Jeremy & The Harlequins Deliver Music Magic With “One Shot (of Rock ‘n Roll)” (VIDEO PREMIERE/INTERVIEW)

Photo credit: Rosie Cohe

Brooklyn-based five-piece band Jeremy & The Harlequins will release their fourth full-length album, ABRA CaDaBRA digitally and on CD on May 20th via Pasadena Records (ORDER), with vinyl to follow in the Fall. With it, the band delve into musical traditions from earliest Rock to bring a certain amount of “boogie” to the new collection. The album was not only partly written and fully recorded during the pandemic period, but the band weathered leaving a label, creating the album independently, and then joining a new label in order to bring it to the world. Given the uncertainties of the pandemic period, the band’s determination was partly based on the question: If this was their last record, what would they want it to be like? 

ABRA CaDaBRA is therefore a highly intentional album, actually recorded between Sandbox Studios in LA and Little Steven’s Renegade Studios in New York for strategic reasons. The band took their time writing the songs and bringing their ideas to life, and the result is a ton of energy, very interesting nods to Rock traditions, and a tension between lyrics and sound that raises plenty of questions. I spoke with frontman Jeremy Fury about the origin and development of the song Glide is debuting today, “One Shot (of Rock ‘n Roll)” and the creation of the album. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: I understand there are some different strands of work that went into the new album, both at Sandbox Studios and also at Renegade Studios. 

Jeremy Fury: The work on the album was pretty recent. We started recording it in 2020, though we started writing it right after our last album. I’m always writing. We were let go from our last record deal, with Yep Roc Records, right around the beginning of the pandemic, but we had all these songs. The whole world seemed like it was at a standstill, so it seemed like the best time in the world to keep writing. 

About half the songs were written beforehand, and about half were written from March 2020 through the summer. We started preproduction in Brooklyn and had to find the best place to record it. We knew that we wanted an analog sound and really early classic Rock ‘n Roll influence, but we also knew that we wanted full production with strings, organs, and a lot of different instruments. We’ve had a relationship with Little Steven since our first song came out in 2013 or 2014 and we’ve wanted to work with Geoff Sanoff for a while. It turned out Little Steven’s studio was opening again, and we were the first band to get back in there after the pandemic shut down. 

We recorded all the music in October of 2020 and for the vocals, I’ve been working with Rick Parker on and off for years. I really love how my vocals come out when I’m working with him, so we decided to record the music in New York and then Craig [Bonich], my guitarist and I flew out to LA to spend about two weeks recording the vocals. We self-funded this whole album, so that was the most affordable way for us to do what we wanted to do. We finished everything a few days before Christmas 2020 and then were just looking for a label since then. We started releasing music in 2021 and now the album’s coming out.

HMS: It seems like there hasn’t been much down time on this. You all have been in motion the whole time.

JF: For a lot of people, that was a way to get through the pandemic. Also, we all got Covid in March 2020 before anything shut down. All of us and all our friends at the show got sick. We had symptoms before anyone knew what the symptoms were. We got better and then the whole world shut down. We wondered, “What do we do now?” We could either just walk around the empty streets or make some music, so we used that as an opportunity to make the record we wanted to make.

HMS: How did you become aware that you wanted to pursue such a classic Rock sound on this album? Does that lead on from decisions about your last album?

JF: I think the state of the world and what’s been happening in music has a lot to do with this. We wrote Remember This in 2016 and 2017, right around the time Prince, Tom Petty, and David Bowie passed away. That was a departure from our previous two albums, since for that one we wanted to make an American Rock record. We wanted to create a loud, live band sound, and record it pretty fast. It was a different time back then, right around the time Trump became president. For this record, the biggest departure, along with wanting more strings and instrumentation, would be the impact of Covid where no one knew what was going to happen. 

The way I looked at it, if this was our last record, what kind of record did we want to make? I wanted to put all the bells and whistles into it. I didn’t want to have any songs on the record that didn’t belong there. I wanted to say something with each song both musically and lyrically. The one good thing about the pandemic is that we didn’t feel like we were in a rush to record it. We waited until we almost had too many songs, and that’s when we decided to do it.

HMS: Is there a relationship between that mindset and the magic themes on the album, with the title and the cover art? 

JF: “ABRA CaDaBRA” means “As I speak, I create.” So it was kind of like we were forming our own new reality looking at the world coming back. The bandanas on my face on the cover art are like the fact that everyone was masked and wearing bandanas. We had a feeling like, “The world is coming back. How are we going to create it? This is how we’re going to create it.”

HMS: I think the music coming out right now is a glimpse of the future. It represents where everyone wants to be going, where everyone thinks we’re going.

