My first thought upon listening to IYVES’s Chromatic EP was “slow jamz” with a purposeful “z,” evoking that ‘90s sensuality, the kind of music people used to unironically put on in movies when things were about to get real sexy. But in actuality, Chromatic is a breakup album, one so intense that upon its release this past June IYVES, who in her waking life goes by Hannah (pronounced Hah-nah) Taxman, was contacted by her ex. Obviously touched, he sent a long message to her, happy they could still be friends. In reality, the album was written three years ago, and IYVES had long since healed. “It was interesting to see these certain things come to the surface when you put something out into the universe and in a way it does still move forward,” she says. “I understand the material differently just because I’ve lived and have a deeper understanding around it now.”
Chromatic arrived after three years of branding, rebranding, and name changes (she’s also gone by HANAH and Taxman), a process of IYVES arriving at her voice and sound as well as a platform. Her previous work hadn’t focused on her strengths as a vocalist, she felt, with producers more concerned about their engineering than her singing. But with Chromatic producer and co-writer Zach Lipkins of REFS, she was able to discover herself anew. The result is an experimental, electronic, modern salute to soul, funk, and R&B that’s rich with layered vocals. Inspired by the likes of Solange, SBTRKT, Amber Martin, Janelle Monáe, and James Blake, it scintillates as it aches, teases as it reflects, and vibrates as it challenges.
Ultimately, the EP ends up not just being about the relationship she left behind, but those that move her forward: her creative partnership with Lipkins, and her internal relationship with herself. IYVES finds her work is now brighter, with a stronger heart, more confident, and coming from a happier place. “Listening to music that [comes from] heartbreak is so powerful. I mean, the best albums are made of that, but there’s something about listening to music that is uplifting, self-empowering, and that’s been my message recently,” she says. The time chronicled in Chromatic, IYVES says, is now put away, in a box done up neatly with a ribbon. Music can always be relatable, can make someone feel or remember their own moments, and provide the same catharsis IYVES herself felt. “I’m biased because it’s my story,” she says. I’m like, ‘Oh, this feels so old…I’ve already moved on emotionally, artistically. I’ve been working on a lot of new stuff. But I needed to let it live, so I’m happy it’s out.”
IYVES finds her challenge now is to strip back what she’s learned as an artist to this point, simplifying her tracks and her sound rather than adding a bunch of tricks. She also finds she arrives at the music she wants to make in a clearer, less complex way, one she says has a lot to do with finding the confidence she needed as an artist. She doesn’t overthink as much. Or, as she says, her process is now “more believing and less hesitating.” She’s preparing to put out more music this fall and won’t let herself wait another three years, making strides quickly
This September, IYVES is traveling to Tel Aviv to collaborate with artists and make music in a territory unknown to her. Living in Brooklyn since graduating from Berklee School of Music in 2013–where she considered herself more of a singer at first, but later began writing her own songs–she has in her circle extraordinary artists like Nick Hakim and Valerie Teicher of Tei Shi, people who inspired her and made her transition into music as a career that much easier. “Moving to New York, I have such a rich community of collaborators and musicians. I want to explore going somewhere where I don’t know as many people,” she says. As an artist, she feels she’s never done growing, and going to Tel Aviv is another experiment to see what’s possible.
Both New York and Tel Aviv are a far cry from her native Boulder, Colorado. There, she grew up inspired by Aretha Franklin (she wanted to sing “Natural Woman” as an eight-year-old, but her vocal coach said no…so she got another vocal coach) living out her native, creative dreams in a household that celebrated music. Her sister also became a musician, as one of them was always playing the keyboard or the guitar. IYVES is also inspired by the natural landscapes she encountered living in Boulder, even though her work on Chromatic is more experimental, more New York, more internal than external. “I grew up being surrounded by natural, outdoor beauty and that’s really important to me. I find being in a city like New York you have to seek it out more,” she says. “I try to feed into my music the organic qualities of sounds and try to implement that into my music making. Taking the outdoors into the sound and the music, in a way.” Though she loves the energy of New York, getting out of the city is just as important to her as being in it. “I need that reset and perspective change to come back and be able to exist here,” she says. “They say it is the center of the universe and in a lot of ways it kind of is. You figure it out here first, but sometimes I think more simplicity is more happiness.”
The road to IYVES has been a long one for Taxman, but as she travels, listens, and collaborates she sees herself on a more consistent journey. While her ethereal and sultry Chromatic EP is now behind her, the opportunity to take those lessons into artistic development awaits. “Life is never a straight path,” she says. “I think pushing boundaries is always going to add to the complexity while pushing yourself to be better and grow.”