Last February 25, 2024, local indie folk artist Hannah + Gabi launched his self-titled vinyl release with an intimate live set and record signing at Backspacer Records, the record store and label that produced the record. The LP contains 14 tracks taken from his two previous albums, 2010’s Haha Yes and 2015’s Years Gone, as well as his 2021 singles “Winter” and “Thoughts They Disappear.”

Some of you might be wondering why you see the possessive pronoun “his” when “Hannah + Gabi” clearly denotes two female names. For the unaware, Hannah + Gabi is the solo project of Mikey Amistoso, the singer, bassist, keyboardist, and main songwriter of indie rock institution Ciudad, who recently joined the Itchyworms on acoustic guitar and keys. The moniker is derived from the Lemonheads song “Hannah & Gabi,” a longtime favorite of Amistoso.

Hannah + Gabi photographed by Marian Hernandez

“In the summer of 2008, I wrote a song called ‘Everything Refuses to Move’ and recorded a demo. It was a quiet, minimalistic, and very intimate number, driven by acoustic guitar pluckings,” he narrates. “I remember presenting it to the Ciudad boys in 2009. They liked the song but I saw in their faces that they were baffled in terms of how we would interpret it as Ciudad, and what their individual roles in the song would be.”

“I didn’t want to shove this direction in their faces, so the most logical and natural thing to do was find another outfit to give this song to,” he continues. “So I created Hannah + Gabi.”

Creating Hannah + Gabi opened the floodgates for Amistoso to “make more songs in that vibe” and channel his longtime admiration for his heroes Elliot Smith and Sufjan Stevens by using techniques like whispered vocals and double tracking, as well as more acoustic guitar and piano. “I’ve been trying to incorporate that influence into Ciudad in small doses,” he says. “But with [Hannah + Gabi], I didn’t have to do it subtly — it became the actual palette/template of my sound.”

Lyrically, too, the themes are different. “I could leave the snarky, tongue-in-cheek-y side of my writing to Ciudad,” he adds, “and on the other hand, my more vulnerable and intimate side would go to this project.” Since “Everything Refuses To Move,” Amistoso has written, recorded, and released two albums worth of songs (some co-written with his wife, Marian Hernandez) and two singles as Hannah + Gabi. Live, he usually performs with constant collaborator and Itchyworms bandmate Jazz Nicolas on keys.

Mikey Amistoso signing records at the Hannah + Gabi vinyl launch at Backspacer Records (photographed by Marian Hernandez)

Then in 2021, he met Robert and Tasha Tuazon of Backspacer Records, who had just released the Itchyworms’ Waiting For The End To Start on vinyl. On a Facebook post promoting the vinyl release, Robert commented that he was slowly fulfilling his dream of releasing his favorite bands on vinyl, and listed Ciudad among them. “I replied to his comment [with] ‘Hello! Nice to meet you. GAME!’” shares Amistoso. The following year, Backspacer Records released Ciudad, a career-spanning compilation of 11 of the band’s favorite songs.

Throughout the back-and-forth with the Backspacer team for the Ciudad vinyl, Amistoso insinuated the idea of possibly releasing a Hannah + Gabi record as well, and thankfully, they agreed. Similar to the Ciudad record, it would be a compilation of songs from the Hannah + Gabi discography instead of a straight-up vinyl pressing of either of the two albums. “I would never presume that I would get more than one chance of releasing a vinyl record for each of my projects,” he expounds. “Making vinyl records is expensive after all, so there is always a possibility that [Backspacer Records] wouldn’t want to make more.”

Amistoso then chose six songs each from Haha Yes and Years Gone, plus his pair of 2021 singles (“because an artist is always proud of his latest work”), and came up with a proper sequence of tracks. Despite the five- or six-year gaps between releases, the Hannah + Gabi LP sounds amazingly consistent and flows nicely as a whole, “because [all of the songs] came from the same palette,” explains Amistoso.

Hannah + Gabi photographed by Marian Hernandez

With his best music now given the vinyl treatment, Amistoso is raring to show more of his singer-songwriter side as Hannah + Gabi, and is thinking of writing “more atmospheric and pad-based” (using layers of synths or strings under the melody) material in the vein of Beach House, a step away from the minimalist indie folk of his earlier work. Besides, he never thought of himself as a folk artist in the traditional sense.

“My music is just my personal thoughts and feelings; it’s not the actual story of my folk or people,” Amistoso says, differentiating his music from that of Joey Ayala, Gary Granada, and the like. “I guess labeling Hannah + Gabi as ‘folk’ or ‘indie folk’ was just a way to put a pin on it, because you know, people like to label things and sort things in boxes.” He does, however, admire Bullet Dumas, who entered the scene at the same time as Hannah + Gabi, and “Clara Benin’s music and aesthetic,” among his folk ‘contemporaries.’ 

“I like Eggboy, too,” he adds, mentioning Tarsius and Pedicab member Diego Mapa‘s solo lo-fi project. “But I don’t think that’s folk, in the same way that I probably am not real folk.”

The Hannah + Gabi LP is available at Backspacer Records. Order a copy here.

Listen to “Lost Together” by Hannah + Gabi below: