There’s always something special about a pleasantly unexpected vocal performance in music. As soon as I hear it, I’m eyes wide-open and hooked into the lyrics. It’s the same experience from power-pop group Aunt Kelly in their recent single “Master of My Mind.”
Led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kelly Hannemann, this fierce trio serves intention and magnetic fun. Alongside Hannermann, Aunt Kelly includes Chicago music-scene regulars, drummer Sarah Weddle and bassist Dan Gianaris. Together, the three contain a synchronization that only emerges from truly close friendships-turned-collaborations.
“Master of My Mind” focuses on living with a mental illness from a sensitive and fragile lens: the sense of being out of control with thoughts and feelings. Produced and engineered by Noam Wallenberg at Rax Trax Recording, the song is a testimony for struggling in life, potentially leading to isolation.
I am pleased to share my first virtual interview of 2021 with Aunt Kelly about their single, its meaning, the group, and their hope for music.
TCR: Are we the true masters of our minds?
Aunt Kelly: That is a tricky question. I believe we have some control over our own mental state, but I wouldn’t say we are the true masters of our own minds. We are constantly being influenced by the world around us, by traumas from our past and present, and many of us also experience mental illness. The song “Master of My Mind” is referring to my own mental illness. And mental illness can be a real bitch. There are moments when I absolutely don’t feel like I am the one controlling what I’m thinking or feeling. But what I am in control of is the steps I can take to help myself— like therapy or other treatment. It’s been a long road, and it will be a continuous one, but I have learned so much about myself and have become much more in control of my own mind.
What do you hope listeners pay the most attention to in the song (i.e., instrumentation, lyrics, both)?
With most of my songs, I would prefer listeners pay closer attention to the music than the lyrics because that part comes a lot more naturally to me. But with this song, in particular, I feel the lyrics might be more important. It’s a really special song for me because it’s about a huge part of my life that I think many people can relate to. I’ve always been open to talking about my mental illness, and I hope this song encourages others to be open about their experience as well.
Is this part of an EP, album, or a series of singles? If so, what is the centralized theme?
This song is a part of an album that highlights a range of emotions at their most intense. It’s a collection of songs written over several years through periods of despair, euphoria, depression, and mania.
Where does the band get its name from?
There is honestly not much of a story behind the name. It started as a joke between a couple friends and me, and the more we said it, the more it started to feel like the right thing! So I went with it.
What particular band, movement, or song hooked you into picking up your first instrument?
I don’t think any particular band or song hooked me into picking up an instrument. I’ve wanted to be a singer for as long as I can remember, and when I first started messing around on the piano and realized I could accompany myself, it was a big game-changer. I immediately dove into playing piano and guitar and have been hooked ever since!
We’ve been living in quarantine and social distancing, with no true vision for when normal life may return. Venues took HUGE hits, but a hopeful rising tide of music is on its way. What have your days been like since the beginning of the pandemic?
Things have been all over the place for me since March 2020. As someone who struggles with mental illness, things got very dark very fast. So many coping mechanisms I relied on were taken away, and the isolation alone was enough to make being okay a huge challenge. And then when you take away playing shows, gigging, and just getting to play and create with other people, I guess it just proved to me what I already thought I knew: that music is everything, and I don’t think I would ever want to exist in a world where we couldn’t do those things. With venues starting to open up again, I feel so hopeful. I know so many others feel the same way, and I can’t wait for us all to experience life the way we were meant to as musicians.
Be sure to add “Master of My Mind” to your summer patio or daytime listening playlist. Hannermann’s voice is too wonderful to miss. Aunt Kelly is absolutely a Chicago name to be known, one filled with reality and hope to experience music as it should be experienced – live.