(with Amanda Rootes)
Due to their participation in VH-1's Band On The Run, Harlow have weaved their way into pop culture. Unfortunately, because of the show, people are more than happy to either hate or love the band without even giving them a fair look and listen. The fact is that their new Pat Smear produced recordings show a tighter, stronger group than the sloppy (albeit entertaining) performances that appeared on TV. Just check out the seductive vocals and fluid bass on "Beautiful Hell" and the taut L7 edge of the regrettably titled "Mike Hunt." They're much better than the haters give them credit for being. On the other hand, there's definitely no new ground broken. Everything Harlow does has been done before and done better, but so what? They are for real. When it boils down to it, Harlow is nothing more than a band that lives, eats, sleeps and breathes rock and roll. I recently had a chance to talk to lead singer/guitarist Amanda Rootes about what's going on for them in the post reality show world.
CM: How's it going out there in Harlowland?
AR:(laughs) We're on our Winnebago in Florida and I'm really hung over. I'm still drunk so I apologize for anything I say in the next sixteen minutes. We were in Ft. Lauderdale last night and everyone there's got, like, big rock hair. There are pictures of Vince Neil everywhere and chicks with really long hair down to their ass and big boobs and guys with long hair. It was so funny.
CM: What happened with Rayshele (recently departed guitarist)?
AR: She wasn't happy so she quit.
CM: Well, that's smart if she was unhappy.
AR: I agree with you. Fuck, if you're miserable, then it sucks to be around that person and you fucking hate life. This is really hard work, touring. It's really fun, but you're basically driving everyday for six or seven hours. It's not very glamorous. You can't have a shower, you fucking have no space, you're tired and you're pissed off...and then it's really fun (laughs). You know what I mean?
CM: How did you wind up with Melody
stepping in to replace Rayshele?
AR: Melody actually tried out for Harlow before we even got Rayshele. It's funny. Melody was the only guitar player that we really liked. She had her own band at the time and she was always really straight and cool with us. She didn't waste our time. She said, "I'm really into this, but I really want to give my band a go and if I didn't have this I would totally join. So her thing didn't end up working out so when Rayshele quit, I just called Mel and I was like, "What are you doing?" And she was like, "Okay, I'm there. I'm doing it." She's a really, really good guitar player.
CM: Has it changed the sound of Harlow at
AR: Yeah, it's made us more solid and it's a really nice feeling onstage to feel that really strong backup. Melody can play a lot of the leads that I had to do so I can concentrate more on vocals, which is really fun, and she's fucking bad ass and looks so cool on stage. She does great rock moves.
CM: How's she taking the strains of the
AR: Really good, she's a fucking drunk. Her last name is Patron, like the tequila, so she pretty much fit in fine (laughs). It's been really fun with her. She's really terrible, terrible, bad.
CM: (laughs) Are you saying she's a bad
influence on the rest of you?
AR: Um...you could put it that way. We're all really bad influences (laughs). It's kind of just worse that we're together. It makes us worse. She's always like, "C'mon I triple dog dare you" and it's always when you're really drunk. And you're like "Oh God, why did I do that?" (laughs). Yeah, she's really fun.
CM: What is she leading you to do that you wouldn't do anyway?
AR: Uhh...I don't know, like, go grab a cop's ass or something. Something dumb like that (laughs). "You grab that cop's ass." It's like "oh, I can't." And she says, "C'mon, do it, I fucking triple dog dare you." (laughs) Then what are you going to do? You've got to do it.
CM: Yeah, that could be dangerous especially in the South.
AR: Yeah, and that was in the South. That was in Texas.
CM: Were you down there for South By Southwest (a big music schmooze fest in Austin)?
AR: Oh my God, it was so fun. South By Southwest rules! It's just a big party of everybody that you know that you haven't seen in ages. Yeah, we played Lucky Lounge and it was really, really good. It was packed. I was really worried when we got in there. There was an acoustic band playing and I was just like, "Oh no, they're not going to be able to deal with how loud we play." But, then we just got on stage. I think the sound was terrible. It was just like screaming guitars. It was fun.
CM: Is the buzz from the Bands On The Run show starting to wear off yet?
AR: Yeah, it's wonderful. There's still fans coming up after the show saying, "You should've won" or "Soulcracker sucks" which is cool, but now it's more like people have favorite songs. Bands On The Run was a moment in our career. The last we fucking filmed that shit was 2000. So it's been a long time for us.
CM: In my experience, every time Harlow comes up, it has nothing to do with your music at all. It's either about the image or the Bands On The Run show itself.
AR: (laughs) It's funny, huh. I think it has a lot to do with being a female band. In most interviews when they do talk about your music, they compare you to other female bands which is fucking such lazy journalism. I've been in a female band since I was 21. It's so easy to just go, "They sound like L7" or "They sound like Hole" or "They sound like Babes In Toyland." No, we don't. You know what I mean? How do we sound like them? I don't get it. We sound like Sabbath and PJ Harvey.
CM: I do think "Mike Hunt" has an L7 feel.
AR: Yeah, I can see that, like the "Shitlist" kind of thing. Yeah, yeah.
CM: It seems to me a lot of times you're getting "reviewed" by people who haven't even listened to the record.
AR: That's a problem with doing a TV show. That's why we're touring and touring. Basically, it seems that every night people just have this kind of surprised, "You guys are good." (laughs) Like, why wouldn't we be? I guess we were shit on TV. We kind of sucked on TV. I just think our sound was bad. It's hard to sound good coming out of a TV and I think that we're a much better band now. We did the TV show's two-month tour and then we went straight in the studio with Pat Smear (of The Germs, Nirvana and Foo Fighters). We went straight into pre-production. We just did that for weeks and weeks and weeks, rewriting and playing and writing more and it was really intense. In that time we got way better and then we recorded the record and I think as a vocalist I had a chance to experiment and really grow. Pat really encouraged me and gave me lots of support and confidence and I think it helped me learn a lot more as a vocalist. You know, 'cause in (pre-Harlow) Fluffy I was just kind of punk rock and now I feel like I've learned how to sing a bit more.
CM: I was surprised at how melodic a lot of the record is.
AR: I think the band create a really great nest to put vocals in. I love how discordant and weird and all this strange shit going on. There's so many melodies that you can pull out of that. It's really cool. Yeah, I like our record. That was our main thing was making a record that we're really proud of.
CM: Are you satisfied with it?
AR: Yeah, one hundred per cent.
CM: You're the only person that I've ever asked that to say that they were a hundred percent satisfied with their album.
AR: And you know why? Because with Pat, we had this rule that if you didn't love it, we'd go in and redo it. It would be with every fucking vocal and guitar part. That's why our record took so long. Everyone always makes records and goes "Yeah, I love it, but that one chorus...I wish I didn't sing it that way." We didn't want to have that. We wanted to have a record that you just go, "Yeah, I'm really happy with it." There's no part that I think that we could've done better than we did. We did our best.
CM: How did Pat influence you on the
record other than giving you the freedom to override anything he said?
AR: He made us play different colored guitars for every take. He wouldn't use any computers. Everything was in one take. It was a really organic experience working with him. He would sit in the room. Even in pre-production we all lived at Harlowland and it was this tiny one bedroom that was built into a studio. We would sit in there and write and write and write and he would just sit in the middle of the room with his eyes closed listening. The whole thing was about making him happy. He'd say "You know what, I don't love that chorus, you need to write another one, I'll be back in three hours." He'd go out and it'd be like, "Oh my God, that's the chorus we've had for months." Then we'd re-write something and be like, "Wow, this chorus is way better." It was like, "Please let him like it" and he'd be smiling. He'd go, "Play it again." It was all about making Pat smile. He's just really inspiring and he loves mistakes when you're recording. If someone fucks up he'll be like, "Woah, that sounds rad. Let's keep it." So you'd have to learn the mistake. It was really experimental. We'd try like the weirdest shit like running tapes backwards and playing over them. There's one thing on the record that he was meant to play (laughs). We recorded in this insane old '70s porn studio and we'd always laugh that it was carved by cocaine pirates. (laughs) It was like a ship. It was all wood and shag pile carpet and a bathroom that's a cave and another bathroom that's like a bordello. It was really funny. They had this big garage there and Pat recorded with Foo Fighters there and Dave (Grohl) recorded his drums in the garage and got this really cool, big, sound. So what we did is, we had Rebecca in there doing drums and Pat wanted to play something on the record (laughs) and I have a 1977 Trans Am. So Pat's sitting in my car in the garage with Rebecca and the drums and it was during "Rock Queens" and it's the bit where all the guitars drop out and Pat pushes on the horn (laughs). It ended up getting edited out.
CM: That sucks that it got cut!
AR: (laughing) I know! Yeah. He was like, "Hmm...I don't love it." (laughs). It was like every time we were doing the take, we all had the headphones on and we were inside the building. Only Rebecca was in the room with him. They were in the garage and every time you'd just hear this (does a monotone car horn sound while laughing) and we'd all just start laughing and we couldn't do the fucking take. It was funny.
CM: Why is Harlow not signed to some major label? I'm sure youve had offers.
AR: Well, when the show came out we had a lot of interest, but we just didn't feel that we were ready. You know, we hadn't really earned it at that point. We hadn't made a record that we were really happy with. We'd done a demo, but we were a still a new young band. We were very afraid of all the hype and stuff. It's worse to get picked up by a label and then dropped very quickly. We didn't want to be a dropped band at such an early age. I think that going out and playing to people is a lot better, and luckily we had the show which means people know who we are. We have Pat producing and paying for the record. So really the things that we would have got from a label, we already had. We're in a really lucky position. Now, everything we do, we have complete control. If we want to change the cover of the record every thousand presses we can and we do and we make our own merchandise and we tour when and where we want. We have the choice for everything we do. It's just way cooler doing everything how we want to do it. I've done the whole big label thing before. I just think it's not a necessary thing to do in our case. We can be completely self-sufficient and tour and do whatever the fuck we want. We're really lucky in that way. I mean, the music business is all about relationships. I think a lot of people tend to forget that. They'll be like, "I just signed to RCA" and blah blah blah, but it doesn't really mean anything. If you don't have that personal relationship with somebody, it's kind of pointless. It's all about people and you have to have fun with what you do. This is a really insane job and you can be surrounded by scavengers and vultures and you have to be careful. I had that happen to me already in Fluffy. I was surrounded by them and how they vanished when the record deal did. This time we've surrounded ourselves with family and friends and that's basically who we trust to make money out of what we do. We're just surrounded by people who give a shit and that way everyone benefits. It's a big mafia family.
CM: It appears that you're going for the slow build, too, which is ironic after the big launch from Bands On The Run.
AR: Yeah, we already did the corporate whore sell-out. We're just going to tour (now). That way you build your fan base and people get to see us. Some kid came up to us. Where the fuck were we? On the last tour, they were like "I didn't realize that you guys were really a band." I guess they thought we were actresses or something. That kind of sums it up really. We have to fucking prove that we're a band and we actually play.
CM: It seems like you've been touring for a hundred years. You must feel like you were born to be in a rock band to go at it so hard.
AR: I agree with you. Either that or a car mechanic.
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