I wasn’t expecting much the first time I heard them but was immediately captivated by the band’s ability to craft music that tugs at the heart as much as it stimulates the technical nerd in me.
HarborLights is a Massachusetts based instrumental heavy post-rock band in the vein of Caspian and Pelican. There are a lot of bands that play this type of music, so I wasn’t expecting much the first time I heard them, but was immediately captivated by the band’s ability to craft music that tugs at the heart as much as it stimulates the technical nerd in me. ‘Taking a Life’ from the band’s 2016 release Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree remains on heavy rotation at casa Tim. The band has spent a fair amount of 2017 touring the US northeast making a name for itself by putting on blistering live shows that both hypnotize and enthral audiences. The band is made up of Mathew Wright (guitar), Andrew Diaz (guitar), Christine Smith (bass) and Jordan Rodriguez (drums).
I caught up with them via email and got a bit of scoop on the band’s background and influences.
(((o))): How did the band come together?
Andrew: Matt and I have been playing in bands together for the better part of the last ten years. We met back when we were in high school and have put together different musical projects from that point on. I can pretty much credit him entirely for an instrument ever ending up in my hands. Back in 2012, we started playing with Matt Ellsworth, who was our first drummer. We were a three piece during this period and I was playing bass at the time. About a year or so later, Christine took over bass duties and I moved over to guitar. Jordan jumped on board to take over drums last summer and we’ve been pushing forward in this form since then.
(((o))): Was the decision to focus on instrumental port-rock at the outset or did the band’s sound evolve over time?
Andrew: It didn’t ever seem to be a conscious choice, but looking back at what we were playing leading up to this point it was definitely in the back of our minds. The pre-HarborLights material definitely had major post-rock leanings and I think we’ve rolled with it while still trying not to trap ourselves within a genre.
(((o))): What are the musical backgrounds of the band members?
Andrew: Matt’s been playing guitar since he was 13 and has been in bands pretty much just as long. He essentially taught me how to play any sort of instrument. Jordan’s been playing drums for about 11 years now in all sorts of different bands. This is Christine’s first band and she’s proven to be a huge element of what we do.
(((o))): What are some of the most important musical influences for the band?
Andrew: There’s definitely some common threads that run through all of us (Radiohead, Mogwai, Caspian), but there are lots of things unique to each member. I think those differences are what really help diversify the things we end up writing. You never know who happened to hear a really tight riff or catchy hook the day we all sit down to hammer something out together. Having varied tastes seems to have made for some much more interesting material.
In writing, we try to be as collaborative as possible. Usually, one person will show up with an idea they have (no matter how short it might be) and things tend to take off from there. We’ll see how far we can grow a simple phrase and try to pull a whole song out of it.
(((o))): You guys are really tight and put on a tremendous live show – can you talk about who or what shows you look to as great examples of live shows that motivated or influenced how you guys play?
Andrew: Being from Boston, at least right now, there are an absolute ton of hardcore shows. The DIY scene around here has a tremendous energy to it and trying to capture that sort of spirit when we perform is important to us. At the same time, we have bands like Caspian that put on a show that’s so tight from top to bottom with their intricate lighting and leanings toward a show that’s almost theatrical. On a grander scale, there’s Radiohead (on the In Rainbows tour) that takes a stage show and turns it on its head. If we can somehow combine those elements to create the kind of performance that makes people want to see us again, we’d be ecstatic.
(((o))): Do you have any good stories from touring or doing shows or favorite places to play?
Andrew: A few years ago, in Brooklyn, I got to watch a dude show off his knife collection (in the house we were staying in) and then proceed to stab his roommate in the head. The dude only had a bike helmet on for protection. It was one of the scariest things I have ever seen. Everyone was totally OK with it and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two dudes have a better time than they were having. We stayed in a wild house in Columbus, Ohio on our tour in May. There was an elk on the wall, a whale’s rib bone on the mantle, and an incredibly large fish just hanging out above their TV. Not the sort of home decorations we’re used to!
As far as favorite places to stay, New York State has been incredibly good to us. Whether it be upstate (Rochester and Buffalo, namely) or in the city, we’ve always been welcomed with open arms and couches.
The band is embarking on a tour of the northeastern and central US. If you have the chance, I’d highly recommend seeing them play. You won’t be disappointed.
7/20 Manchester NH // Bungalo
7/21 Falls Church VA // VFW Post 9274
7/22 Raleigh, NC // Slims
7/23 Ashville, NC // Broadway’s
7/24 Nashville, TN // Springwater Supper Club
7/25 St. Louis, MO // Foam
7/26 Chicago, IL // Slippery Slope
7/27 New Bremen, OH // Mountain House
7/28 Elyria, OH // Blank Slate
7/29 Monaco, PA // Great Arrow
7/30 Philadelphia, PA // The Barbary
7/31 Salem, MA // Koto
8/05 Portland, ME // Empire