Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?'

Interview Wasia Project: Yearning Difficulties

William G. Hardy and his sister Olivia Hardy are tackling growing pains with Wasia Project, an alt-pop musical outlet that’s wise beyond its years.

“There’s always a bittersweet tinge of sadness and nostalgia with change and growing,” begins Olivia Hardy. “That’s just what we’re experiencing right now.” “I completely agree with Olivia, it’s where we are in our lives,” her older brother William G. Hardy chimes in. “Our generation in particular, with social media and news, there’s a lot of weight going on that perhaps generations before were not exposed to as much. The rate of change for young people today is much more intense than it was. Everything’s moving a lot quicker.”

As Wasia Project, 19-year-old Olivia and 21-year-old Will write jazz-inflected alt pop filled with unfulfilled desires and yearnings – but for what? The siblings have already had their first brush with fame; Will portrays Heartstopper’s Tao Xu, and Wasia Project have since soundtracked the show’s key cliffhanger with their song ‘ur so pretty’. They’re certainly not lacking in style, either, as they file into the AWAL offices to speak with DIY: Olivia dons effortlessly trendy flares, while Will lounges in a chair wearing a smart suit.

But the siblings are just leaving their teens, and they’re undeniably going through growing pains. Wasia Project is their way of dealing with those knotty feelings. “It’s always a way of getting that out and putting it into sound,” says Olivia. “Expressing something that you can’t have, but want.”

Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?' Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?' Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?'

“There’s such a connectedness between us two as siblings and as fellow artists.” - William G. Hardy

Yearning began early for the pair, who grew up in Croydon with “chill” but “chaotic” parents who encouraged their children to travel and explore. “There’s a chaos to Mum and Dad,” Will admits, as his sister laughs: “She was a party animal!”. Their mum, he explains, grew up in post-Cultural Revolution Beijing during the ‘80s, when China was “just beginning to open up”. Wham! became the first Western pop act to visit the country, and disco infiltrated the culture, turning their mum into “a complete rebel”.

“She left for the UK when she was 23,” he continues. “I’m 21 now and I can’t begin to imagine packing my bags and saying, ‘I’m going on my own halfway across the world to start something new’. I found that energy so inspiring in Mum – adventurous, rebellious, and full of energy.”

The siblings inherited that lust for life, and grew up around plenty of dancing and “a lot of high-energy play”. Their childhood also foreshadowed their eventual creative ambitions. “Back when we were really young, there was this coffee table – it was like a stage to us,” Olivia reminisces. “We’d always put on silly outfits and random clothes, and we’d get up on the stage and do our own little performance.” “I genuinely think when we’re on tour, there’s some kind of inner energy that we try to source from those days,” adds Will. “There’s such a connectedness between us two as siblings and as fellow artists.”

That connection reverberates in the music of Wasia Project, which blends Olivia’s rich, earthy vocals with Will’s sophisticated arrangements. Olivia, a “super fan” of Billie Eilish, evokes her delicate, swooning phrasing as she croons: “I’m falling under your love / Can’t forget the way that it was” on last year’s ‘My Lover Is Sleeping’. Will’s love for classic jazz, meanwhile, amplifies the nostalgic qualities of their music, inspired partially by their father’s own sonic tastes.

“Our dad’s [from the] late ‘60s, so there’s that classic-ness to his tastes from when he was in his twenties, plus his love of jazz and Frank Sinatra,” he explains. “You know the era of the ‘70s when it was a really interesting place for songwriting? I’ve gone back on Spotify to ‘70s playlists and wow – it’s just so different now.”

Meanwhile, Olivia infuses Will’s retro aesthetics with her own observations of entering into her next decade, professing her desire to hold onto her memories while she can. “I’m very wary of staying present and grateful because otherwise it just goes by so fast,” she notes. “Even just coming home yesterday, it’s crazy how the memories from right now feel nostalgic. Why does taking my dog for a walk feel nostalgic? It’s so strange.”

Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?' Wasia Project on sibling dynamics, Heartstopper and latest single 'Is This What Love Is?'

“Representation [in TV and film] is really not great, so I feel some kind of solace in how healthy it is in the music space.” - William G. Hardy

There’s another element of longing that can be found within their name, too: the desire to be seen and represented. Wasia Project are part of an generation of Asians becoming increasingly visible in alternative music – a fact made especially clear when looking at the line-up for this year’s All Points East. On the day that Japanese-American legend Mitski will headline, Wasia Project will join Beabadoobee, Towa Bird and shoegaze newcomer Wisp on the bill. “I didn’t see the lineup until everyone else did, and I was like, ‘No way!’” grins Olivia.

Notably, Will adds: “It doesn’t feel like diversity checking. At the end of the day, the music will prevail and lead the way. It’s so wonderful to see such a beautiful array of music and artists in one day. I just hope I’m going to get to see everyone…”

Festivals can curate a lineup genuinely representative of indie kids’ tastes, but TV and film still struggle to represent modern British society. Will agrees that in music, representation is “more open, more forward-thinking and less tied up in the past” compared to TV and film. “Especially in the UK,” he notes. “Representation is really not great, to be honest. I’ve been very lucky to have played the roles I have done. At the same time, I’ve really observed the difficulties and the challenges and the behind-ness of it all. So I definitely feel some kind of solace in how healthy and refreshing representation in the music space is.”

The duo have just written their new concept EP, of which recent song ‘Is This What Love Is?’ acts as its first single. They’re justifiably excited about the release, which they explain revolves around a character, formed in part by the siblings’ desire for privacy. “Olivia sometimes says, ‘I wish we didn’t have to be seen. I wish it was just the music’,” says Will.

Is it possible this character is a creative protection against the intense attention brought by Heartstopper fans? Will says carefully: “I think it can be seen as that. I definitely think our fans are very understanding of what we’re trying to do – this is the music, not what I had for breakfast this morning or what Olivia is gonna have for dinner. It’s about art.”

Next, the pair will embark on a tour supporting fellow jazz-pop star Laufey throughout America, which they call a “privilege”. Will recently starred in her music video for ‘Goddess’, directed by Past Lives’ Celine Song: “I flew out to New York and it was great to work with her in a different lens,” he smiles. “Working with [Laufey] as an actor was really cool – just really honoured.”

But nestled within their memories of a recent European tour, you can see the moments where all of Wasia Project’s yearnings are starting to become their realities. It was Olivia’s first time exploring the continent, and she recalls a memory of playing at The Hall in Zürich. It was a tough gig; an unexpected heat wave, where three of their fans fainted during the show. Olivia, stepping outside the venue to catch some fresh air from the chaos, came upon what she calls “paradise”.

“It was this field with long grass and buttercups. You look, and it’s the Alps and mountains. I was like, ‘This is mental’,” she smiles. “There was this beautiful little house right next door. After the gig, I saw them getting logs and making a fire. It was just so peaceful.”

‘Is This What Love Is?’ is out now via AWAL.

Tags: Wasia Project, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the May 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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