The Harvey Girls influence mixes (Night Time = Right Time)

Night Time = Right Time (59:19)

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night time

A couple of years ago Ian Manire asked us to make some “influence mixes” for his blog Musicophilia and we being the overachieving music geeks we are, we sent him three. The third one never made it to his site because he became busy with other stuff (and, honestly, that’s a whole lot of Harvey Girls). So this afternoon I was doing some cleaning of hard drives and I found the third mix! It’s called “Night Time = Right Time” and, of course, followed “Good Morning” and “Afternöön Röck Blöck” (links are to Musicophilia and contain download links for the mixes as well as the essay posted below and track listings). Did you catch the diurnal conceit? Yeah, we figured you did.

It’s one continuous track at a little over 59 minutes and the track listing along with an essay I wrote that discusses the unknown connections that bring people together and that we gather to create our tunes are below. This is also cool because the album we’re working on right now is decidely mellow and will have our own night songs.

Anyhoo, thanks again to Ian for asking us to do this and the wonderful things he said about us (click the above links to the other mixes). We hope he’s well.

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Tracklisting:
Night Time = Right Time
1 “Blabber n’ Smoke” Captain Beefheart *The Spotlight Kid* 1972 [0:00]
2 “That’s How Strong My Love Is” Otis Redding *The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads* 1965 [2:46]
3 “Block of Wood” The Bats *Live on WFMU* 1993 [5:02]
4 “Sunshower” Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band *Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band* 1976 [7:47]
5 “Don’t Answer Me” Alan Parsons Project *Ammonia Avenue* 1984 [11:43]
6 “Let Me Come Closer to You” Colin Blunstone *One Year* 1971 [15:46]
7 “Garden Song” Bill Fay *Bill Fay* 1970[18:03]
8 “The Way Love Used to Be” The Kinks *The Great Lost Kinks Album* 1973 [21:09]
9 “Never My Love” The Association *Insight Out* 1967 [23:20]
10 “All I Have to Do Is Dream” The Everly Brothers *Everly Brothers Best* 1959 [26:25]
11 “Swinglargo” People Like Us (single) 2000 [28:44]
12 “Northern Sky” Nick Drake *Bryter Later* 1970 [33:58]
13 “Little Sparrow” Dolly Parton *Little Sparrow* 2001 [37:36]
14 “Baby That’s Me” The Cake (single) 1967 [41:45]
15 “Francesca” Roy Harper *Flat Baroque and Berserk* 1970 [44:28]
16 “The Man With the Child In His Eyes” Kate Bush *The Kick Inside* 1978 [45:25]
17 “‘Cause I Love You” Johnny Cash *Hello, I’m Johnny Cash* 1970 [48:02]
18 “Putting the Fountain to Sleep” Mike Seed *Songs For The Wintering Show Troupe*2005 [49:43]
19 “Desperado” Sheila Behman/Hans Fenger *The Langley Schools Music Project: Innocence and Despair* 2001 [52:17]
20 “Llorando” Rebekah del Rio *Mulholland Drive Soundtrack* 2001 [55:48]

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Reconstructing Unknown Connections

“Construction tears the elements of reality out of their primary context and transforms them to the point where they are once again capable of forming a unity, one that is no less imposed on them internally than was the heteronomous unity to which they were subjected externally.”
–Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory

When Melissa and I first started dating, I had just finished a long term relationship with three guys. We were called Teriyakis and had been together for something like 10 years playing music that was a cross between Can and Captain Beefheart. We never officially broke up, someone just moved and we never completely finished the last album we were working on. It happens.

I still received e-mails from different magazines and people about the band for a long time afterward. One from a national magazine said that we could have a song on their latest comp for $500 or something ridiculous. I sent an e-mail to Melissa saying:

“I always thought that music was an art until I ran a very, very small label and get e-mails like this, which always make me feel a little sick.

I guess I’m too sensitive.”

She wrote back:

“Music is an art. It can be commodified, appropriated, poisoned, stolen, burned, and ripped like any art, or for that matter anything good. But it’s funny — someone gets a cd like this, hears a song by some obscure band, and doesn’t hurt anymore. Or makes something beautiful, that no one else ever hears. The obscure band never knows this, is never any less obscure, and most of its members end up bitter and depressed because of all the money and time they lost. One hundred years from now all the connections created by these circumstances create a child who can play pianos filled with flames. The universe is built out of little closed circuits like this. The biggest book you’ll never read is The Book of Unknown Connections. You never know how the beauty you create changes the world. But it does. So you keep doing it.

And yes this is an allegory.”

For the most part that’s been the working principle of The Harvey Girls (and the title of our first EP and also why I love Melissa a whole hell of a lot).

There are connections on these three mixes of influences and songs we love, “Good Morning”, “Afternöön Röck Blöck”, and “Night Time = Right Time”. Some of these connections are good for music geeks: Colin Blunstone sang on some Alan Parsons Project tunes; The Cake sang backup for the song “Why Are We Sleeping?” from The Soft Machine’s first album, a song written in part by Robert Wyatt and The Cake’s tune on this mix, “Baby, That’s Me” was written by Jack Nitzsche, arranger and conductor for Phil Spector; Truck Stop Love and Zoom were two amazing Kansas bands from the early 90s that we used to see play all the time. Some of these connections are relevant to the band: we’ve covered “Don’t Answer Me” and “Burning for You”; we wrote an entire album based on and named after the Captain Beefheart song “Blabber n’ Smoke”. And some of these songs are connected to us personally: “Block of Wood” was a song we used to dance around my little house to; we listened to “Mr. Blue Sky” every morning for about three months straight (more on that later); “Come to Me” by Bjork was the last song on the first mix that Melissa gave me; we agree that “Fateful Pavement” by Dsico is the greatest song about do-nothing twits ever constructed; and that if there’s a god, then (s)he was Led Zeppelin.

We share music equally in our house. Melissa pointed out how great the songs of Elliott Smith and Rufus Wainwright were to me as well as the absolute beauty of Kate Bush. I showed her how funky Germans could actually be with my Can collection as well as how amazing turntablism could be in the right hands.

There’s a few things you can gather from these songs. We like rhythm and we like solitary sounding singer/songwriters. We have an inexplicable love of British pop from the 60s to the 80s. We love noise and sweet sounding pop in equal measure. We freaking adore the girl group sound. And, finally, we’ve got a thing for strings. Strings are proof of a higher power inasmuch as music is our religion. And there’s a lot more stuff we’ve left out: no delta blues, no religious choirs, no Fela Kuti, no John Fahey, no Bollywood soundtracks, no Archies, not enough dub, not enough country, no Alton Ellis, no jazz, no kids records, no classical… you get the idea.

If you’ll forgive, here’s another anecdote about why we’re a perfect match musically. I wrote this for the blog “sing us your favorite tune” (which seems to be down at the time of this writing) about “Mr. Blue Sky”, but it’s relevant here.

“I spent my early childhood in the late 70s and early 80s, so my brain doesn’t really see what’s wrong with androgyny, polyester (as long as I don’t have to wear it), or overly-dramatic and completely overblown pop songs. I love Black Sabbath as much as I love ABBA. I can listen to a lot of proggy goodness in the way of Guru Guru and then turn on the sixth Beatle Jeff Lynne and his bubblegumilicious candy-prog band ELO. But it hasn’t always been that way.

You see, I have a problem with nostalgia. It’s a game for losers and advertising firms and I really had worked hard on getting rid of it in my life. Around 2002, however, I had a small change of heart. It was around then a lot of things ended for me and I was stuck in a horrible job and living in a three-room house in Lawrence, KS, with holes in the floor; I couldn’t even pace back and forth because there was no room. I had begun hanging around my friend Melissa a lot more, because she saw that I wasn’t doing well at all. We watched movies together and went out to dinner. We had drinks at local bars (even though she doesn’t drink) and talked about books and music and art and our past lives. We both came to a few conclusions: H.I.‘s words in Raising Arizona, “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things,” are some of the truest spoken by a film character in recent history; no one should read a novel by a man written from ‘65 to now in which the main character comes to terms with his father through sports/cars/art/women; love is bolder than hate; and literature degrees are kind of worthless.

I had planned a trip to New Mexico in early spring to camp by myself for a few days, but a huge snow storm was coming directly in the path of my trip, so I couldn’t go. Getting ready for the trip, I heard “Mr. Blue Sky” on the radio or in a shop or something and had flashbacks to my older cousins’ rooms with posters of the Bee Gees and Olivia and John in Grease and that weird flying neon ELO jukebox symbol. What was that thing? It wasn’t as cool as the spaceship on Boston albums, that’s for sure. I thought about how much I wanted a vocoder and that the song was actually really good, even if it was a complete Beatles ripoff, and then it left my head. Anyway, in lieu of New Mexico, Melissa decided that we should go a couple of hours north to Omaha and spend the weekend. I’m all like, “Omaha? Yecch!” and she said, “No, it’s great. Let’s go!” So I relented.

We get to Omaha and it is great and we have a wonderful few days. On our last day, we step into a book store with a record store in the basement and an art gallery upstairs called The Antiquarium. While walking around the art exhibit we accidentally walk into an NA meeting. Whoops. We slowly backed out as they said their prayer and we made our way to the record store downstairs. There we met the older man and twenty-something working the register (named by us Dinosaur and Dinosaur Jr. for their record store crustiness—they were nice fellas, though). We looked around and I noticed ELO’s Greatest Hits for $3, so I pick it up and debate. “I’m really not sure if I should get this,” I tell Melissa, “it’s pretty corny and it just brings back feelings of nostalgia more than anything.”

“Nostalgia, shmostalgia. If you like it, get it. If you don’t get it, I will,” she said and smiled. So I walked it up to the counter with the other purchases, which D. and D. Jr. liked and commented on even as they balked and frowned at my copy of ELO’s Greatest Hits, and we walked out of the store.

Soon Melissa and I’s occasional being together became being together all the time and not wanting to spend any time without one another. I also became obsessed with the song “Mr. Blue Sky,” and its second-rate Beatles progressions, so much so that every day when we’d wake up together for about three months, I’d play it on the stereo. I’d play it loudly. Sometimes I wouldn’t even wait for the gratuitous ending before I would pick up the needle and start it again, dancing off to the shower. I no longer had ghosts of the late 70s drifting through my thoughts whenever I heard it, just how happy I was to have Melissa around. Now when the song comes up in a commercial or movie or on the radio, I remember how it feels to be loved enough by someone that they would offer to buy an album that I liked but was too afraid to buy because of nostalgia—to be loved by someone who knows me better than I know myself and doesn’t care—and that makes me infinitely happier than anything else in the world.

I honestly like Supertramp as well. Journey, not so much.”

Oh, and that Adorno quote at the beginning? Well, I was going to go into how our influences in art–including literature, movies, music, painting, sculpture, nature, food, love–have come together in the construction of our own music, tearing bits from reality to form them anew to our own liking. We take what we think are the greatest parts of something and place it into what we create. We write songs that don’t sound anything like the other one you just heard. Not in a Beck sort of way (because he has this thing where there’s the dancy cosmic joke Beck and the serious singer/songwriter Beck, and we find that kinda contrived and lame), but in a living, living, living, living, living life sort of way, to quote Daniel Johnston. Theory is boring, though, so let’s just say we’re about the unknown connections that bring people together. It’s the biggest book you’ll never read.

