Influenced by his father's hefty collection of records from the 70s, and embellished with a purpose in life centered around his artistic intuitions, HARKNESS, the Canadian-born multi-instrumentalist performing under the eclectic cognomen, proves to be a musical phenomenon that seldom comes short of being innovative.
His debut, "I.D.," reached experimental music aficionados earlier this year and was a teaser for the myriad of sophisticated sonics new fans could anticipate from his upcoming L.P., 'The Occasion.'
It was a single that earned an embellished review from the Co-Founder of Jellyfish, who garnished the budding musical doyen with positive affirmations ("I was completely blown away by his grasp of vocal harmony and arranging.") And with his next piece off the upcoming record, the trajectory upwards his career has taken isn't stopping any time soon.
His next musical undertaking, "Defibrillator," emerges like a manifold of cherubic falsettos and a symphonic orchestration of kaleidoscopic melodies, influenced by the dismal state of the world we're living in. It features a narrative festooned with a heterogeneous display of choral know-how, and with a lyrical cogwheel that renders up like an elegist wrote it; seeking some form of catharsis through repair, redemption, and reanimation: ("baby come into the light, don't leave Lucifer behind, the defibrillators' set on high, baby come into the light.")
He sings with a prismatic tonality over-top a meticulously designed minutia of twinkling bells and triangles, crashing cymbals, bolstering horns, distinguishing xylophone melodies, bombastic drums, and swift guitar parts, which all amalgamate together to create a sonic experience that draws reminiscence between the Flaming Lips, Everything Everything, and Tame Impala.
As HARKNESS soars with his layered vocal harmonies and enticing arrangments from one defining section to the next, it's not hard to lose sight of the dark, profound meaning behind his work because of the overwhelming beauty behind his sensory design.
It's like looking at a painting and becoming infatuated with the color palette in lieu of the intensified anecdote the resounding picture presents as a whole. That's not to say the narrative and meaning behind "Defibrillator" get lost; it's merely a testament to the sort of affecting extent this Toronotonian's music establishes over your core.
"Defibrillator" clings onto your senses like a sinuous formation of kudzu, bolstering your sentiments with each instrumental crescendo as the lyrics diagram the uncertainty and bemusement the time we live can create.
Can you walk us through how a complex song like "Defibrillator" came to fruition through your artistic process? Where did it all begin?
I was working in a restaurant one night and it was one of those Incredibly difficult, horrible shifts. Everything was going wrong, mistakes were being made, the guests were complaining, communication amongst staff was terrible, and it seemed like management didn't even care. At one point a Gal I worked with turned to me and said "This place needs an F-ing Defibrillator" ... at that moment I just belly laughed. The Next morning when I woke up there was a fresh sheet of snow covering everything, it had that profound virginal and innocent glow that only such a morning can radiate. Right then the "Ahh..." melody came to me uninvited, before I knew it the whole song had flowed through and out of me.
What usually produces the most impactful influence over your creative intuitions regarding the arrangement and lyrical content? And how did that influence manifest in "Defibrillator"?
The most impactful influence on my creative process is real life itself, just being right at the moment and reflecting what is truly happening without trying to fix or manipulate it. Songs come to me, I never 'try' to write them. I hear the arrangements in my head without effort and just try to get them out into the world as honestly as possible. It feels like magic when they come.
When you think about the emotions that inspired you to create "Defibrillator," what stands as the most profound and impactful? And how did you manage to embody those emotions through your performances on "Defibrillator"?
Looking out at the world as it really is is both terrifying and Inspiring, I think the terrifying bit triggers the need to write and create, almost in an effort to splash some sort of healing water on the flames of what seems like a burning, raging planet. So when you see something as Beautiful as that snowy morning one is utterly compelled to celebrate it while acknowledging the severity of our collective reality. As far as the performance itself goes, I think that the harmony, rhythm, and sound textures ARE the performance, i.e. they all combine to create 'the feeling', whatever that might be.
Have there been any uplifting moments of learning you can remember through your process of recording, producing, and arranging "Defibrillator"?
Anytime a new song comes through it is Incredibly Uplifting to the point of orgasmic. it reaffirms all that is sacred and beautiful to me. Then I have to actually make it physical which means playing the instruments and singing etc...In the case of "Defibrillator", I also had to have several musicians come by the studio, all one at a time we would work together to create the best performances possible. Whether it is a new microphone placement or just how to talk to a given musician to get them to dig deeper it is all a constant learning process and usually very rewarding.
If you could give your audience a few words that would stand as the prologue to the experience and intent behind "Defibrillator," what would you feel the need to say?
"Defibrillator" deals with the constant decay and chaos that's all around us and the Light that can be found within it. I hope that through the song listeners can recognize the source of our pain and at the same time remedy it.