Interview – Harriet

LA-based band, Harriet, has released a few singles from their upcoming record, American Appetite. This quartet is comprised of members, Alex Casnoff (vocals), Adam Gunther (guitar), Aaron Folb (bass), and Henry Kwapis (drums). The band is known for their knack for intriguing music videos and distinct electronica-folk sound. This fall, Harriet released three tracks from the upcoming record, “American Appetite,” “Irish Margaritas” and “Burbank.” The rest of American Appetite is set to be released on January 29th. Learn more about the band and the new record from their responses and be sure to check out their recent live recording of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)” below.

alt press photo - David Kitz - 2

How would you describe your music to others?

Henry: I try not to. Haha. I suppose it stems from a kind of songwriting tradition going back to people like: Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, etc. But it’s definitely a product of our time. These songs jump around a lot, so it’s hard to pin down without some unappetizing, genre-mashing descriptor.

Alex: There are guitars.


How did you guys meet?

Henry: I’ve known Alex since I was a babe. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school. I’m a few years younger than Alex and grew up really looking up to him musically. Needless to say, that’s no longer the case :0

Alex: Henry and I went through a couple guitar and bass players as we made our first EP, and a few singles. Eventually, we found Pat and Matt who had played with each other in college.

Henry: At some point the couples joined hands and this record is the result.


What made you pick the band’s name, Harriet?

Alex: My mom suggested it, and I immediately said “no.” A couple days later though it was still sticking. I like names that don’t have a lot of connotation, something that can be given meaning.


Who and what influences your music? Why?

Alex: The first couple chapters of a lot of books (terrible at finishing things), John Cazale and Al Pacino, and true crime. I like stories and story tellers, especially those who try to empathize with difficult people. I don’t like facts. “History ain’t fact.”

Henry: I just want to be great. Whatever that means. That’s what motivates and influences me. I have a serious reverence for greatness in all forms whether it’s a favorite musician like Thom Yorke, or my man Kobe Bryant (RIP). Mastery is inspiring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean technical mastery. It’s just about intention and conviction.


How would you describe your writing process?

Alex: Long. I generally find the character first. Even if it’s me, it’s about figuring out where I was or how I was feeling in a moment and trying to get back into that headspace. I usually just start writing down whatever comes into my head, then it’s draft after draft. When I start to feel good about it I’ll bring it to the band, then sometimes I immediately feel bad. LOL. If not, we usually try to find the weak spots, then we stretch it, change it and rewrite it until it feels right.

Henry: We play through things over and over until some shape begins to form. Once there is some sort of momentum we all step on each other’s toes and micro-manage one another until we need a break 🙂


How often and how long do you practice together?

Henry: Sometimes 5 days a week, sometimes once or twice a week–generally for 3-4 hours. It all depends on what’s coming down the pipeline. For us, time tends to move in chunks: a show chunk, a recording chunk, a music video chunk, etc. So there’s not a lot of routine in our practicing schedule.


From start to finish, how long did it take to create American Appetite?

Henry: From day 1 at the Hangar, to the final master; 2.5 lovely years.

Alex: I round up. At least 3 years.


Can you talk about the inspiration behind some of the tracks on American Appetite?

Alex: My friend Wade recently described the album as capturing the “wonder of being lost.” I think that’s a really beautiful way to look at it.  I think a lot of these songs are about falling in love with the meaninglessness of everything. It’s similar to the awe you feel when you look at the stars. Existential anxiety depresses a lot of people, but being lost in the world can be really magical. Besides that… Ponzi schemes, murder ballads, Portland strip-clubs, and dreams.


What about the inspiration behind the music videos for “Burbank” and “Irish Margaritas”?

Henry: “Irish Margs” is more or less a deranged product placement video. We wanted to glorify something meaningless. Put the Lime on a pedestal. We became obsessed with that ‘lime.’ “Burbank” is definitely more of a narrative piece. It’s rooted in the story of the song. A true life story about delusional love. Growing up in LA, we have a serious nostalgia for the Valley, so it was a chance show the more melancholic side of the Sun Gabriel Valley in the style of people, like the PTA and Larry Sultan.


Do you play covers at practices or shows? If so, which ones are your favorites?

Alex: I’m trying to bring back our “Graceland” cover.

Henry: I’m was scared of covers. Until last week… Stay tuned for a Harriet x YouTube Xmas special (fake snow included).


What do you typically do post-gig?

Henry: Criticize myself. Then try to remind myself not to be a such a self-deprecating fuck. Anger. Grief. Acceptance. Then I have a good time.

Alex: Try to convince Henry it was a good show.


Do you have favorite venues/cities? If so, what are they?

Alex: College campuses. We just went on an East Coast college tour, and I don’t know if we’ve ever played shows that were more fun than at Bard or Wesleyan. There was no self-consciousness in the crowd and no one was looking around to see if people were judging how they danced.

Henry: Of places we’ve played, the Bootleg in LA always feels like home. I want to play more concerts outside. I think music feels nice outside. I think it’s weird that music is often confined to spaces that really don’t serve it. I don’t have too much love for pee scented rock clubs. Before my time I guess.


What image do you think your music conveys?

Alex: I hope there isn’t just one image. I want the music to be a soundtrack and an enhancer to any situation. Music can transform a drive or a make-out session into something magical. I want it to amplify the feeling and the colors of the moment – make you feel like you’re in a movie.


What has been one of your biggest challenges as a band?

Henry: We are constantly being pulled in a lot of directions. Musically, aesthetically, etc. and it’s been a criticism of the project. The branding isn’t consistent enough and there’s not enough similarity between songs, etc. etc.

Alex: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a great brander. I grew up listening to Beatles albums, which go everywhere. Every song is its own separate fully realized world. I find albums that sound too “consistent” suffocating. People are not just sad, or just angry, or just funny. I want to see the full picture.


What has been your funniest or craziest fan experience?

Henry: Unidentified man joining us on stage with a set of pan pipes and accompanying us for a few numbers. Never to be seen again.


Anything odd you want your fans to know?

Henry: Matt is a legit pro level surfer, and prefers to be addressed as Mitch if you catch him in public.


What can we expect from Harriet in the coming months?

Henry: Content!!!!





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