HAAi Takes to the Western Hemisphere With Love and Inclusion at Breakneck Speed

HAAi Photo by Imogene Barron
Miami is in love with Floyd, but the quaint Eleventh Street club has not had too many opportunities to push the tempo past the intimate, cozy sounds of 125 bpm. The darkroom and chandeliers cry intimacy, putting the Australian-bred, London-based DJ HAAi (AKA Teneil Throssell) in an interesting predicament.

As she makes her debut at Floyd on Friday, May 27, she will have to balance her high-octane, comically fast track selection with the slower, effervescent deep cuts from her upcoming debut album, Baby, We're Ascending.

"I think I started playing faster over the years," Throssell tells New Times. "When I started, it was still heavy but more chuggy. Over time, it came a bit to my own; as I emerged in techno and dance music, the tempo caught up with me."

HAAi's musical endeavors began in Australia's psychedelic rock scene before moving to London in 2011 as part of the duo Dark Bells. Finally, it took one trip to Berlin's legendary club Berghain, the sinister music of Ben Klock, and a laptop with Logic Pro to push Throssell into electronic music.

"It was really welcoming because it felt like I had come from nowhere," says Throssell on the shift from psych-rock to electronic music. "I came from guitars, but I was nervous that I didn't have 20 years of experience in trance, for example, but I felt like I could bring something."

In a short time, HAAi has graced the cover of Mixmag, won 2018's Essential Mix of the year, and festival-hopped across the world — all for a good reason.

Throssell sits comfortably in a fast-paced lane but with a weirdness via wonky samples and ghostly rhythms. It's euphoric-building, stripped-down, and love-enhancing, which makes HAAi not just for the perpetually dark warehouse but also for Floyd's velvet curtains.

"I'm just going to bring a bit of myself. Usually, I go into a new space with an open mind, but now I'm playing pretty tough, very energetic," she warns. "I feel like my sets are dynamic and bass-heavy. I hope people are ready to go in.

Throssell's Miami show coincides with the release of her highly anticipated debut album, Baby, We're Ascending, a collaborative effort made during the height of lockdown and which merges Throssell's production and dreamy vocal work.

"The stuff I was making was driven towards that — trying to make people feel something. Whereas here, that just wasn't available, and it was too heartbreaking to try to make that sound," she says. "I guess it was more of a reflective way of writing. In many ways, it was functional. I wanted to make something more of a focused listen."

With four tracks on the album coproduced with friends, Throssell credits the project's completion to letting in different voices instead of isolating it to her own ambitions. Baby, We're Ascending's 13 tracks showcase HAAi's incredible ability to juxtapose speedy and hectic sounds with soothing, left-field electronica.

"It was really special because it was something I've never done before because I was protective of being the only person who could touch a song," Throssell explains. "I value I got to bring friends into my creative sphere, and the whole album-making process was such a joy because so many different people were involved."
The album's title track was made in collaboration with British musician Jon Hopkin, who brings an ethereal touch while also demonstrating HAAi's affection for the gentle textures. Overall, the song harkens to early-2000s Télépopmusik.

"Everything happened really organically," she says. "I was working on the track that would become "Baby, We're Ascending," and I was in a bit of a funk with it.  I knew there was something special there, and I thought for a few times asking Jon for advice."

Throssell posted the music on her Instagram, which caught Hopkins' attention.

"I told him the whole story, and he said, 'Send it to me. I'll have a listen,'" she remembers. "He loved it. It was one of the first times I collaborated with someone. Jon is a very dear friend. My girlfriend, me, and he would have picnics during the pandemic."

It's hard to imagine how HAAi manages to merge her studio wizardry with her time behind the decks as a DJ. The two skills seem contradictory — something HAAi is keenly aware of. The idea of pushing her vocal-driven tracks during a set is cause for anxiety for the producer.

"You're just like, What do I do when the vocals come up? I don't usually play vocal-driven music, to begin with," Throssell says. "I made a track about six years ago called 'Be Good;' my girlfriend made me promise I would play it at Village Underground in London — and the crowd was all singing the words. You never know who is listening. You see the streams, but you don't really see it translated. I'm building a live show and starting to sing in person."

Regardless of how HAAi's sonic worlds converge, an important focal point for her is promoting queer culture and the inclusion of underrepresented groups in her bookings.

"This has been on the top of my list since coming back from the pandemic. Since I started DJ'ing, I feel like I was usually the only female on the lineup. I've noticed a lot more effort for inclusion — not across the board, but at least with the shows I play," she says. "I feel that the larger net you cast, the better the shows. And we are in a time where all this interesting music is coming out, and it's coming from marginalized backgrounds. It feels like there's a bit of rebellion in there." 

HAAi's upcoming U.S. tour will introduce the producer's euphoric, bouncy, ultra-speedy sound and love-for-all ethos to American audiences.

"I try to play both for the queer community and my support. The dream is to have parties where everyone feels safe and welcomed," she says. "I'm hopeful."

HAAi. 11 p.m. Friday, May 27, at Floyd, 40 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-608-2824; Tickets cost $12.06 to $36.18 via
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Grant Albert is a writer born and raised in Miami. He likes basset hounds, techno, and rock climbing — in that order.
Contact: Grant Albert