|Photo by Bek Andersen via Carpark Records|
An interview that you'll really want to read: Last month, I spoke with Elizabeth Harper, the vocalist for Class Actress, whose full-length album Rapprocher dropped last week. Typing and talking at the same time has produced a rather disjointed transcript, so I'll skip to a part in our conversation where we were talking about Hurricane Irene.
Elizabeth Harper: A friend of mine was at the pier in Long Island City and the police were sending him off. I was thinking: "Don’t they know that you have to hear the water to hear your soul?"
The hurricane had all these different tones to it. You need to connect with nature to hear things, things that have sounds are things that you can’t hear. We’re a city of romantics. Whatareyagonnado? There’s all sorts of people in New York. There are people who go running in the rain. They’re the stalwart, Wuthering Heights characters in the city. Howling on the cliffs, howling in the moors.
Reid Singer: A lot of people seem to dig the photo of you and the other band members on a couch. Where was that taken?
EH: Oh yes! That was taken at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. [The photographer's] name is Sarah Forbes Keough, a good friend of mine. That was one of the very first shows, I had this idea of doing these black and white paparazzi shots, where you’re catching me in this Lou Reed moment. I wanted a black and white, large flash, hotel shot.
RS: Lou Reed?
|Arthur Felling, (aka Weegee), "At the Palace Theater," ca. 1945. Image via Metmuseum.org|
EH: There was a specific photographer that we were referencing, it was all based on these photos. Maybe Sarah’s online. I can ask her. Oh, that’s what it was. Exactly. Don't you just love the internet? We were trying to do Arthur Felling. There were these old photographs that he used to take of emergency services and crime photos, and he later worked with Stanley Kubrick. It was a specific thing we were going for.
RS: A lot of your music is written in the 2nd person. Does it come from any aspiration to sing your own lyrics to someone (perhaps at a show, a la Phil Collins)?
EH: Yeah. The songs are directed at people. All songwriters, when you write a song, it’s a feeling that’s happened inside of you because of a dysfunction with another human. I don’t know who the inspiration was for "You're So Vain," or for Phil Collins, or for Bruce Springsteen, but these love songs were written for someone. They’re letters to different people. They were written, in a moment, about a person.
When you think about Rousseau and the book Julie, or the New Héloïse, the stir that it caused in 1761, people got so attached to these characters who were from fiction. People were like, "I sobbed when such and such happened. I can’t believe this happened." What can you say about that? The fiction and non-fiction...that’s just how you make it.
It's in Julie that you read the line, "Je suis trop heureuse. Le bonheur m’ennuie." ("I'm too happy. Happiness bores me.") When I was writing the other day, I came across the quote and put it up here so that I can see.
RS: And the lyrics, "You're holding me too high," or "This is the thing you do to me," in the Journal of Ardency title track?
The new record, once you hear it, you’ll understand. It’s pretty lovable. If you think Journal of Ardency is calling to somebody, this is calling somebody out. Journal of Ardency is a note. Compared to this, Rapprocher is a full-on love letter. It’s a wider a sea of despair and longing. The Journal were kind of desires that I had and kept to myself, and Rapprocher is a deeper understanding of the feeling and coming to terms with it.
It sounds serious, but it’s pop music. It’s sleazy dance music. It’s not really though. I mean, I’ll say that, but it’s Phil Collins sleazy dance music. It’s got the same sentiment. "You know I love you but I’m playing for keeps." So intense.
I got to get some armor on if I keep referring to Phil Collins. It's a little too tragic, but people love love songs. The first time I heard Alicia Keys, I got chills. I love RnB. [Class Actress] is a white LA girl's take on RnB, gone through an 80s blender. That’s all I could say about that. I know it’s a little too self-deprecating, but, you know.
RS: How do you like the Dr. Dre / Journal of Ardency mash-up?
EH: I love it! I think it’s great. The Hood Internet did it, and it’s perfect. I just wished some big rapper would hit you up for one of your beats. It fits so perfect into this song, I totally saw it. It was so me, West Coast early 90s rap is stuff I love. I wish a good modern day rapper would hit me up.
RS: What should we listen to between now and when Rapprocher is released?
EH: A few new records come out on Sept 13th: the new Das Racist, the new Neon Indian, and the show I'm going to tonight which is Cant [aka Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear]. He put out the Journal of Ardency record for me. Those are three great records that come out the 13th. Until then you should be listening to your own mind. Or your own higher self.