There is more than just amazing energy when it comes to Los Angeles based band, Harriet. We chatted with frontman, Alex Castoff (AC) about the inspiration behind their latest video, “Up Against It” and how he describes their overall visual aesthetics.
Can I just say, before we divulge into anything else, that credit must be given for such a great band name. I mean, Harriet is a pretty fantastic name, right?
AC — It’s my grandmother’s name. I didn’t want to name it after my grandmother because I didn’t want to have to answer the question like this. It was too precious, too sweet. But she loves it, and she sends me more banana bread because of it.
American Appetite was released at the beginning of the year, and the response has been huge so far. Did everything go to plan as you’d hoped when it came to the writing, recording, the release etc.?
AC — It’s a relief. It was like pressure building in a popcorn bag while we were waiting. The best moment probably was the release show at The Troubadour. Matt wrote string arrangements for a couple songs, which made it feel like an event. We had all of our friends and family there since it was in LA and there was just an amazing energy in the room.
All in all, I love the raw honesty of the album’s lyrics; they appear to be very “heart-on-your-sleeve”, which has always struck a chord with me personally, but do you ever fear how some of your personal content may be perceived, especially when they cover topics that most artists tend to avoid?
AC — I’m a writer, not a confessor. Meaning… don’t believe everything you read or in this case, hear. I like writing stories and performing stories. Some of it is about me, and the fact that some of it isn’t makes it much easier to be revealing in what is.
There appears to be a love/hate relationship between the band and social media, but can you expand upon this? Do you think it would even be possible for a band to “make it” in today’s society, so to speak, without the power of social media?
AC — I just quit Facebook, and as soon as I can get someone to do all the other ones for me I’m quitting them too. I want to be more present in my life and I want to spend more time on my art rather than selling it. I don’t know if success is possible without it, but I know that I can’t put the time I need to into my art for it to continue to get better, especially if I keep opening up accounts on new social platforms.
Moving on from the slightly serious topics, I recently watched the new music video for “Up Against It” and I was surprised as to how eerie it appeared, especially with the several different characters that appear throughout. Where did the inspiration for the video come from and what was the message you hoped to portray through it?
AC — The idea for the video came from the opening line “back at my parents’ house.” He comes home. My friend Wade, who directed the video, came up with this idea of creating a more modern “The Graduate.” In “The Graduate,” he comes home to his parents who all don’t “get it”; they’re trying to sell him “plastics” and get him interested in business, etc. In our version, the parents still don’t get it, but this time the son is the conservative. We thought it would be funny to flip it, since our parents’ generation, “the hippies,” all think they get what’s cool. They smoke weed. They’re “chill.” But the truth is this can be very embarrassing especially when someone just wants their parents to be their parents and not their friends.
Visual aesthetics seem to play a big part in the band as a whole (and I especially adore the intricately unique lyric video for American Appetite); do you think it’s important to have these visuals paired to the songs rather than simply leaving the music by itself to tell the story?
AC — Visuals can add or subtract. We try to make sure they add. I like listening to music as a soundtrack to things; driving, running, etc. I don’t listen to music with my eyes closed. Essentially were just recommending a visual to accompany your listening experience.
Have you any more festival plans, or even touring plans, in the near future?
AC — We’re currently booking shows for the summer and the fall and have a bunch of west coast shows over the next couple weeks, including a show on May 13that the Swedish American hall in SF.
Finally, what is the ultimate goal that you want to achieve through Harriet’s music?
AC — Fortune and fame.