Album review: HAVVK – To Fall Asleep

Black and white picture of people with straight faces sitting on chairs and two standing at the back with what appears to be drawn on eyes.

What did we do to deserve HAVVK? Because the grunge alt-rock maestros are back with their third album, “To Fall Asleep” and to say it’s a banger would be an understatement.

HAVVK (pronounced “hawk”) consists of Julie Hawk (lead vocals, bass), and Matt Harris (guitar, backing vocals, production). For To Fall Asleep, the band also contains Nigel Kenny (drums), previously of alt-rock band Bitch Falcon, who integrates into the band like the missing piece of a puzzle.

“He plays all our shows with us and he’s in all our rehearsals,” Matt says. “He’s a really important creative spark for us on the newer songs, ’cause he’s just got so much energy.

“He’s kind of led us in a slightly different direction with the sound on this record. It’s much more intense and energetic.”

Together, their blend of charged vocals, guitar-driven tracks, atmospheric basslines, and rumbling drums evoke a satisfying sense of nostalgia. To Fall Asleep occasionally echoes late ’90s/early ’00s alt-rock, yet HAVVK maintains their own distinctive sound, never feeling dated.

Woman (foreground) and man (background) in a round frame on a black background. Paper cutouts with eyes darwn on, cover their eyes.

“What keeps you awake at night?” This question is the central theme of the album.

“I keep saying that it’s not really an album about sleep,” says Julie. “It’s talking about the issues we care about through the lens of sleep. Like, ‘Why does that keep me awake at night?’ And what does it mean to be privileged enough to even have a roof over your head and a safe place to sleep when around us there’s people that are struggling, sleeping in tents.

The opening track and first single “Daylight Robbery” thrusts listeners into the album’s intent with thrashing guitars, thunderous drums, and Hawk’s punchy, Sleater-Kinney-tinged vocals.

Its accompanying video, creepy, featuring way too many people with paper eyes over their eyes, seems to portray society’s glare, judging, wanting you to fit in and get in line. Stylistically it’s like David Lynch.

“A massive influence on us [during the writing of the album],” says Matt, “was we watched a lot of David Lynch, who’s one of my favourite directors of all time. There’s nothing else I’ve watched that creates that sense of impending doom like David Lynch does, and I think that is something that we have always tried to do.

“We’re both huge fans of horror and things that get you to jump, get you to react, get you to feel uncomfortable. Spooky people. And it is stuff that we’ve tried to kind of always build into the visuals, but definitely on To Fall Asleep.”

Second track “Expiry” showcases HAVVK’s exceptional talent for catchy melodies and explosive choruses that you can’t get out of your head. “Expiry, expiry, young lady, young lady! Expiry, expiry, young lady, young lady, young man!” What was that, you say? A premonition. It’s what you’ll be singing for the next few weeks.

“Even though I’d written the lyrics a few years ago as a kind of a concept,” says Julie, “they never meant as much to me, because from my specific experience of what that song is about, it’s about this feeling of like having an age limit to what you can or should be doing at a certain point in your life. Obviously for me, that’s a certain point in your life as a woman, as a queer person, as a person in a band.”

With one of the most gorgeous breakdowns on the whole album. “White Noise” talks of that unwanted voice, an inner demon if you will, that you can’t ignore. No matter what you do, it won’t go away. “That voice it won’t leave you alone, white noise, it won’t cancel it out” as the chorus screams.

To Fall Asleep’s haunting title track opens with a deep bassline; the strum of guitars begins; in the background ghost-like whispers can be heard, becoming clearer as a rumbling drum creeps in. “The world will still be here tomorrow,” they say before it all erupts.

“I imagine that track is you’re driving along and you’re going the wrong way”, says Matt. “I used to have a recurring nightmare as a kid that I was in a car, and we were going the wrong way and nobody else was reacting. The feel of you’re going somewhere that you don’t want to go, and no one seems to have noticed that anything’s wrong.

“There’s a vinyl hop in it, which for me is like going over the little junctures in the road. You know, when your wheels kind of hit that. So, we’re trying to create that tension in that one.”

Black background with woman and man (Members of band HAVVK)  covered in clear, transparent material.

Listening to “City Creep”, you want to jump around, unable to keep still, but it tells a dark story about the state of social housing, and the lack of safe community spaces. “In Dublin the housing crisis has become way more visible on our streets,” says Julie. “And in our communities as well, where spaces like queer spaces or music venues open up and they’re shut within six months.

Other standout tracks include, the softer “You Say You Won’t“, and “Keep It to Myself”. “Take It from Me” and album closer “Nobody Told You”. While it may not cure sleep deprivation, To Fall Asleep has no skippable tracks and is exceptional from start to finish, a true gift of an album.

HAVVK recently completed a European tour, and we’re hoping there’ll be more live shows to come. In the meantime, follow HAVVK on Twitter/X, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, or visit their website for more info, tour dates, tickets, merch, and more.

“To Fall Asleep” is available for purchase and streaming on all platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube Music, YouTube, and SoundCloud.