you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

07 November 2012

Interview: Come Back Harriet.

When The Sun Hits Interviews 
Come Back Harriet

How and when was the band formed?
Rosa: I came in almost two years ago. Hazel found me through an advert that I placed on a website for music.
Hazel: Mentally, in a bedroom in the suburbs of London sometime around 1990, but in reality, in the autumn of 2010 in Munich.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
Hazel: We are currently waiting for our debut album to be mixed and it should be available very soon, I hope. We have a few offers in England for next year, which I would be keen to explore in terms of concerts.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
Rosa: I always have difficulties to describe our music to someone. I personally think that we don‘t completely fit in the actual shoegaze scene because our music is sometimes too poppy in parts. We were making fun of this categorization in calling our style of music "shoepunk".
Hazel: I don’t really believe in genres personally. Back in England, I watched the music press invent a scene called shoegaze in order to lazily lump four or five bands into the same classification. Sure, they were all using lots of effects pedals, and they all tended to come from the Thames Valley/Home Counties area, but it didn't mean much to my friends and I at the time. We never sat round defining ourselves in that way and neither did the bands themselves I don’t think. I think I saw it as just being really into the modern guitar pop music of that time. You would be in a car with your mates and Chapterhouse would be on the tape, then the next minute it could be the Manic Street Preachers or The Wedding Present, so I was never that snobbish, because I didn't just listen to one single type of music if you can call it that. In a way though, I think that it’s great that people that have an affection for those old bands, can more easily connect with like-minds using the Internet, so I guess it is not such a bad thing and serves a purpose.

I certainly see us a pop group first and foremost, and hopefully a modern one. I would never describe us a shoegaze band, but if people want to write things in that vein then I feel ok with that, because it might mean more people that could get into us will be inspired to explore what we have done so far. I’m not going to deny that I don’t still adore bands like Ride and Swervedriver, but I’m more interested in listening to music and not scenes themselves. While we’re on the subject though… what the fuck is “Indie Rock”? Even tapping into genre for a millisecond it’s easy to remember that the original independent bands on Postcard, Sarah, Rough Trade, were all a reaction and the total anti-thesis of “Rock”. Mixing the two together is like putting mashed banana and jam on the top of macaroni and cheese.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Rosa: I think the scene is flourishing. I love Tame Impala and Dråpe from Norway!
Hazel: Some I like, but most I don’t. I’m always interested and excited to hear something that I've never heard before – unashamedly paraphrasing the late great John Peel. I am a sucker for a good tune though, so I would count the Finnish band French Films as a wonderful recent discovery. I quite like Presents for Sally and The Pains of Being Pure At Heart as well. I expect my ears to be attacked with something interesting and new – I don’t care whether or not it’s made by bands that describe themselves as shoegaze. There seems to be a lot of good bands coming from Scandinavia at the moment.  Maybe that is the place to be?

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Rosa: I'm very proud of my first amplifier that i bought recently - A Fender Bassman. Two months of hard holiday work in a car factory.
Hazel: My capo, which sounds like a strange answer, but it’s because it allows me to write the way that I have found works for me. I never sit down with a guitar, strum chords, and find melodies that way. It just doesn't work for me. Everything good always comes from tunes that get themselves stuck in my head. Once I have a couple of parts and ideas as to where it can go, I then pick up the guitar, and because the tunes are not based around the confinement of six strings and shapes easily-reachable with fingers and thumbs, the capo is a precious tool for extracting the notes (tuning also play a big part here too of course). The particularly fun aspect though of this process is then watching Woody figure out how to play a part in standard ‘E’ tuning without a capo, which often he manages in ways I had never even thought of! 

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Hazel: I’m not that technical. I have a computer with Cubase, guitars, and a synth, all of which I can just about operate, but it is very useful for deciding on design when it comes to guitar parts. There are a couple of tracks on the album that come from layering an orchestra in Cubase and then converting the parts onto guitars and bass. Recommendations to others? Invest in a flexible microphone if you are going to record at home. AKG produces some good ones.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
Rosa: It is harder for bands to get successful, because there are loads of bands that can be found on the internet.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
Hazel: Most new bands have no choice other than to go the DIY self-release route, because a these days a label will not be interested until you can actually show that you have a credible release and a fan base for them to work with. It’s mostly a win/win situation for them, because there initial investment is nothing.  On the one hand, the Internet has allowed unsigned bands a reasonably straight-forward route to get their music out there, but on the other, I think it’s a shame that there are fewer maverick Alan McGees out there that recognize potential for brilliance enough to put their hands in their pockets.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Rosa: It‘s very important for me to „own“ the music in the flesh- and not only in digital. I would prefer the vinyl, but because I don‘t own a record player, I listen to CDs. As a child, I was fascinated by the record collection of my father. I loved to rummage in it and listen to his VU records.
Hazel: I miss my tapes actually, but they are so cumbersome aren't they? I had about 400 in the attic and gave a shopping bag full of them to Woody for his car sometime last year, because I don’t have a working cassette deck anymore and they were just gathering dust. I think they were alphabetized, so with any luck, he is up to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin round about now. I do love my vinyl though and use my record deck quite regularly. There is definitely a correlation between the lack of creativity in sleeve designs and the CD format becoming more popular I think. MP3s are just convenient aren't they? They don’t sound great and have no aesthetic value, but I still have about 500 on my phone keeping me company on train journeys, so I don’t wish to sound like too much of a hypocrite.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
Rosa: The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stone Roses, The Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine.
Hazel: The good stuff I've lived through and the downright awful are as equally inspiring in different ways. I couldn't pick one, but I've always been a fan of pop music in general. I like melody, drama, unpredictability, and noise...with only three chords and lasting no longer that about 3.5 minutes.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Rosa: Currently, i‘m reading "Bonjour Tristesse" from Francoise Sagan and "The Bastard" from Violette Leduc. I love the "Brücke"- Painters and saw a great exhibition in Cologne last weekend.
Hazel: I lost interest in reading books a long time ago. I find it hard to concentrate and, in general, people kept passing me books that I hated. I did read a book of JG Ballard’s short stories earlier in the year, a writer that quite amazingly had passed me by in my youth even though he lived and died just two miles from where I grew up. He was known as a sci-fi writer, but that was just a mask for his exploration of the human condition at its most perverse, which was often quite buried in the plots of his stories. For example, having now read it twice, I’m still not sure if the guy kills his wife at the end of “The Overloaded Man”. I also liked his definition of a clock as being “a device that provides a steady stream of useless information”. That made me smile all day that did.

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?
Rosa: For me, it would be "Cut the Lights" because it’s very powerful, a little melancholic and still shoegazey.
Hazel: I think “Cut the Lights”, because it has all the elements of a song that would grab my own attention. It was a slow-burner though. I had the chorus about 10 years ago, but never anything to go with it. However, around the time when the band started, I happened to have one of my strings detuned in an effort to figure out what became the verse melody, and the two parts were united like lost soul-mates. I love the outro too.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
Hazel: Generally, once I have a few bits together, we will run through it in the practice room and often with this band quite magical things happen. I love that I can play something and then the others will hear it in a completely different way, which can take things in an unpredictable direction. There is a song on the album called “Funny Bones”, which was originally, at best, just a couple of passable chord sequences, but the other three had a completely different take on where the patterns started and ended. Therefore, it sort of got turned inside out and we ended up with a song that sounds pretty interesting I think.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Rosa: "They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.“ A. Warhol