It’s been two and a half years since Harrison Fjord debuted with the EP Puspa In Space. Since then, the young band, with members in their late teens and early 20s, played the 2017 McDowell Mountain Music Festival and opened for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders when he stumped in Flagstaff.
Now, the Chandler-rooted group’s first full-length album, Polychrome, has arrived. It marks a distinct moment in Harrison Fjord’s journey and the changes that come with adulthood.
For example, Mario Yniguez and Dallin Gonzales moved to Tempe, enrolled at Arizona State University, and joined up with award-winning vocal ensemble Sounds of the Mouth. Yniguez is currently focused on his duties as music director for the Desert Foothills Theater’s production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights.
Though they’ve devoted time to separate interests, the group — which also includes Matt Storto, Jonathan Sheldon, Kevin Mandzuk, Jacob Lipp, and Taylor Morriss — has been writing music and playing shows and festivals here and there. But they felt some pressure for Harrison Fjord to release new material, and ensure that they weren’t forgotten by Phoenix music fans.
“We feel like we’ve been gone from the music scene for too long,” Gonzales says. “We needed to get something out to people to say, ‘This is where we’re at.’ I don’t know if we’re ever going to feel when we release something if it is an accurate representation of where we are currently. It’s a struggle.”
The album fuses rock, barbershop, and jazz with vivid lyrics and has the characteristics of a concept record, but Yniguez and Gonzales, who are Polychrome’s primary songwriters, claim it isn’t. Mandzuk wrote the breezy “Mr. Feeling,” a Steely Dan-esque track that closes the record.
Storto thinks some of Harrison Fjord’s musical ideas may have been left in the oven too long, making things feel overdone and unfocused.
“Despite a lot of great feedback, ultimately this is not the record we would have liked to put out,” Yniguez says. “We’ve only stepped further into ambiguity.”
That’s not to say that the band is disappointed with the album. Harrison Fjord will celebrate the milestone with a release party at Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, March 15, with Luxxe and Colour TV.
If Puspa In Space was Harrison Fjord dipping into psychedelic music, then Polychrome is the group doing a cannonball into the avant-garde. It is a little messy, but affecting.
“We would like to make something cohesive,” Gonzales says. “Part of the reason why we chose Polychrome as the title of the album is because it is an all-encompassing term. You get everything on the spectrum. We started branching out as songwriters.”
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There are also personal stories shared on the new record. Yniguez and Gonzales have gone through breakups, both of a personal and spiritual nature. The title track is a metaphor for Gonzales branching away from his Mormon faith and finding out who he is outside the church. He uses colors to describe his new view of the world.
“I haven’t really quite discovered myself until fairly recently,” Gonzales says. “[Writing that song] was the easiest way to describe my struggle.”
It’s all part of the journey. All Harrison Fjord can do now is press on to the next destination.
Harrison Fjord are scheduled to perform on Thursday, March 15, at Crescent Ballroom. Tickets are $10.