What Say You? Chapter 2: Harsh Armadillo

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Harsh Armadillo

Garden of Eden Opener | Saturday, Aug. 10th @ Jay Peak

Interview with Reid Genauer

RG: How did Harsh Armadillo come to be a band - was it intentional or an organic coming together?

HA: Pretty organic. There were the dinosaurs, then Texas, then James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Nerds Rope, and finally us. The group formed in a basement at UNH. It was hot and small. Lots of loud noises and perspiration. Anyways, if you pour enough salt on most things they'll sort of melt into a single unit. I think that's what happened to us.

RG:: I love your band name. There is something scintillating about it that I can't quite put my finger on. I find myself wanting to say marsh mellow. What's your take?

HA: Scintillating is a welcome departure from the normal first reaction. It's usually a mixture of surprise and the imploded elephant hoof face Sean Hannity makes when he's trying to yell louder than everyone else in the room BECAUSE THAT'S HOW PEOPLE CAN TELL HE'S RIGHT. You can call us marsh mellow if you want. Most people just say Harsh.

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RG:: I know the Stone Church is part of your band fabric. It's part of my musical lineage as well. There is something really special about The Church. The fact that its an old church is an obvious part of the Lore. Why do you think its such a magical venue?

HA: Community. The Church is a special place because those walls hold a certain energy and spirit. It's the first venue I personally played at way before I was legally allowed in any bars, but I wanted to play my guitar and sing and The Stone Church was and still is the perfect place for that.

RG:: Playing music is such an intimate exercise on many levels. In the context of that intimacy. How do you experience playing original music - your bands songs Vs playing a cover tune? Whats the difference in your opinion?

RG:: Playing our original songs is much more natural, and I think that's why we love creating new music. We are very capable of playing, writing and creating songs, so why not make original music? If we play covers it is because we really love and enjoy playing that cover song, or because we're at a wedding and covers have been requested. Music is music though, and when we play covers it always ends up being our own version of the song. I will always remember singing "Wonderful Tonight" for the Mother-Son dance at one of our friend's wedding, and seeing the Momma crying tears of immense joy brought on a feeling and power unimaginable. Whatever we end up playing, no doubt it's gonna be Harsh.

RG:: As a performer, your relationship to a song, cover or original changes over time. Sometimes you get sort of bored of a song and sometimes they grow on you. Do you agree and why do you think that is?

HA: Yeah, definitely agree with that. I feel like it's all part of a growing process. We don't enjoy playing our old songs as much as playing our brand new songs, and I always wonder why that is. Humans are always looking for the "new thing," no matter what it is. Lets say it's the strive for human evolution, creating great new things is what humans do best. If you do anything enough times it get's tiresome. If you went chain shopping with Rick Ross, swam in a pool of mai tai, and went lion hunting with that idiot dentist from Minnesota every day, eventually you'd wake up with a call from Rick, hit snooze, and text him about how your stomach's upset from the mai tai pool and you need a day off. Springsteen probably got sick of his songs 30 years ago but nobody cares, someone's gonna scream for Born in the USA anyways. It's not about you, its about them. Artists cope with that in a lot of ways. Some drink, some drive around with an exercise bike in their van. We usually just try to write new songs or play the old ones in new ways.

RG: Along those lines, I find interpersonal and musical chemistry is the X factor in performing with a group of other musicians no matter what. What’s your take on how the music and the personality of the players create that chemistry that miraculously works or in some regretful cases misses the mark?

HA: Absolutely, Harsh Armadillo is a family. We've all known each other for years (and some for our whole lives), and the connections we have with each other plays a big part of the band dynamic. The best part of being so close is that we can all check each other, and say what's on our mind to each other without the fear of hurting each others feelings. If someone plays a part in a song that no one likes, we will let it be known and then create a new part that everybody likes. It's always a battle of "not taking things personally", but deep down we all know that we all want the best for the band, and for the music that we are creating.

When we're on stage, we always do our best to have a blast and fully enjoy ourselves. When we are having the most fun playing, the crowd picks up on that and feeds off that energy. We are able (and lucky) to share our closeness as a crew with the crowd during a show, and the more they feed into what we are doing the more mutual the experience becomes.

SF: Performing has a certain duality to it, in that at your best you are surfing the great beyond lost in the “other,” and yet by definition it takes a healthy ego to stand on a stage in front of a group of people. How do you manage that paradoxical tug of war sensation?

HA: We try to surf the great beyond in the practice room. Ego health should be tied to how you played that night as an individual and the moments you contributed to as a group. The number of people that screamed your name is irrelevant. We try to be humble goofy and approachable at shows. There's no point in driving around and being a dick, you can join the parking enforcement if you're into that.

RG:: You must have a growing list of "holy shit" moment as a band . Is there one or two gigs or moments when you were like “whoa” is this really happening?

HA: Absolutely, coming from a grimey basement we never thought we'd be opening for George Clinton and selling out hometown shows. Opening for P-Funk was big, holding down the funk before the originator himself stepped on stage with his whole family was absolutely mind-blowing. Another big one was opening for our Boston friends Ripe at the House of Blues in Boston. They sold the place out and we got to play to that huge crowd. Definitely had that moment backstage where it felt like some sort of dream, but we were all in it together.

RG:: What are a few musicians - good bad or ugly your fans would be surprised you like?

HA: Most of our influences show through our music, but we all have our own personal and unique interests that may surprise most fans. I (Thomas) love The Beach Boys, Joe Williams, Whitney Houston, Bobby McFerrin, Michael Franti, TLC, etc. There are and will always be things that inspire and influence us in certain ways. Even if we don't sound like the Talking Heads or Frank Zappa, you best believe we love that shit, as well as a HUGE variety of music from the past and present. I can't stand Bob Dylan but enjoy Micki Miller.

RG:: It seems to me that the bulk of rock and roll innovation happened in a 20-30 year period. It strikes me that those decades and the artists who rose within then might come to define rock and roll for future generations. Like Mozart and Beethoven do for classical music. What’s your take- are we stuck reinventing the wheel or will true artistic innovation continue to be the driver of rock and roll?

HA: Innovation will win. We're recording an album in a basement. People are producing top 40 beats on their cellphone now. There's tons of musical innovation out there. Record labels are still controlling most of what gets to people's ears, but independent artists are getting better and better at reaching a massive audience. Some 10 year old will code up a paradigm shift soon enough. The whole world won't be dutifully listening to whoever gets on radio at rush hour.

RG:: In your opinion what should the New Hampshire state food be?

HA: vegan bald eagle


Reid Genauer