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Q & A with
The Harvey Cartel
Ottawa rockers The Harvey Cartel have been playing venues in and around the capital since 2007, taking their act on the road throughout Ontario and Quebec. Bringing together a variety of musical backgrounds from blues to country, folk-rock and punk, they've been honing their sound and channeling their creative energies into their second studio album, They Think They Are So Fine.
Founded by the capital's own Chris Landry, the band's current lineup includes bassist Andy Ehlers, guitarist and backup vocalist Elie Abdelnour and drummer David DiMaria. We caught up with perpetual frontman Chris for a chat ahead of the band's upcoming Ottawa concert.
_______________________What's the story behind The Harvey Cartel? How did the band originally come together?
I had just returned to Canada after touring Australia with a country band and was hungry to get a band started and start playing and gigging again. I was still really into playing and writing country tunes and also wanted to start playing rock music.
I tried to put two bands, an alt-country and a rock band, together but it was too difficult to try and get two brand new projects off the ground. Eventually the two merged into one.
How did you decide on your band name? The name came about as a bit of a joke. We were kicking around some ideas for a new name and it was a very long and frustrating process. I was sitting around at a friend's place one night going through some old video tapes he had lying around. We found Pulp Fiction in the pile of tapes and somebody said something about Harvey Keitel being in the movie and how they were a fan, so I said that we should call ourselves "Harvey Cartel." It started as a joke, but it stuck.
Is composing your original music a collaborative venture or a solo project?I write all the songs and bring them to the band. I show the arrangements to the guys and we jam on them while they come up with their parts.
Have there been any major changes to the band's sound?Originally, we were a five-piece band which included a banjo player. The loss of the banjo was tough to take. I really enjoyed having that twang, and I think that really set us apart from other bands.
On the bright side, I think that we've now been able to pursue a more straightforward rock sound. We still have the roots flavour to a lot of our material, but we've added a heavier, more guitar-oriented sound. And there's a lot more jumping around on stage!
Over the years, there have been a few other changes in lineup, and each change definitely affects the overall sound of the project. But since I write all the songs, musically and lyrically, it gives me the freedom to carry on with new people.
You define your music as crossing all kinds of genre boundaries. Do you feel like there's still lots of 'new' music left to be made, or are most bands today just recycling and revamping what's already been done?
I think it becomes more and more challenging to make new music as more and more music is created. It's up to the artist to be critical of what they're creating to maintain that originality. I think you have to write from your own personal experience and perspective, because everyone's experiences are unique.
If you're copping somebody else's sound or style too much, it's like taking the easy way out and riding someone else's coattails. The radio is full of bands like that. But of course there's still new music to be made!
How did you find the experience of recording the album as compared to playing live shows? I hated my first studio experiences. It felt very sterile and fake. I hated the pressure of trying to play a part perfectly. I've always been a live player and not one to play songs the same way every time. I think music is a live thing and it's always evolving and changing.
The way you're playing a song at any given time can depend on how you're feeling at that moment, what's going on in your life, and how you've changed as a player and performer. You can forget words or parts of songs and have to come up with something new on the spot. Sometimes that's where new songs have originated!
I've become more accustomed to the studio the more I've done it, and we had the opportunity to record with Yogi at his Meatlocker studio. Those experiences were more enjoyable and positive.
Tell us something about the new CD.The new album is called They Think They Are So Fine, and it's a collection of new songs that I wrote over the spring/summer of 2009. It's rock 'n' roll.
What are your favourite places to play or see live music in Ottawa?The Rainbow, Atomic Rooster, my bedroom!
What's your dream venue to play?Each one we play is my dream venue.
MORE FROM THE HARVEY CARTEL
The Harvey Cartel @ The Cajun Attic
349 Dalhousie St., Ottawa
February 18th at 8:00 pm
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