Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with HRVRD at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse, Jason, Garrett, and Lee discussed SXSW, touring with letlive., their new album, working with producer Brian McTernan, future touring, and much more. Check it all out below!
Can I get your names and what you do in the band?
Jason: I’m Jason; I play guitar.
Garrett: I’m Garret I play bass.
Lee: Lee; I play guitar.
So when did you guys get down here?
Jason: 4:30 AM.
Lee: Last night.
Jason: Last night, middle of the night.
And you haven’t played yet, so are you looking forward to your first SXSW showcase of the year?
Garrett: Very much so. Starting out with the Equal Vision one, so that should be really awesome.
Lee: Stoked about it. Running on no sleep and ready to go.
Jason: No sleep, no coffee…
How long are you guys in town for?
Jason: A couple days.
Got any bands you are going to try to check out while you are here?
Lee: A lot of them have played already that I know of. I’m going to try my best to find out. We won’t have any time today, but hopefully tomorrow. And after we play tomorrow, the day after, like Saturday, we’ll hopefully get to see some bands. We’ll see if we have a pass this year.
Jason: We’re just so ridiculously busy. We have three showcases today and one tomorrow and we just did acoustic live video things. So we’re super busy.
Does it feel good to be busy?
Garrett: Oh yeah.
Lee: I’d rather be busy than not busy.
You guys just got off a tour with letlive. not too long ago. How did it go?
Garrett: It was amazing. The tour was amazing. Every band… They put together an amazing lineup for that tour. Everybody was super cool and everybody got along.
POZ: How were the crowds?
Garrett: Really good, yeah.
Were the kids at the shows familiar with you? Or was it a lot of people seeing you for the first time, do you think?
Garrett: A little bit of both.
Lee: I think they were familiar with us, but I met a lot of kids that were like, “Oh. I’ve never heard of you before, but you definitely turned me into your music.”
Jason: There were definitely kids singing our songs every night too, which is pretty cool.
So letlive. have a particularly incredible live show.
Jason: Yeah, they do.
POZ: Does it force you to step your game up a little bit? Knowing that you’re playing with them?
Jason: Probably in a different way than I think people would think. We don’t try to, like, match them physically or in their craziness, I don’t think.
Lee: Our show is intense in its own way, you know?
Jason: We try to be a little shocking. Every night, the first leg, This Is Hell would play before us, and on the second leg Night Verses would play before us. Both heavy bands. So we tried to start every set either with piano or something really light, just so that people would be like, “What the hell’s going on?”
Formed in 2004 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hrvrd has been straddling the dark genre line ever since the release of their first full length, 2009’s The Inevitable and I. Falling somewhere in the blurry mess that is post-insert-your-favorite-genre-here, one can best illustrate HRVRD as an even blend of The Dear Hunter’s theatricality, Circa Survive’s alterna-rock sensibility, and the eerie overtones of Brand New’s later work. From The Bird’s Cage is not a quick study, nor is it suitable for background music; with an attentive listen, one can appreciate the elevated focus HRVRD has brought to this release as compared to their last. However, the ten-track, 41-minute record isn’t all concentrated. In fact, it often feels like a foggy walk through a forest- at times coming into great moments of clarity, others with confusion and lack of direction, but generally consistent and overall with a beautiful craft.
The record opens with an airy, echoed track (“Black Crème”) encouraging their listeners, or perhaps themselves, that “This is bigger than you / this is better.” A gradual escalation of ambient guitar notes whirring passively in the background leads into the strong “Timid Scripts,” a pulsing, mid-tempo song with a thick rhythm section which clearly has control throughout the entire thing. The floaty, background guitar riffs are a tactic used both to the band’s benefit and detriment as the album plays through. While the escalation coils like a boa constrictor on the cold, haunting “New Information,” songs like “We Never Shut Up About You” feel like you’re chasing down a tangible melody or climactic moment that you never actually catch. Easily enjoyable and traditional rock ‘n roll song conventions are present in “Futurist,” while “Flaming Creatures” sounds like a fleshier version of Brand New’s “Millstone.”
Employing some unexpected musical elements against such a homogenous design, Hrvrd installs some stylistically refreshing moments during the record’s course. “Kids With Fake Guns” is punctuated with a sad-brass-and-piano outro, and album standout “Cardboard Homes” commences with a folky rhythm to then, with a start, pair up with the most powerful, melodically entrancing chorus of the entire record. The refrain of “Cardboard Homes” is a moment of clarity buried in a record that is heavily overlapped with well-written parts to some points of obscurity, and to hear vocalist Jesse Clasen declare “Call for the blood of your leader! / Cardboard homes for your people!” causes one to stop dead in their tracks.
SXSW seems to grow larger each year. What began as a small get-together of industry insiders and aspiring bands angling for a break has turned into an unwieldy, bloated clusterfuck of corporate sponsorship, headlined by arena-packing artists hoping to glom a little secondhand cool. But beneath all that surface bullshit, the heart of the little-festival-that-was is still beating.
Look — we love Green Day and Paramore as much as the next guys and gals, but are they really hurting in the promotional department? Instead, we’ve decided to highlight a handful of smaller artists performing on each day that you might find simpatico. Of course, with over 2,000 bands performing throughout the week, we’re undoubtedly missing out on some great acts too. Reblog and let us know who we need to see while we’re in Austin this week!
