RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW BRIGHTON BAND HARKER
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
MARK: It was the only thing I was ever interested in growing up, and it still pretty much takes up most of my life
PHOEBE: I don’t think I decided that music was a thing for me at any specific point. It just always was, and always will be I guess!
MATT: Music has always been the most important thing in my life. I grew up playing music, am from a musical family. When I started listening to alternative music and learned to play the drums is when things really took off.
LOUIS: Think once I could string two chords together on the guitar, I found my thing and have been pretty obsessed since then.
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history.
MARK: Vocals and Guitar
PHOEBE: I’m Phoebe, I play bass!
MATT: I’m Matt, I play the drums.
Name me your 3 favourite Albums.
MARK: Wedding Present – ‘Seamonsters’, Envy – ‘All The Footprints’, Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born To Run’
PHOEBE: Jimmy Eat World – ‘Bleed American’, Against Me! – ‘Searching For A Former Clarity’, Alkaline Trio – ‘From Here To Infirmary’
MATT: Touche Amore – ‘Parting The Sea’. Refused – ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’. Blink 182 – ‘Enema Of The State’. Not necessarily my top 3, but all up there.
LOUIS: The Smiths – ‘Meat Is Murder’, Fugazi – ‘Repeater’, The Cribs – ‘The New Fellas’
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
MARK: Whenever my parents weren’t around to do the school pickup, i’d spend time at my grandparents – they had cable and i’d watch MTV2 a lot for the alternative music stuff. I remember being pretty transfixed on certain videos (Alkaline Trio – Private Eye, Blink 182 – All The Small Things, Hives – Main Offender) and I think that kind of came hand in hand when developing a love for both music and film.
PHOEBE: I vividly remember hearing Blink 182’s ‘All The Small Things’ on the car radio for the first time and it went from there really, like a gateway drug.
MATT: There was a lot of music that was important to me when growing up, one of my turning points was hearing Linkin Park perform In The End on tv when it was released.
LOUIS: Can’t remember one specific song, but I do remember watching Back to The Future and seeing Marty McFly ripping out Johnny B Goode and immediately wanting to learn to play the guitar and nicking my brother’s Chuck Berry album.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
MARK:I think the music industry has rapidly changed even from where it was 2 years ago when we released album #2. It’s increasingly difficult to get your music heard to fresh ears now when everyone is bombarded with so much new art. There’s a real problem with the power not being in the artists hands anymore either, and the industry can be incredibly exploitative to bands whose main goal is to really make it big. Measurement of success is really a subjective matter though, and personally I feel that us having so many great opportunities from album releases to touring multiple countries are huge marks of success. Another increasing problem in the industry that needs to be addressed is artists not being transparent about background of wealth, this lack of transparency can create a smoke screen of ‘instant success’ for these groups when ultimately, their privilege has offered them greater deals from the get go – It really diminishes and shadows so many great acts who have hard grafted for years, but ultimately cannot go further due to financial restrictions. It’s easy to bankroll a top publisher on the estates money.
MATT: I feel we are doing pretty well for a DIY band given the circumstances of the industry. It can sometimes be tough seeing other bands pop up and gain success seemingly out of nowhere, but what’s important for me is the passion for writing, playing and getting along as a unit.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
MARK: If I saw any of that behaviour at our gigs I’ll be stopping us and engaging vocally and physically if needed.
PHOEBE: Just don’t be a dick!
MATT: The easy thing to say would be awareness, giving a direct message when speaking to audiences, writing, or posting about it. Calling out bad behavior when you see it.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
MARK: Play shows, go to shows, encourage active engagement in physical music and talk to music lovers on a personal level. Monthly listeners does not equate to records sold. Sure we have 500 monthly listeners, but we’ve sold out of presses on our records, which for me is a bigger deal.
MATT: Look for playlists/hosts on Spotify that you could submit your music to, this will get you more listeners. I try to use the band social media, sometimes for humorous posts/stories and have had good feedback. What I still need to work on is when is best to post (day of the week and what time etc), having good content and photos, maybe having a running theme in terms of style/colour/layout? Also seeking out radio stations/pages that can promote you and your music and just messaging them with links and bio.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
MARK: I know how to sail a boat, I’ve listened to the entire Guided By Voices discography through, I can do a cartwheel
PHOEBE: I have two cats called Twiglet and Wotsit. I once swam in the Amazon river. I don’t mind mushrooms.
