Hailing from New Jersey and Brooklyn, Jamaican-American artist Ania Hoo has created her own universe of bubbly disco-infused bedroom pop tunes that can best be described as eclectic, drawing from a wide sonic palette that includes the likes of Marvin Gaye, Teena Marie, and Chaka Khan.
Earlier this year, Ania Hoo unveiled her debut EP PURE. The silky smooth melodies and lush instrumentation on tracks like “Waiting,” and “Pink Trees,” create an enveloping cocoon around listeners, providing a sense of relief and euphoric bliss.
A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Ania Hoo to discuss PURE, her favorite disco seven-inches, and how she aims to represent personal and spiritual growth in her music.
Where did you grow up and how has your upbringing influenced your music?
I grew up in North Brunswick, New Jersey near Rutgers. I don’t know if it had that much influence on my music. If anything it made me retreat into creating music, because I didn’t really have many friends growing up. It was a small town and other people only seemed to listen to one type of music. There were a lot of rappers at my school, and I wasn’t rapping, so they weren’t bumping my shit or anything.
I started making music in my bedroom, so I guess that would put me in the bedroom pop realm. But I’m also really influenced by disco, dance music, and soul.
I understand that some of your biggest influences are Prince, Marvin Gaye and Solange. Has this list grown or expanded at all since you started making music?
Of course! A lot of my influences come from different melodies. I love Brazilian Bossa nova music and disco. When I was in middle school I really loved Stephanie Mills. She did an album in the seventies and I would frequent a lot of disco-esque parties where they would always play her. She was a heavy inspiration for “Pink Trees.”
I’ve always loved Teena Marie and Marvin Gaye’s songwriting. I’m also obsessed with Vanity and the work she did with Prince. All of my influences are a reflection of what I’m feeling and how I like to sound.
Before I made this EP, I was making a lot of neo-soul, not because I wanted to, but because people thought my voice would fit that genre more. But I was much more interested in obscure disco seven-inches. There’s this one song called “Get Down Boy” by the Paper Dolls. They only made the one song, but I was obsessed with it, which made me go into a deep rabbit hole when I was in middle school and high school. That was my thing. I was bumping this one Stephanie Mills song constantly when I first found it. It’s called “Put Your Body In It.” And then I went to the studio and they were like, “So what do you wanna do?” And I played them that song. The producer looked at me like, “Are you sure about this?” Like, he didn’t wanna do it. And I was like, “Yes, I’m sure.” And then I wrote the demo for “Pink Trees.”
What would you say is the main thesis of this EP?
I would say this EP is about personal growth. The first song I wrote was “In Love,” in my bedroom. I had just graduated from high school during the pandemic, so I had a lot of free time. I was doing a lot of reflecting on how I was pretty much a hermit in high school. It was honestly a fantasy song. I wasn’t in a relationship, I just remembered having a lot of crushes in high school that I never really pursued. So that’s when I started writing that song and it occurred to me that I wanted to call the project PURE for that reason. “I Need It” came about because I really wanted to write a sexy song. The demo originally had a different beat and then we made the version that’s on the EP, which is a lot more slow and sensual. I liked it better that way because it’s so different from my personality. I’m a very “in my head” type of person.
How do you normally operate as a songwriter?
I usually start with the melody first and sometimes with the lyrics. I also like a cohesive project to showcase growth. I really wanted to end the EP with “Waiting,” because I didn’t want it to end with a song where I sound like I’m pining for someone else’s attention. I wanted to show a progression of becoming more satisfied with who I am.
Do you have any go-to pre-show rituals when you’re performing live?
If I get the jitters I’ll normally start jumping around and trying not to talk to anyone. Solitude and quietness really helps. At my last show I was really happy because people were singing my lyrics back to me while I was performing, and getting to play off the crowd was the coolest feeling ever.
Do you play anything?
I played piano as a child. I don’t play that much anymore because I have my band now. I’ve known them since high school and we play off each other really well. Playing an instrument requires a lot of discipline, especially if you want to get past the stage of having to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over and over again, and I just didn’t want to have to do that. Maybe one day I’ll touch the ivories again.
Bass is one of my favorite instruments. The sound is just so intoxicating. I would love to learn how to play the drums one day, because one of my biggest inspirations is Chaka Khan. She’s an incredible drummer, and nobody ever talks about it.
One thing I’ve noticed since I started playing instruments is that I hear songs completely differently. I was wondering if it’s the same for you?
Oh, yeah, definitely. My ears isolate the instruments now. I hear the vocals more, so that’s why I love Marvin Gaye, because he was one of the first artists I saw to really use layering of vocals in his music. Michael Jackson too.
This one girl made a TikTok talking about all of the different layers in a song, and she used one of my songs as an example, and I was like, “Yes! Finally, somebody is hearing the effort I put into the production.
Is there anything else coming up you would like to plug?
Yes! The music video for “Waiting” is coming out soon and it’s also going to be featured in a SHOWTIME show called “Flatbush Misdemeanors.” It’s my first sync, so I’m super pumped about that. Thank you for having me!
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH ANIA HOO