Melbourne-based artist Harper Bloom has released her latest single Shaky Bones, produced by prolific Australian producer Benjamin McCarthy (G-Flip, Alex the Astronaut, Gordi); a barnstorming, rapturous, sing-along that embodies the warmth of a summer’s day, lifted from her forthcoming debut EP Faith, Sex & Skin out later this month. To coincide with the single, she has teamed up with award-winning director David Hansen (Anija, Slingshot) to bring the song to life with a brand-new clip. Harper answers a few questions about the single for Hi Fi Way.
How has the build-up been to the new single Shaky Bones?
The build-up has been great thanks! I was lucky enough to play the song at quite a few shows before the release (unlike last year!!). So, I was able to see how the audience were responding to the song. It seems to be a crowd favourite which is nice and makes it even more enjoyable to play. Hopefully now that it is out in the world people will learn the words and have a sing-along on my upcoming tour!
What is the background behind the single?
I wrote this song in Torquay last year. I was sitting on the beach watching this couple who were behaving like friends that wanted to be lovers, but neither seemed confident enough to make the first move. It reminded me of times when I’ve been so in awe of people, but too afraid to ever let them know. It’ so intense, it sends tingles up your spine and I thought a good metaphor for that was shaky bones! The strumming pattern was inspired by the upbeat, fast tempo strumming in Cherry, Cherry by Neil Diamond. I sent the track to my wonderful band, who added their drumming and bass parts (Joe Kneipp and David Quested) and I showed Ben McCarthy the demo. He loved the track and ended up producing it and playing all the instruments (aside from guitar), even adding some horn parts!
Have you been happy with the response to the song?
I always have high hopes that the song will grow little wings and spread as far and wide as possible! In saying that, I have had a lot of positive feedback from people for this particular song – at shows and via social media. I am just grateful that people are connecting with the song! If my music is making its way into people’s lives and making them feel good, then I am a happy chappy.
How would you compare it sonically to some of your other music?
Most of my current releases are quite upbeat, but this one in particular has a really fast tempo which is because of the fast-paced strumming pattern. The backbone of my other releases are fingerstyle patterns, so it was nice to put out a strumming-based song. I really like the production on this one too, its quite light, very basic and lo-fi – similar to Walk My Way, which is my preferred sound. There are some horns towards the end, just to make the build up a bit more epic and exciting- which I really love!
Do you feel that coming up with a good song is like winning the lottery?
I guess so – it is like catching lightning in a bottle. I think as a singer-songwriter, the biggest gratification comes in seeing people enjoying and sharing your music. It brings me so much joy to see my music being heard and becoming a part of people’s lives and memories. So, I think, if I came up with a song that I really connect with, and it ended up resonating with masses of people, I would find that a lot more for filling then winning the lottery!
Are you happy with how your EP panned out?
I am really happy with my EP as I am very proud of all the songs on it. I recorded over ten songs with Benjamin McCarthy, so we boiled it down to the 6 that fit the best together as a body of work. Catfish, Walk My Way and Shaky Bones are the three most playful songs, then there is Love Slow and Faith, Sex and Skin which are still light and upbeat, but have quite important messages. Then there is also Sunflower Girl which slowly bops along to some really innocent and honest storytelling. I love the production on all these six songs too. It is just honest and lo-fi, there is nothing too overpowering or intense. I find all these six tracks really enjoyable to listen to and I feel like the track list flows really well!
Were there any challenges in making it?
It was my first time in a studio and working with a producer, so there were challenges in making and releasing it! I recorded a full EP in mid–2019 with Ben McCarthy and I was planning for its release mid-last year. With everything that happened (Covid-wise), I ended up releasing the first couple of tracks, delaying the release of the EP, and recording five additional tracks with Ben between the two lockdowns. I think, last year, because of the uncertainty of when we were going to be able record again, I may have jumped into recording a couple of songs prematurely, as there was no opportunity to test them out on an audience and live with the tracks for a while. So, I think for me, I had to take some time to recognise what sound and songs were truest to me. I feel the six songs on this EP are my most sincere tracks, song-writing-wise and production-wise.
Who are some of your musical heroes?
Stevie Nicks. Her voice, stage presence and lyrics are unworldly. Of course, Bob Dylan and Paul Kelly – their story telling is unbeatable. I am also a big fan of Neil Diamond, Van Morrison and The Beatles.
Did you lose much momentum last year due to the pandemic or did it end up being a good time to write and be creative?
I think last year was a bit bitter-sweet! In terms of momentum, I had been preparing for about a year to start releasing music. I released my first single just before the pandemic hit, so my launch show was cancelled, and being in Melbourne – I was gigging heavily until March and had just started playing with my full band. Then I couldn’t play a live show again until December, when I was lucky enough to get accepted back into WA for a couple of months! So, it slowed the progression of my live show right down, but I still released four singles, and I was fortunate to get a lot of love from media and Triple J – so I was able to grow my fan base last year even though we were in lockdown. It also gave me a lot of down time to write new songs and improve my guitar playing and singing!
Are you looking forward to being able to tour more broadly around the country this year?
Yes, definitely!! I am excited to branch out and be able to play live to people who have been supporting my music. My band and I have been working really hard on a fun and vibrant live show and we are super excited to be touring it along the east coast in June.
What’s next for Harper Bloom?
Well, my debut EP is coming out on the 18th of June and then my band and I will be setting of on an east coast tour run to promote the EP. After that I am hoping to release a new single that I am really proud of. I have been working with a new producer, so the production is a little different to my previous tracks, but I am excited to share it, and then hopefully set off on a bigger lap around the country!
Interview By Rob Lyon