MATT: I hate olives. I’m a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. I used to tap dance when I was younger.
LOUIS: Huge Cornwall from the Stranglers once kipped on my sofa, I have a Blue Peter badge, I’m addicted to Tea.
What’s your thought on Spotify monopoly on the music industry?
MARK: You have to play the game, but in all honestly if we could survive that way, all our music would be on Bandcamp only.
PHOEBE: Good for music lovers, not so good for musicians.
MATT: I am 50/50 on it. It’s great to be able to easily listen to any music you like, but it doesn’t give much back to the artist.
LOUIS: I have nothing against streaming as a way of listening and discovering music. But I do hate the models used by the larger companies like Spotify & Apple. Absolutely love Bandcamp and they show there is a far fair model that works for all. But Spotify is all about greed and I think quite damaging for the industry and the artists. However you are almost forced to use it in order to get your music to people who would like to hear it.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
MARK: I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I wouldn’t say I believe them. Except for the Avril Lavigne and Andrew WK double theories.
PHOEBE: Only if they involve Mr Blobby.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
MARK: I bought a lot of records and a lot of anime
PHOEBE: The pandemic might have been the longest period of my life when I didn’t buy anything I don’t need. Apart from a cat, and then a rowing machine. And then another cat.
MATT: I don’t think so, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at not buying things I don’t need. Actually, I just remembered I bought a skipping rope and haven’t used it once.
LOUIS: Probably loads of things I didn’t “need” but all helped in getting through.
What was the worst experience on stage?
MARK: I’ve thrown up a few times from anxiety
MATT: I’ve had my hands/wrists freeze up a few times. I can get quite anxious depending on the night/situation, which can be frustrating when all you want to do is play well and put on a good show.
LOUIS: Once blew up the speaker in my guitar amp in the first song of a show. Then once got that fixed my strap broke and my guitar fell to the floor and snapped a tuning head. Had to play the rest of the set with a borrowed guitar and go directly into the PA.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about.
MARK: I can sail a boat
PHOEBE: I miss Time Team.
MATT: I used to play the violin
LOUIS: I love the Bangles
What makes you stand out as a band?
MARK: Hard working, hard grafting, queer loving, catchy as hell, and not afraid to boot a racist in the teeth
I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it?
MARK: First single from a nice handful of new violent power fuzz face melters
PHOEBE: it’s a bop.
MATT: Pop mixed with punk mixed with shoegaze, but in your face.
LOUIS: The beginning of a new chapter in the story of Harker
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune.
MARK: I wanted to return to some back to basic 4 chord powerpop singles, with a nice bit of post punk noise musings running underneath. The choruses if you listen with headphones, the guitars are doing some pretty gnarly growls. That’s how I like to do it sometimes. Pop music but not afraid to rip your face off and chew it.
What was the recording process like?
MARK: Easy, two days at Southsea Sound – we went into this one well rehearsed and knew what we wanted. I had the guitar parts practiced to the point I could play them with my eyes closed. We had already demoed and re-demoed to know exactly what sounds we wanted, and how it would play out on the day in terms of tracking. We smashed three tracks in two days. That’s multitracked too, so that’s a mean feat we’ve set for someone else out there.
PHOEBE: I really enjoy recording, especially at places like Southsea Sound where I know I can feel comfortable enough to play my best and try out ideas without feeling self-concious about it!
MATT: Relatively straight forward for myself, usually a few takes of a song. Then I sit around and bug the others about their playing and choice of melodies.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
MARK: We’re a couple of EPs and two albums deep now, so it’s a battle between keep things catchy, and also trying to amplify above the work we’ve already done. Both albums are pretty diverse in sound, and progression is an important thing for me when working on new music. Just writing another album of similar sounding material is a cop out – that’s the Harker way, always progressing but always conscious the songs need to be rippers.
PHOEBE: Finding the thin line between under-working an idea, and over-working it.
MATT: Trying not to overthink it, getting used to recording demos and re-doing them. Anything can happen.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
MARK: Nah, never look back
MATT: Yes and no. There’s always going to be ideas coming up that we could have done but no I wouldn’t change a finished song.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
MARK: Don’t be a cop
PHOEBE: Mr Blobby.
MATT: Check out our music and if you like it, please share. Support your local bands, support your friend’s bands, keep going to shows!