my interests, such as my cousins who introduced me to hip hop when I was a child, and my dad who loved classic rock and blues and it helped me build connections with them. I discovered alternative rock music in my preteens and later punk and indie music when I was a teenager. These genres really gave me an outlet to vicariously express my anger over my home life, but I did not ever think of engaging in solo performances or starting a band because I always felt it wasn’t a space that I was allowed to take up. I grew up in a conservative, primarily White area, so becoming a musician seemed out of the question for me. The only Asian musicians I knew growing up were ones overseas such as KPop musicians. I also considered Bjork as an inspiration not only because she was “weird” but she was also the most vaguely Asiatic singer I could think of the time, but obviously she wasn’t Asian so I couldn’t say there were any faces in the media that justified me becoming a musician either.

It wasn’t until I met my other band member (guitarist/bassist/producer) Steven Spillane (he/they) in 2011 that things started clicking. We had both just graduated from high school. We met at the party of a mutual friend who was going away for college and immediately hit it off and shortly started dating after a couple of weeks. It’s kind of funny to think about our conversations back then because he used to be in a different band for a few months when we first started dating. When that old band broke up, we joked we would never play music together because it would be weird and we wouldn’t want to mix romance with our creative expressions. After a few jam sessions, we started playing music together pretty regularly. Unfortunately, both he and I had some major mental health issues and family turbulence that kept us from using our time wisely. I was too unstable and depressed to ever consider myself even worthy of being a good person, let alone that I would be successful as a musician. I struggled with feeling good enough about my music, my appearance, nearly everything about myself. I am really surprised he stood by me as long as he has, and it’s their dedication to my musicianship and tenacity that has made me really believe in myself and try to do better. I got long-term therapy and did a lot of inner healing work, which made it possible to finally start taking things seriously and start performing in 2018. Since then, we have played many shows all over Southern California, done some incredible interviews, met some very amazing and talented bands, and released many loved singles and EPs. In 2019, we played a total of 49 shows, which translated to about 1.5 shows a week for the year! In that time, I still had a mean brain and I expected to be shunned and hated, but no one has been overtly mean to me. If anything, everybody has been really nice and seems to love the music which is wonderful. It really gave me a new perspective on my depression, how not every emotion is real, and how the brain can lie to you due to extended trauma. It’s best to observe those thoughts and let them go and to face those fears head on in order to fight back against the depression and negativity. Being vulnerable and playing music in front of a bunch of strangers can be overwhelming at times, and some people have been very negative even if they weren’t overtly mean, but doing something and not wallowing in sadness has made it feel like it’s worth it. It’s so much better than living in the bottomless pit which is depression.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road, not only because of mental health issues and life struggles as mentioned, but also because it took a long time to find a definitive sound. We’ve been a four-piece band at one point, with an analog sound, and are currently a synth duo, and getting to that point took a while. Steven and I both really love all different kinds of genres, mainly electronic/synth-based music and noisy rock music. Being in Los Angeles, you would think there would be a happy medium between the two, but so far, we haven’t really found a scene where the two are combined. We have stuck to this medium of combining both genres, and so far it’s paid off because being different makes us memorable, but it definitely makes it difficult to know where we stand. We end up playing with a lot of post-punk bands and synth-pop musicians because they are the most similar in our musical setup.

Even though it has been a bit difficult knowing where we stand, I am very grateful for all the musical experiences I’ve had. I am grateful to Steven Spillane and the community of Long Beach where we had our start and Los Angeles where we are currently. The band is very political and owes a lot to the communities for helping us get to where we are.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I specialize in being a synth wizard and for doing things all DIY with my partner in music! As Shiro, I believe we have a very synthy/electronic yet rock-influenced mashup of all different sounds Steven and I have loved growing up. We love 80s and 90s indie and synth-rock, along with R&B, IDM, and trap beats, and ambient/shoegaze sounds which we all try to blend into the music like a sonic smoothie. On our online presence, we are known for being political and community-oriented, while on stage, we’re known for crafting glitchy sounds from both the synth and guitar that can disorient the ear and make you unsure where all the noises are coming from. I’m most proud of the fact that we try to stay true to ourselves. and I think our willingness to experiment with sound is what sets us apart from others.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
When I was a kid, I used to be very impulsive and brave. I really had no concept of danger or desire to keep myself from anything new and novel. That changed when I experienced abuse from a family friend, and I became very angry and introverted. I remember being eight and suddenly wanting to shut myself off from the world and avoiding friends I used to play with in my neighborhood. Through much of my teen years, I was pretty self-destructive and not a pleasant person to be around. I remember being kind of an edgelord because it was cool with all the white kids at the time, and I remember trying to be the weirdest person possible to shun people away from ever getting close to me. I had friends that shared no similar interests, and I rarely ever talked about anything personal with them because it was easier. The only things I really cared about were music and art-related, and I seriously think if I didn’t have those, I would be dead by now. As an adult, I am reverting back to that childlike state of being open and honest with myself. I am working on being the bravest, most vulnerable person I can be.

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Image Credits:

All photo credits belong to: Steven ‘Stevo’ Rood, Danny Garcia, Andy Garcia Reyes, Steven Spillane

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