Phoenix band Harper and the Moths' throwback funk/soul blend not only matches their clean-cropped look perfectly. It makes their sound accessible to a wide variety of people, an attribute that has landed them some solid successes, including getting some radio play on KWSS.
“We see people as young as 16 or 17 at some of the all-ages shows and as old as 50 or 60 dancing around and interacting with us,” says bandleader and vocalist Harper Lines.
The group has come a long way from the days of Lines and Chan Schulman (guitar and vocals) emailing music back and forth.
“I had moved to Seattle, and Chan and I kept writing, so Chan and I pretty much wrote the first Moths record and then had Dave [Campbell, bass] and Nick [Ramirez, drums] come back. We were all writing together, just emailing tracks and whatnot,” says Lines.
A few months after releasing 2013’s Love Songs for the Damned, Lines moved back to the Valley, and Harper gained one more Moth, Kelsee Ishmael (keys and vocals). The band is releasing a new EP, Rock.Pop.Soul, on January 23 at Crescent Ballroom.
“We knew that we needed Kelsee for a lot of things,” Lines says.
“To make us sound good,” Schulman finishes.
Though the group cites classic pop and funk influences — Michael Jackson and Prince were two of the artists mentioned — the aptly named Love Songs for the Damned lyrically reads like the chaotic journal of a recently heartbroken writer. The result?
“We wanted to make a really cool breakup record,” says Lines. The rest laugh at the juxtaposition of dark lyrics and a poppy sound.
Harper and the Moths started out playing clubs consisting of “a dark room and four walls” but contribute much of their success to the rapidly growing Phoenix music scene.
“I think that [it’s] the combination of KWSS spinning the record and places like the Valley Bar opening up that are more interesting, unique, fresh venues,” says Campbell. “There are all these little places that have popped up now . . . that are supporting what we were already doing."
After the release of the 2013 album, the group kept writing. After a year, they began to release singles regularly so as to not keep their fans waiting. All those singles will appear alongside two additional songs and three remixes on upcoming release of Rock.Pop.Soul, named for the genres the group is applauded for blending.
“We’re only pressing 400 copies. And the cover photo is done by a local photographer [Joey Couture], a local model [Michelle Sasanov], local makeup artist [Rachel Clawson], shot in Phoenix. It’s all recorded, engineered and produced by Phoenix producers and recording studios,” says Lines. Art design is by Justin Barker.
Once the first batch is gone, it’s gone. Different artwork appears on the digital copies.
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“Even if we have some left over after this, we’re not taking them out of town. They’re not going to anyone but people here in Phoenix,” says Schulman.
“The idea is we want to give [the record] as a way of saying thank you to everyone who has bought our singles this past year and made us able to actually put this record out,” says Lines.
Harper and the Moths have every reason to celebrate. They’ve earned their wings.