JF: I’ve always thought of music as a kind of spiritual tool, at least it can be used that way. Music is special in that it’s the closest thing to creating something out of nothing and bringing it into the world. You can create a song in your head and start singing it, then when other people start singing it, there’s something out there that wasn’t there before. 

HMS: My musical views are influenced by Blues and early Rock, so I hear a lot in “One Shot (of Rock ‘n Roll)” that really speaks to me. At the same time, it’s kind of a mysterious song, particularly in the context of creating this new world we were talking about. It’s got little bits of stories suggested throughout that paint little pictures. Additionally, there are plenty of guitar solos and even brass. Did you know this song would turn into such a full production when you started it?   

JF: I guess not, since it was just written acoustically. I wrote that a little bit before the pandemic, and as you mentioned, I love telling stories with songs. I wanted to make sure to put that in there. But when everything shut down here in Brooklyn, one of the first things that me and my guitarist did was go and hang out in the parks, playing and singing songs, both for ourselves and to cheer people up. I wanted to keep that vibe of acoustic with vocals and having the sound of a crowd in the background at the beginning of the song. When we’d been playing it, it sounded like people just hanging out playing music, so we wanted that feeling to be there on the record. 

As far as the instrumentation, that kind of evolved as we were rehearsing it. I think that’s the beauty of working with a band and getting in the studio. One thing I’ve always loved, musically, with Rock ‘n Roll was kind of that boogie feeling to a lot of the Rock of the late 50s, early 60s, and kind of redone in the mid-70s. We wanted to add the saxophone and make it a dance song, a fun song. I think that’s the message of it: everything can seem dark sometimes, but all you need is that one song to pick you back up and make you feel like the world’s alright.

HMS: I noticed the voices and conversations opening the beginning of the track. Did you take an analog approach to this recording?

JF: Yes, we played it live and then overdubbed some parts, but especially in the tones of the guitars and bass, we wanted it to sound like a lot of the records that we listen to. We listen to a lot of older stuff, or things that are influenced by older stuff, so none of the guitar tones are overly distorted. Everything is there. All the parts are important and it’s like a puzzle where every piece fits into place.

HMS: Some of the songs that you’ve released already, like “It Won’t Be Love”, and “Let Me Out of You” remind me that your lyrics often do something a little unexpected or irreverent, particularly in the context of relationships, which is fun. Is “It Won’t Be Love” anti-romantic or anti-sentimental?

JF: It is a little, but I also think it’s realistic, in a way. In that song, I think the idea of love is not necessarily what’s advertised in our culture. From a young age, we’re sold the idea of a Disney fairytale and the films always end at the end of the courting phase, but that’s just the beginning of love, I think. That doesn’t paint the whole picture. When it comes to dating, love, or romance, there are many different stories and many different realities. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, it’s just that I think real love is different from what we’re told, for the most part.

HMS: Actually, the song is not some kind of bleak destruction of the idea of love, but has some affirmation in it, too. I have talked with friends about the “Disneyfication” of love a lot. 

JF: I’ve had plenty of those kind of relationships when I was young, too, but now that we’re older, we don’t have to kid ourselves, either. It’s just a different truth. Also, the problems in a relationship often come when people are not on the same page, when they aren’t in the same place in a relationship. 

HMS: There’s also the context of the sound for the song, which is very romantic, and that contrast with the lyrics is really interesting. There’s some humor in that, which you seem to bring into your songs from time to time.

JF: I like records that take people on a journey, so I think with ABRA CaDaBRA, it goes to darker places, it goes through complete joy, it moves through sadness. I know some records have ten songs that are variations on the same song. I tend to get bored of that. In this day and age, when it’s hard to get peoples’ attention, if I expect them to join me for an hour of music, I have to provide something varied that keep people engaged. Records that go different places are the kinds of records I love and the kinds of records that I want to make.

But about humor, that’s a human quality that I think is really important. I think when bands totally disregard that, and think they are too cool, it’s not real. I think a little bit of humor is a very real thing and it always resonates with people. 

HMS: Of course, there’s also a video for this song which is also pretty riveting. I felt worried about the character, since it features a young girl who is going to be treated like an adult, which creates some tension, but there is some humor to that.

JF: We were really conscious of that, but it’s fun while still telling truths. It’s a new take. I don’t know what’s more dangerous, her experience, or feeding kids a complete lie about relationships, like we were talking about. The main character handles this well, and it feels like the world we are living in right now. It’s a kind of paradox between a very judgmental world and a world that also seems very open and free. It is a little scary, wondering where things are going to go, but there’s also the paradox of openness to things. 

Maybe we are at that point in culture where there’s very little barrier between kids and social media. When I was a kid, I remember I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV because it was too risqué. Now, even if parents want to filter things, kids can easily grow up fast these days because of where the world’s at with technology. Maybe it is a little scary for this girl, but is that really so different from where we’re at right now? 

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