New FREE EP from Circle Into Square

The Prisoners of Candy Island by The Harvey Girls is more than an odds and sods collection of throwaway songs. The Prisoners of Candy Island drifts by on old drum machines and delayed guitars with snippets of conversation and liquid rhythyms like a homemade dirigible over the Atlantic. With minimal lyrics, ‘Ocean’ tells the story of a painter’s obsession/addiction while ‘Song XLIII’ borrows its theme of rememberance from Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About a Harvey Girls Recording, Pt. 1: Track Listing and Historical Information

Hello and welcome to the world of The Harvey Girls’ postdated recording diary.  We always mean to write about the experience of recording, but then become too busy actually doing the recording to add yet another layer of crap to worry about, so with this new record, I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately (shortened to IBW from here on out; to be released in either June or July of 2010), I am going to do it all after the fact. Melissa may jump in from time to time, but I’m guessing I’ll write most of it.  I’ll go over each song in due time, discussing the recording process and any meaning behind the text/subtext of the album, hopefully without being boring, pedantic, academically stuffy, too self-effacing/-deprecating (I hear I have a problem with that), or as close to king pretentious dipshit as it all is starting to sound to me.  We’ll see.  We’ll also offer you some special treats–alternate versions of the songs, live videos, songs that didn’t make it, albums we’ve given away at shows… you know, things that you can download and trade like Topps cards with your friends and enemies.

IBW track list:
1. The Body Without Any Eyes
2. FWIW
3. Puss
4. Only Apparitions on the Lawn
5. Smile Like Gwynplaine
6. A Letter to the Bees
7. Caerse Muerto
8. Monster
9. Alpha Invasion on Delta Waves (Lullabye of Brueghel)

Now that you know the track listing and actual titles (as opposed to the working titles most people who have heard this will know), I’ll take a step back and start at the beginning.

Historical Information:
This album has a long history, at least in band/internet years, starting back in early 2008.  Back then The Harvey Girls were functioning as an “actual” band with Adam on bass, keyboard, occasional drums; Hiram on drums, guitar, and vocals; Josh on guitar, banjo, occasional bass, and vocals; and Melissa on keyboard and vocals.  This was the best lineup since we’d left Lawrence several years before and we got along with everyone swimmingly.* We started recording a lot of the songs we had written at Adam’s house in his basement studio on his Pro Tools rig, working toward an album with the working title The Wolf Album along with a bunch of other songs.  We were also playing shows as much as possible.

Unfortunately, several things started happening in Melissa and I’s life that would distract and later kill the project.** First our male cat and band mascot, Mushi Mushi Gila Monster, somehow broke his leg and had to have it removed.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the vets weren’t sure he was going to make it because of a heart condition. Then there was his recovery period in which we had to keep him in our room and our other cat, The Big Delicious, out.  It was really expensive as well; he’s now known as the cat without the golden arm around the house (among other things like flopalong cassidy, turdy johnston the one armed fighter who never won a match but who had a lot of heart, thumpity thump, mu mu). Don’t worry, though, he’s fine now and is probably faster since the loss of the limb because he’s actually  more streamlined when it comes to running for food or up the basement stairs or walking under your feet.  He’s also more pathetic looking when he tries to tap you with his stump, which garners him a lot more food off the plate of Melissa and a lot more love from both of us.  Don’t be fooled, he uses it to his advantage.

Soon after his recovery, Melissa’s mother died after a long illness and in the saddest imaginable circumstances.

A couple of weeks after that, I started a new job that involved a lot more thought and effort on my part as opposed to the easily-forgotten-at-home job I had had before.  We also found out that Adam was going to be moving back to Milwaukee (the big one, not the one spelled -ie that’s the home of Dark Horse Comics).  All through the first half of 2008, and all of these events, there was recording on The Wolf Album with a newly purchased copy of Pro Tools, which only seemed to work on our PC about half the time,*** but that came to a stop soon after the hard drive holding the Pro Tools files died.  Completely.  With no chance of resuscitation.  The files hadn’t been backed up in a couple of weeks, the couple of weeks in which a lot of stuff was becoming finalized, and since these were all lost and Pro Tools wasn’t cooperating with the computer, it was going to be more months of re-recording and pain and sweat to get back to that place.

While all this was going on, Melissa and I both were becoming more and more unhappy with the band.  Not really the individuals who were helping us, as we said we loved and still love them, but the fact that for Melissa playing out was more and more horrifying and time consuming.  As for me, I was really coming to hate the poppier songs that I had written to make everyone else happy.  The experimental side of our music was gone and I was becoming bored. Switching to playing drums helped for a time, but its appeal was limited and made me a bit apathetic towards the entire enterprise.  I think the fact that we were trying to promote our album Nutate ourselves with absolutely no luck was also wearing on us both at the time.

So, as Adam was getting ready to move back to Milwaukee to be with family and Melissa and I decided to not play out**** anymore and I sat pulling out my hair about lost files and rerecording, we told Josh the band was over and I sent everyone involved what was left of the songs we’d recorded.  We were done with the band and it was kaput.

It took about three weeks to decide that there was no way to leave the band like that, so we reversed the earlier decision.  Of course, since Melissa didn’t want to ever play shows again and I did, I decided to come up with some new songs that I could play out on my own.  The idea of a one person band that wasn’t just a folky with a guitar (my nightmare, actually) is something that I’d wanted to do since the mid-90s after seeing bands like Drums & Tuba and Spaceheads with their live looping skills, along with countless hip hop acts, but never had the equipment or the money to buy it.  It was actually something I wanted to do with The Harvey Girls from the beginning as well, but since it was easy in Kansas to get friends to play and we had the wonderful Brent Piepergerdes to play drums, we went with a band.  I’d also by this time played/seen shows with Circle Into Square labelmate cars & trains, whose live looping skills are amazing.  But without a laptop or copy of Ableton, and no money to buy them (yeah, it’s usually about money, but what isn’t?), I started using the equipment I had around already.

At first I was using an old sampler (Dr. Sample 202) I’ve had for years as well as a drum machine for the backing tracks while playing guitar and keyboards on top.  This lacked any sort of spontaneity, not to mention if I screwed up the count of bars with the drum machine the song was quickly off track and worthless.  Because of the new job, I was able to finally buy a used RC-20, a looping pedal that could be used with a mixer in order to do live loops.*****  I started watching videos of Juana Molina live to see if I could figure out her setup (she uses two RC-20s to play her music).  I actually had figured out the logistics, but found it was harder than I thought to pull off the timing of live looping.  Mostly it was just frustrating to not get the loops correct, so I stuck with the prestaged tracks for a bit.  I did a weekend set of shows in Olympia, Tacoma, and Seattle, and it was actually a show that I played with tUnE-yArDs in Tacoma that pushed me over the live looping edge.  I watched her loop all the instruments in a way that wasn’t necessarily a straight 4/4 and knew that I could do that.  I stopped playing shows for about a month, got a stereo memory man pedal to use as a second looper for the guitar, and settled into the basement to figure out how to time live loops.

And that’s where the songs on IBW come from.  With the exception of ‘Smile Like Gwynplaine’ and “Alpha Invasion…” these songs were worked out for the live show.  The only reason I never played “…Gwynplaine” live was because the logistics were too complicated.  “Alpha Invasion…” was actually written at the end of the recording process to replace another song. It’s a favorite of both Melissa and I’s called “Picher, Nowata” that just didn’t quite fit what was going on and will appear at some point somewhere.

The title of the album comes from the fact that during the last couple of years, I’ve started watching a lot of horror movies again.  As a teenager, horror movies were my favorite kind of movie.  I had a poster of Freddy Krueger on my bedroom door (which actually led to one of my younger cousins calling my parents’ house ‘Aunt Freddy’s’… my poor mother and the shit she had to put up with from me) and I can probably still  recite dialogue from movies like Creepshow and Psycho.  There was also a period last year where I began to listen to horror movie soundtracks a lot while at work.  It always made for some interesting days. Another fun soundtrack to a work day is listening to stuff like this.

It should be noted that I’m not the only horror fan in the house since Melissa is a horror geek as well.  She used to read Fangoria, whereas I was more apt to read Option or RIP.  RIP was a pretty bad magazine along the lines of Hit Parader, but they would have interviews with metal and punk bands–Anthrax and Hüsker Dü or the Cro-Mags and Ozzy. I may even still have those in a box at my parent’s house somewhere. To a 14-year-old in the sticks it was a way to find out about some of my favorite bands and new music pre-internet and it was on the shelves at the local grocery store for some reason.  Anyway, watching horror movies became a coping mechanism for what was going on in our lives and, as I said, I was surrounding myself with them.  Probably a strange coping mechanism for outsiders (although it shouldn’t be since psychologically it makes complete sense), but it worked for us.  We like horror movies that tend to be gothic in texture and are more atmospheric rather than the torture porn that tends to be pumped out by Hollywood.  And ‘Shawn of the Dead’ is brilliant and we’ll fight you if you disagree.

Finally, just to add a wrinkle, the title IBW was actually first used for a CDR that I’ve been giving away at shows since March 09.  You can download a zip file of the collection now simply known as THG Shows CD from that link.  The album/collection contains some demos of songs that will be coming out this summer on IBW, some cover songs, a collaboration with our friend Alantl Molina, and a couple of songs from The Wolf Album sessions.  Here’s the track list:

1. Monster (rock version, demo, also appears on the pop tomorrow comp that’s out now!)
2. Plastic deer (from an uncloudy day)
3. Ocean (demo of song that didn’t make it to the final version of IBW)
4. Denver (featuring alantl molina; this one was written by Alantl)
5. Lazlo, Buddy (slow tiger demo; original demo recording of the song from our Declinate album)
6. Slinky Saturday (an instrumental written for Nutate, but never released)
7. The Book of Love (Magnetic Fields cover we did for the It’s Meaningless compilation)
8. Watching E.T.’s Mom in Other Movies (recorded for The Wolf Album, never released)
9. Vigilant Always (The Swirlies cover, to come out on Reverse Engine comp at some point in the future)
10. Tickle (demo of song now titled “FWIW” on IBW)
11. Rod Carew (song recorded for The Wolf Album, never released)
12. Nothing New (Chisel cover; never released)
13. Lazlo, Buddy (stairstep version; never released)
14. When We Sleep (Butterglory cover; never released)

So that’s how this album came to be.

Next time, I’ll talk about the recording of IBW covering equipment, software, techniques, and all that good stuff.  Take care.

–Hiram

* The Harvey Girls have always had a fluid lineup.  We’re like The Fall that way, except with less speed, less alcohol, less accent, and people tend to leave because we move or quit or something, not because we throw them out or fight them or why the hell ever Mark E. Smith does what he does.  There’s a list over here of everyone who has been a Harvey Girl in some form, although that looks like it could use some updating.
** Our next album will be a revisiting of The Wolf Album project… we think.  That’s the plan as of 1/15/10 at least.
*** We’ve since gotten a Mac laptop and new recording setup, but the PC gets used a lot still for various other reasons/software applications.  I’ll go into that in another post.  Oh, and after not using it for a few months, when I began recording IBW, Pro Tools suddenly worked fine on the PC.  I hate you Pro Tools.
**** This happens a lot, to the point where people don’t believe us.  We’re in one of those times right now, made to look foolish because people keep asking us to play (like cars & trains for his CD release show on Feb 6!).  Yeah, we suck and can never make up our minds.  We know that.
***** You can check out my live setup over here at our flickr page.