Driver Friendly (Red 7 Patio, 9:00PM)
Austin’s own eclectic pop-punk-with-horns band Driver Friendly — you might remember them as Driver F — signed with Hopeless Records last fall, but other than a few local shows (including one opening for The Front Bottoms) things have seemed quiet in their camp as of late. Turns out, they’ve been in the studio — fingers crossed we’ll get a sneak preview of the results this week.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (Bungalow, 10:00PM)
These Warped Tour vets’ stock in trade is raucous country blues, played on vintage guitars, washboards and plastic buckets. We can’t think of any better way to get into the Austin mood on the first night of the festival than hootin’ and hollerin’ with The Reverend.
MC Lars (Flamingo Cantina, 1:10AM)
Nerd-rapper MC Lars might feel like a throwback to 2005, but if popular attention has drifted over the last few years, it hasn’t slowed Lars down — he’s continued to steadily release new material, including an Edgar Allan Poe-themed EP last year. Here’s a chance to see what he’s been up to while you weren’t looking.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Tuesday: Jenny Owen Youngs; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Tegan & Sara.
Laura Stevenson And The Cans (Holy Mountain Backyard, 9:00PM; Barbarella Patio, 12:30AM)
One-time Bomb The Music Industry! keyboardist Laura Stevenson might be a small lady, but she’s got a humongous voice, and isn’t afraid to show it off in concert. Her third LP, Wheel, is due out next month; the recently released advance track, “L-DOPA”, might be the best we’ve heard from her yet.
Twin Falls (Central Presbyterian Church, 8:30PM)
OK, so Chris Carrabba isn’t exactly a small fry. But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t super stoked for the debut of his new band, featuring Suzie Zeldin of The Narrative and Ben Homola of Bad Books and Shone (if you could major in “playing drums in side projects”, Homola would have his Ph.D. by now). We’ve only heard one song so far, titled “Scraping Up The Pieces”, but its mixture of bouncy, folky Americana and Carrabba’s soaring vocals sure has us intrigued.
June Divided (Burnside’s Tavern, 10:00PM)
Straightforward rock music might not be in vogue right now, but June Divided are proof that there will always be room for rock done right. Their live set earned them a stint on Warped Tour, and slots as a local opener for bands like Further Seems Forever and The Almost.
White Lung (Holy Mountain, 1:20AM)
Canadian quartet White Lung marry modern punk and hardcore with personal politics and a fearlessness that recall the riot grrrl 90’s. Vocalist Mish Way sports a ferocious roar, but it’s backed with intelligence and empathy, as she proved on our 100 Words Or Less Podcast a few weeks ago.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Wednesday: A Life Once Lost; Barcelona; Paramore; Skinny Lister; So Many Dynamos; The Specials; Twenty One Pilots; Vacationer; Waxahatchee.
Topshelf Records / Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase Day 1 (Pearl Street Co-Op: 2:00PM)
Empire! Empire!. Joie de Vivre. Caravels. Weatherbox. Kind Of Like Spitting. Look Mexico. Pentimento. Candy Hearts. And that’s just half the acts performing at day one of what might be SXSW’s strongest showcase event. You could be excused for spending your entire day there; I know I’ll be tempted to.
Mondays mean BandsOnBands, and we’re excited to be posting the PropertyOfZack feature today with Garrett Leister of Hrvrd. The band just released a great new album called From The Bird’s Cage a few weeks ago, so make sure to download it here and check out their upcoming tour dates.
In this week’s feature, Garrett discusses his love for Radiohead, who re-entered his life during his college years and helped insert a larger creative musical mindset into his life that developed his general love punk rock into a more experimental and art driven musical experience. Listen to songs by Radiohead here and check out what Garrett had to say about one of his biggest influences below!
By 1997 I was 10 years old and had already been forming my own music taste and building my music library by spending my weekly allowance on cassette tapes. When music television stations regularly aired and promoted music, I used to sit in front of the television for hours watching music videos. Unlike the endless amount of reality show garbage we are constantly force fed to try and entertain us now, the creativity of a good music video was appreciated much more by the masses. I can remember out of the hours I spent watching these music videos, a few made very lasting impressions on me. Two that stuck with me until this day were the videos for songs ”No Surprises” and “Paranoid Android” by a band called Radiohead. Watching singer Thom Yorke with his head in a type of astronaut helmet as it slowly filled up with water throughout the whole “No Surprises” video, was an image I didn’t forget. The original and odd animation in “Paranoid Android” was another. I thought the videos were strange and the music was unlike anything I had heard before. I enjoyed the uniqueness of it, but it is honestly impossible for anyone that young to fully understand and comprehend the music compositions that Radiohead create. I believe I had heard earlier songs “Creep” and “High and Dry” not knowing the artist before this, but the videos were my first exposure and real memory of Radiohead.
It was years later before I revisited Radiohead, as I began to explore and dive into the world of punk rock throughout middle and high school. I started listening to more aggressively uptempo punk bands such as Alkaline Trio, NOFX, Millencolin, H20, The Vandals, and No Use For A Name. As I started attending college, my music library had grown much larger, and consisted mostly of punk rock. I was sitting in my dorm room one day and saw something on a music forum about Radiohead. It immediately sparked my memories of the strange videos I had watched almost 9 years earlier. This was around the time iPods were beginning to get popular, so I decided to purchase the album OK Computer on iTunes, as the two songs I knew were on it. I sat in my dark dorm room and listened to the complete album. The last song finished and I immediately was changed.