There’s a satisfying sense of things falling into place within Sydney-born, Oakland-dwelling dream pop talent Hazel English’s story.
Born in the rural outskirts of one of Australia’s largest cities, the singer led a culturally-isolated youth, learning covers of her favourite bands (The Smiths and The Cranberries among them) in her bedroom in lieu of having the bandmates to join her and waiting until she turned 18 to be able to trek into the city for shows.
Deciding to move to San Francisco to embark on a writing degree, things took a turn for the better. “In Australia I always felt different and I felt like a misfit,” she says. “I didn’t feel like a part of the culture, but in San Francisco there’s a real strength in being yourself - being a strong individual and being noticed for that - and I didn’t feel weird anymore.” But it was while travelling that Hazel found the place that would become home.
“I’m not a surfer or a girl who’s going to go and sunbathe. For whatever reason, British music was very influential for me."
— Hazel English
During a stint around Europe, Mexico and the US she happened to pass through the Bay Area and felt such a “hunch” that she moved there on a whim. “There was a vibe I couldn’t explain and I just moved on a gut feeling,” she admits. From there, English became friends with Jackson Philips, aka Day Wave, who co-wrote early single ‘Never Going Home’ with her. She then slowly ensconced herself within the area’s musical scene. “I feel like I really thrive here and a lot of that has to do with the people that I get to collaborate with and the fact that everyone supports each other,” she enthuses. “It makes a huge difference.”
Even her surname feels like a sign. Having grown up on a diet of The Cure, The Doors and the aforementioned Smiths, Hazel’s Anglophilic tendencies seemed pre-destined from the start. “I didn’t feel like I could relate to the people in Sydney that much,” she says. “I’m not a surfer or a girl who’s going to go and sunbathe. For whatever reason, British music was very influential for me. I think maybe the Australian weather didn’t suit my personality..."
"When I’m writing songs I want them to be genuine."
— Hazel English
Thankfully, she’s now found a place that suits her down to a tee. In the gauzy vocals of ‘It’s Not Real’ to the sad, sparkling synths of ‘I’m Fine’, her tracks take up the dream pop mantle of her peers and situate it in the kind of personal, intimate space that comes from a lifetime spent finding where you make sense. “I started writing a sci-fi novel, but I’ve never finished it,” she says of her previous literary forays. “All my lyrics now come from my journals. When I’m writing songs I want them to be genuine and to come from my own emotions, so it didn’t feel right to write about someone else that doesn’t exist.”
Surrounded by her Oakland peers and pals, with an album set for 2017 and the kind of timeless sound that already feels like home, Hazel English’s own life is going more than well enough to justify documentation.
Photo: Julie Juarez
Taken from the November 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.