Breathing new life into a constantly evolving genre, indie blues rockers The Harlots are definitely not doing things by halves. Guitarist Julian Spiller sat down with Emma to talk about their new album, the Melbourne music scene and the end of the world.
By Emma Dean
How did you guys meet and start the band? Who plays what?
Tom shouts and bashes ivory; Dan thumps skins; Kate leans on the organ; Nick falls on the bass; Sam and I drop our guitars. Most of us met while serving time in a middle-class juvenile penitentiary. We decided to form a band to keep us on the straight and narrow, lest we descend into a cycle of white-collar crime, Grange and golfing.
What are your main influences when song writing?
We each have pretty distinctive taste in music, and between the six of us, we like just about everything (including old-time bluegrass and the rap music). We like layered, sophisticated thinking-person music, and we like stupid party-times idiot music. We don’t make a conscious effort to roll it all together when writing songs, but if you picked out individual fragments, you can track the inspiration. As they say: the mosaic is round, but the pieces are square. Word.
You released your self-titled debut in June 2011 – talk us through writing and recording…
Our EP was an interesting creature – we recorded it ourselves, with help from learned friends, in garages and rehearsal studios. Part of the motivation was to get our first non-dysfunctional line-up on tape, before our original lead player shipped off to New York. The rest was mostly down to hubris, exuberance and tainted sherbet.
What would you do differently for the next album?
The album that we’re putting together has really benefited from being professionally engineered – having a pro behind the controls makes you think about the subtleties of what you’re trying to achieve more carefully. We have also kept ourselves in top physical shape through the paleo diet, and have enhanced our sounds with powerful crystals and aromatic tinctures.
The ‘Got No Soul’ single came out in July – how have you changed as a group since your debut? Why those two songs? Who did the cover art?
We’re probably a little more comfortable as a song writing unit these days; the dynamic is more relaxed. We like ‘Got No Soul’ because the hook is front-and-centre; we like ‘Stronger By The Day’ because it’s got a narrative to the music, as well as the lyrics. Come for the A-side, stay for the B-side, we reason. Julian did the art for the single, both the image on the disc and the cut for the sleeve. He gets a kick out of that stuff.
What are you working on now?
A full-length! We want to launch it around the end of the year. We think it sounds pretty good so far, if we do say so ourselves.
How do you find the music scene in Melbourne? Why do you think alternative blues is making such a strong comeback?
Melbourne is full of venues that cater for different tastes – it’s not cliquey, or exclusionary, or whatever. If you sound good, someone will give you a show. It’s hard to say why the whole alternative blues/country thing is so popular, but we do think that it’s pretty enduring music – if you get it right, it’s got primitive appeal, like dropping fragile things from high places. Also, beards.
What’s the best piece of advice another band has given you? Any amusing tour stories?
Don’t overexpose yourselves – have a month off every now and again. Don’t eat the yellow snow.
We’re haven’t really toured yet, so we’ll have to pass on those questions for now.
What’s in your ideal rider?
You know those counterfeit Mickey Mouse ice cream cakes you always used to see as a kid? We want one of those. We don’t mind that Mickey’s head looks like it was subtly deformed in a hang gliding accident; that’s what makes him special.
What’s a Harlots live show like for the uninitiated?
We’re told that it involves lots of flailing limbs, Jagger-swagger and sweat. We had a smoke machine one time, but we had to trade it in to cover the rising cost of Jagger-swagger.
What’s an awesome up and coming band you’d like to give a shout out to?
We really like Plague Doctor. They are elusive but powerful, like the Siberian tiger.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2012?
We want to launch our new record before the world ends; we’ll have a big party, and you’re invited. (We’ll have guacamole, gazpacho, Aztec calendar-motif ponchos and everything).
Much thanks to Julian for taking the time to chat to us. For more about the band, check out: