The Harms are an all female trio from Austin playing what they describe as surfy garage & riffy psych rock. The band is made up of Chase Frank on vocals and guitar, Jennifer Monsees on vocals and bass, and Jessica Alexander on drums.
This collection of sassy women was brought together in Austin, TX in 2012 by lead singer/guitarist Chase Frank. Longtime supporters of Long Beach indie music may remember Frank from her early career that began sowing its roots around town while she was a teenager. Raised in Long Beach since the age of 3, Frank got her musical start in the local band Quiver, which later evolved into Quiverfish. She went solo in 2003 and put out 4 independent albums. As a Long Beach native she invested years of dedication as a curator and organizer to help establish the city’s burgeoning art scene in the 90s. For years she organized events for one of Long Beach’s first organic and socially conscious hangouts, the now defunct The Living Planet Coffee House. She also produced memorable events such as “An Evening with Allen Ginsberg,” and “When Words Collide: Long Beach Spoken Word Festival.”
Although Frank left California in 2008 to become a transplant in Austin, she continued to collaborate with her former Long Beach neighbor and longtime friend Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens. The iconic Owens produced Frank’s 2010 solo album ‘Smile Trials,’ as well as every Harms release to date until his untimely passing in October of last year. To find the band’s discography with Owens go here: http://theharms.bandcamp.com.
While the group is in Long Beach this week they will be paying homage to Owens by laying down two new tracks dedicated to their beloved mentor. Be on the look out for several artists, with extensive connections to Owens, to release tributes this year.
I recently asked Chase & Jessica a few questions about themselves and here’s what they had to say about their band, the Half Nation Tour, their vinyl release, and being women who rock:
Jewell [LBI]: Tell me how you began playing music and how long you have been
pursuing music professionally.
Chase Frank: At 8 years old I started with cello then added piano.When I was 14 I added guitar and vocals after getting my first taste of Henry McCullough shredding on the Jesus Christ Superstar record.
Jessica Alexander: I started playing guitar (self-taught) at age 8, after which I began flute and percussion lessons and also self-taught myself piano. I played music all through my primary education and minored in music in college. After a few national tours, working in
the music industry doing artist relations, and also doing music photography, I realized now is the time for me to pursue music as a full time musician; it’s a pretty enlightening time in my life.
How does your identity as individual artists contribute to your trio? By that I mean, how does each of your unique musical perspectives contribute to the band’s sound as a whole?
Chase Frank: The band all listen to very different music, I like that we come together in a place we’d never come to without each other.
Jessica Alexander: I think we all have such eclectic backgrounds and musically different tastes; that brings a unique and different feel to our band.
When you first got together what did you want to accomplish as a band?
Chase Frank: In 2012, when starting the band, I wanted to accomplish writing and performing frenetic songs with literary stories and moral messages, while still being rock n’ roll and challenging traditional arrangements. I wanted our sound to be like a warm blanket that feels familiar but still sounds new. I wanted to have girls in the band but it was Dani, an original member, who suggested the all girl format. Now I can’t imagine our band any other way.
Jessica Alexander: I was the last member to join The Harms in 2014, so I have only been in the band for a year, but I knew I wanted to tour nationally and get our music out to the masses.
Have those initial goals evolved over time, and if so, in what ways?
Chase Frank: Sure, just by each other’s influences. For example Jessica brings a high energy take no prisoners vibe and that energy fuels me a lot. Jenn brings a pop sensibility & no bullshit approach, no rambling or noodling, she keeps us from repeating ourselves
unnecessarily, etc. We meet in the middle.
Jessica Alexander: I think we are off to a banner year as I hit my ‘one year’ mark with the band. We finished a successful regional tour back in October and now as we go on our National tour, I would say we continue to move in the direction of growing as a band together.
Your Half Nation Tour takes you through Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, and then back home to Texas. What are you most looking forward to experiencing while you’re on the road?
Chase Frank: Seeing all my West Coast friends along the way and meeting new fascinating friends!
Jessica Alexander: Seeing all my West Coast friends and family and exploring Portland and Seattle. I have never been to those two cities and think I will fall in love with them!
Tell us about your vinyl pressing and why you’ve chosen the songs you have?
Chase Frank: I wrote ‘Graveyard Love’ a couple years ago. Knowing it wasn’t for me to sing, I had to wait to meet Jenn. The waiting paid off. Her voice and attitude fit the song perfectly. It’s our 1st acoustic song and it’s about time for that in our catalog. ‘Sound Dragons’ was inspired by melodies that travel and reappear throughout time. It was the 1st song we did in which Jessica wrote her own part. So to me it represents the new permanent line up and chemistry of the band, which I’m really happy with now. The two songs being wildly different also show two different sides of the band, hence the pairing.
Jessica Alexander: I love the songs we chose! They explore two unique aspects of the band; Jen sings on one song and the other song has a more riff-driven guitar lick that kind of sticks in your gut. ‘Sound Dragons’ is the first song I helped write.
With vinyl being a more immersive listening experience what do you hope listeners will get from the vinyl that they won’t get from a digital download?
Chase Frank: The Harms’ songs aren’t that long typically, but they definitely take you on a journey. I like it when a song feels longer than it is, it seems like you actually stretch time. ‘Sound Dragons’, with the psych break in the middle, features both flute and melodica. It’s kinda 60’s and baroque. I hope people will feel that escape in the music. ‘Graveyard Love’ is so intimate. It’s a teenage vampire suicide murder ballad. It will be classic on
vinyl, of that I’m sure. Also the art is simply collectible, done by Long Beach friend Matisse Ibarra from Wild Pack of Canaries. The vinyl medium allows for art, which is amazing.
Jessica Alexander: The warmth of what our band is about. Vinyl gives me a feel for a band that digital just can’t capture.
Chrissie, Pat, Joan, Suzi, Patti, Debbie, Stevie, Janis, Ann, Nancy, Grace and Grace; they’ve all left their indelible mark on the male dominated world of rock. What do you want your female voices to add to that conversation in 2015?
Chase Frank: We’re equal. Being female never makes me ‘less good’ in a studio situation or live performance. It’s funny in school and orchestra nobody cared about that. The female / male issue seems to come up in popular music mostly. Just check out the player and judge
them on their skills, not their gender.
Jessica Alexander: I never thought us being an all-female band makes us any more or less special. I just feel we have a unique opportunity to speak about our lives and our experiences in our own empowering way. I think we empower ourselves because we simply love making music and can’t see ourselves doing anything else.
To catch The Harms on their Half Nation Tour, check out their upcoming performances at Que Sera with bobby blunders and Rufano Music on 5/24/15, and with LoveyDove at 4th Street Vine on Wednesday 5/27/15 at 9pm.
Also, right before their gig at 4th Street Vine, you can tune into The Rebirth of Rock on KBEACH at 8pm to hear the band’s live interview. They plan to treat listeners to the first ever, live performance of their unreleased vinyl single ‘Graveyard Love.’ To stream the
interview live go to www.kbeachradio.org, or download the KBEACH app.
To get more information about the Half Nation tour, visit The Harms FB page here: http://www.facebook.com/theharmsmusic. Preorder a copy of the vinyl single ‘Graveyard
Love’ as a reward option for contributing $15 to the group’s current Indiegogo campaign here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-harms-1st-vinyl-single#/story.