erasing clouds

100 Musicians Answer the Same 10 Questions

Part Five: The Harvey Girls

instigated by dave heaton

The Wild Farewell, the latest album from the Kansas-based duo The Harvey Girls (Melissa Rodenbeek and Hiram Lucke), is a true pop epic, traversing geographical locations (it's split into New York and Kansas sides) and quite a variety of styles, moods, and sounds - everything from '50s vocal pop to hip-hop. It's filled with atmosphere, feeling, and great songs. And its available for download from SVC Records. In fact all of their music is out there to be downloaded; their debut album at Imaginary Albums, and others from their own website. Music and other information can also be found on their MySpace page.


What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?

Hiram: At the moment, collaboration with people like our friend DJ Sku, and having input from people who have been playing with us live on more of our songs (mainly Brent Piepergerdes on drums and Noah Rodenbeek—he's our nephew!!—on bass). Victor Scott's gonna put his great voice on one of our cover songs (see below), and we've been trading files with Feedle (see below).

What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?

Hiram: The very old, very slow, but ultimately very FREE (as in zero cost) computer that our friends Chris and Steven gave us. Thanks guys.

Melissa: The janky nature of a lot of our equipment, especially our computer and mics, and most especially recording vocals with said equipment. Also, trying to distribute our music and make it available to anyone who wants it while trying to stay above water: not fun.

What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).

Hiram: *deep breath* We're finishing a covers album to put out in July. We're putting the finishing touches on a new album of our own stuff (called Nutate) that will be done pretty soon, and we'll be looking to see if someone wants to help us distribute it before we try to send it out into the world by ourselves. We've been trading files with our friend and SVC Records-mate Feedle for a collaborative album that will be released at some point. We're also moving, so everything will be coming to a screeching halt soon to be picked up again later.

What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

Hiram: We're playing at the Kansas City Kansas Public Library on July 12 at noon, which just doesn't sound right, but apparently they've been doing this lunch series for years. It was really nice that they asked us. Since we haven't done that show yet, um, recording vocals in the closet of our studio/office. It was cramped and I'm not sure I've noticed any difference. I also take a hand-held tape recorder with me when I go on trips to other places, and have come back with great sounds, although they're of a really bad fidelity, which is kinda nice.

Melissa: I have nothing to add except that this question makes me think of that moment in Desperately Seeking Susan when Jimmy's calling Dez from the road and behind him there's a chick carrying a guitar case and saying in a very classic New York whine, "Festival seating. That means Port-O-sans. Port-O-sans means pissing with flies. I'm not gonna piss with flies. You guys can piss in bottles. What the hell is this? Woodstock?" That encapsulates perfectly why I never intend to play a festival.

In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?

Hiram: I have a theory that the type of music of a country or region is based mostly on language and not place. Since I haven't done any research on this yet, and there's no way in hell I'm going through grad school again, it's just a theory. However, living in Kansas definitely affects the way that we try to use space (or the lack thereof) within our music. A friend once told me that someone visited him in Kansas from the west coast during a summer that the locusts, katydids, and other bugs were really loud. It apparently drove the person crazy and they couldn't sleep because of the noise. I guess you could think of that as our traffic problem. Our last album was a narrative on the differences between NY and KS. So yeah, place is a factor for us.

Melissa: I was raised by a soul jazz Motown pop and folk-loving mother in NY – my dad isn't passionate about music at all, but living with him in rural KS put country on the map for me. Folk and soul, the first music I remember ever loving, had an obvious connection to my ears to the country music of the '60s and '70s. I especially fell in love with soulful and expressive ladies like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton and I'm so glad that happened. So place mattered, but being taught openness and love and curiosity about all kinds of music mattered far more.

When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?

Hiram: About a month ago. It's based on the idea that I could hold the arpeggio on our Roland Juno-6 and play over the top. I've actually had this idea for a long time and never got around to it. Then I listened to Euros Childs' album Chops and the song "First Time I Saw You" came on and he'd already done it. I was a little pissed, but wrote the song anyway. Melissa: This week. I wrote lyrics from the point of view of Eve, who was really, really happy to see that handsome snake. I got the idea to whisper lines from "Snake" by DH Lawrence – an incredible poem – under the chorus. Until we record it I won't know if it's actually a good idea or just another rocket ride to Planet Pretentious.

As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?

Melissa: More interested, because they keep friending us on MySpace. Seriously.

Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)

Hiram: Lately, I've been listening to a lot of late '80s/early '90s stuff along the lines of Moonshake (especially Eva Luna) and Laika, Portishead, Massive Attack... hmm, I guess they're all British, huh. So, in short, British music on Too Pure from the '80s/'90s, sorta. But, truthfully, we listen to all kinds of music from all kinds of periods. I tend to not listen to periods in general, but rather music that touches upon whatever is going on in my life in the moment. That doesn't mean emotionally, necessarily. It could have as much to do with it being a beautiful spring day than whether I'm happy or depressed.

Melissa: I am drawn to fragments of it all. I can think of music analytically and historically, but it takes huge effort. I naturally blur time periods, genres, and artists so that the things I love all have a likeness that's only meaningful to me and so is hard to explain or quantify. I know what people mean when they call that genre-hopping and pastiche but that doesn't get to how I essentially feel, which is that it's all expressions of the same ineffable thing.

Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

Melissa: Recent: Scrabbel's 1909. It is so simple and sad and beautiful.
Ago: Bill Fay: Bill Fay. "Garden Song," oh my god.
Recent and Ago: The Rhino box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found . Such amazing, heart-lifting and -breaking music.

I also highly endorse Hiram's choices!

Hiram: Man, this one's really hard because I can never pick just one, so I'm just going to list a bunch of the albums that I find myself listening to a lot within the last 5 years or so and let you pick:

Anything by King Tubby, Bukka White, Sun Ra, Ozzy-period Black Sabbath, or the Flaming Lips.
Bo Diddley's Bo Diddley
Milton Nascimento's Clube da Esquina
The second side of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks
The second side of Led Zeppelin IV
A "greatest hits" collection of Gilberto Gil's that I picked up called Obras Primos-Collecion or something. It's a wide swath of his early work and I have a lot of the albums now, but I always go back to this particular CD.
Unicorn, The Slider, and Electric Warrior by T. Rex
Within the last year or two: Diplo's Florida, Tinariwen Amassakoul, Mike Seed's Songs for a Wintering Show Troupe (his new one {goodbyejuly} is excellent as well), and Animal Collective's Sung Tongs.

Also, what Melissa said.

What's the saddest song you've ever heard?

Hiram: As of today, "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton.

M: We're very pleased that she got to have all the beautiful coats she ever wanted, because boy does she deserve it.

(Addendum sent a few minutes later by Hiram...)


Which would be Smile by The Beach Boys, either bootlegs or the new version (which is surprisingly--to me anyway--really good).

To check out the rest of the Q&As, click here.

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2006 erasing clouds