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Artist Features

Harlem Returns

After the release of the universally beloved ‘Hippies’ in 2010 and an exhaustive set of tour dates in support of the album, Harlem vanished. In doing so, the band turned their back on a record deal with Matador and heaps of press touting Harlem as one of the most promising bands coming out of the American underground.

Nearly a decade later, the austin-based group is back with new album ‘Oh Boy’ in tow. While the record takes a decided step away from the frenetic lo-fidelity of their previous recordings, ‘Oh Boy’ shows the band delivering another collection of infectious guitar-based pop. Ahead of their show at Baby’s All Right on 2/19 and the release of ‘Oh Boy’ on 2/14, Harlem’s Curtis O’Mara took the time to answer a few of our questions.

How has the last 8 years on hiatus from recording as Harlem affected the upcoming record? What would Harlem’s follow up to Hippies’ have sounded like had you not taken some time off?

It would be a cop out to say that it was a combo of our two projects, Lace Curtains and Grape St. “Me and The Boys” was written back in 2011, and a reflection of how tour felt to me at the time. But I’m glad we stayed in the cocoon a little longer for “Oh Boy.”

You’ve spoken about ‘Hippies’ being received as a garage-rock record despite the songwriting on that album coming from an affinity for more pop-centric artists. What type of influences do you hope your fanbase pulls from ‘Oh Boy?’

Anything pop-centric. Without being vague, I’m influenced by a rabbit hole of genres. What will always ring true is simplicity. Who is going to play it over and over again in their car after a tough break up? So many songs that I love have that kind of effect on me. I know because there are songs about that exact thing too, pop.

You’re playing at Baby’s All Right on 2/19, a venue that didn’t exist the last time Harlem was in Brooklyn as a band. What do you remember about Brooklyn’s live music scene when you were touring circa the release of ‘Hippies?’

We played a lot of shows in New York City, some of it was a bit of a blur. For example, I only remember bowling at Brooklyn Bowl. Another night in particular, we played a warehouse party. Pretty typical scenario, lots of kids, lots of powerful energy bouncing back and forth, from the human wall to the 6 inch “stage.” The cops where parked at the street leaning on their cars smoking cigars. It was something raw—those moments are so few and far between these days.

After this upcoming tour and album release, are there any definite plans for the Harlem project?

A moth is fatally attracted to the flame, but pollination is everything. xoxo

Interview by Shane Stroup

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