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Band Crush: Harris

July 18, 2011

Oh, the aughts in Boston rock, how I miss them.  While I could name dozens of long-defunct bands from that bygone era who have a special place in my heart, it would definitely be tough to top Harris.  At the time I was co-fronting my own pop spectacle called Scamper, and our bands were truly as “brothers-in-rock” as it gets.  We shared a practice space with them, in which they often left behind beer-can-castles on our drum kit (and sometimes half-naked photos of themselves).  We booked each other on every important bill we had.  When our bassist was unavailable for a huge gig, theirs ably jumped in to fill his shoes (and even dressed in patented Scamper “natty suit” style).  We had them open our final show in 2008; we reunited for their final show in 2009.

Needless to say, I was positively giddy when they (finally!) announced a reunion show.  In advance of the big night, and knowing my affection for these boys, Ashley asked if I wanted to do a Harris Band Crush, and it was probably the easiest “obvs” I’ve ever uttered.  I met up with founding members Mike Nastri (bass, lead vox) and Matt Scott (spastic guitar playing) over mimosas at a Waltham Burger King* to talk shop.

BBC: First things first, can you elaborate a bit on why you guys broke up back in 2009?  Was it just your standard “getting older / having babies / moving to Florida” stuff?  Was there any feeling that the band had “petered out”?
MN:  Age and babies were a factor I’m sure.  I can tell you from a personal standpoint that the inner-workings of an underground indie-band with aspirations, goals, and expectations that were very high became exhausting after ten years.  Looking back on it I’m sure that my attitude was probably a factor too.  I took things very seriously because I thought that we needed a constant push.  We all wanted to be a full time touring band and it seemed like we were always making strides toward that but we couldn’t quite get there.  I don’t think we petered out – I think we burned out.  Being in a band should be fun first – business aspects, booking, promotion, all of the frustrating stuff should stay in the background.  If we had let ourselves release our last EP I think it would have helped us to do some really fun things, but honestly I don’t think I would have let them be fun for me.  I would have been wrapped up in what the next step should be.

MS: I definitely agree with Mike about the band burning out; Snake Says Woof is something I’m incredibly proud of, and it’s certainly the best batch of songs we ever released, but when you’re not having fun playing in a band anymore there’s no reason to keep it going. Besides playing live, everything else just became stressful, which is not a feeling I had associated with playing in Harris for the first nine years. Once that became more constant, I really felt it was the right time to call it quits.

BBC: What have you all been up to for the past three years?  I know Mike’s been changing a lot of diapers.
MS: I’ve been working on my dream of spending at least 20 hours a day either crying or sleeping.  That leaves me with about four hours a day to focus on managing a real estate office in Allston.

BBC: Mike, is your boy a Harris fan?
MN:  As of the last few weeks, yes he is.  I hadn’t listened to any of our songs since he’d been born.  My lyrics are dark, and I’m in a really different place mentally than I was when I wrote them.  I was almost scared to re-learn them.  Aidan started dancing as soon as he heard the first riff in “Literal” and he sings the “right now!” outro while he runs around the house.  The other parents at the playground are going to think he’s nuts.  He actually sat in with us the other night.  [ed: See video below]

BBC: What was the inspiration for the reunion?
MN:  I miss seeing these guys a couple times a week – making jokes, letting them in on my thoughts, and being creative with them.  I also just miss playing.  Whenever we’d run into each other we’d joke about playing again.  The moment we got a serious offer we all decided we should go for it.

BBC: Was everybody gung ho about it?  Was anyone kind of not into it?
MS: Mike Bishop, who books the Brighton Music Hall, had been trying to get us to reunite for a while, but the timing was never right. Personally, I was always down for playing again. The last show came at a really stressful point in my life and I didn’t really get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to, so the thought of playing again was certainly appealing to me. If anybody had reservations about playing again they were definitely kept from me. There was definitely a few days stretch when we had heard from everybody but Jim about the show and I started to get a little worried. Turns out he was just on vacation and his car phone doesn’t get email.

BBC: Did you miss the whole local band thing, or was it more of a load off your shoulders?
MN:  The scene in Boston is filled with such great acts and amazing people.  I miss being around that every day.

BBC: There’s been a lot of turnover in the Boston scene, both in venues and in bands, since we last saw Harris.  Tell me about the bands you chose to open the show, and the choice of Brighton Music Hall as a venue.
MN:  The choice of Brighton Music Hall as a venue can be summed up in two words – Mike Bishop.  We’ve known him for over eight years.  He was studying music business at Northeastern and has always advocated for Harris.  He got us our contract with Cordless Records, introduced us to wonderful touring bands, and now he’s booking for Live Nation.  He represents everything that we love about the music scene and I’m proud to be working with him.

The bands that we chose to play the show are bands that we played with many times over the years.  They’re all great friends of ours and we wanted a 2005 party vibe.  Please be at the show early to see all of them.  The Young Leaves, The Fatal Flaw, and Taxpayer are all amazing.

BBC: Describe the feeling in the room the first time you got back together to rehearse.
MN:  For me it was terribly awkward.  It was in the sunroom of my house with acoustic guitars.  I’m used to a dingy basement or a dirty practice space with amps cranked so that at least some mistakes can be covered up by one of the other guys.  Before we played the first song we all sort of stared at each other for a minute trying to figure out how to start.

BBC: Was it a trainwreck?  Scamper just had a behind-closed-doors reunion for funsies and it was kind of a trainwreck.  And, I mean, Harris songs are more complicated than Scamper songs.
MS: Well, we’ll let you know after the whole band actually gets together to practice! As of right now Rob is still in Florida, so rehearsals have been acoustic sessions down at Mike’s place in Weymouth. The first time around was definitely a bit rough, but most of the songs have come back to us rather quickly. I’m really looking forward to get all five of us back in a room together again, though. All we need to do now is find a practice space…

BBC: You did a residency at O’Brien’s in April of 2008, which I particularly remember for the awesome/unexpected/uncharacteristic covers you played.  Any chance we’ll hear Counting Crows covers at the reunion show?
MS: At this point I don’t think we plan on playing anything besides Counting Crows covers, actually. I thought we were pretty clear about that in our press release for the show.

BBC: Tell me about Snake Says Woof.  Here we have an incredible seven-song follow-up to your magnum opus The Light is Seeping Through the Cracks, with great production and huge hooks – and absolutely no one knew about it.  Who dropped the ball on that one?
MN:  The band had to break up sometime.  It just happened to be right when we completed Snake Says Woof, so we didn’t promote it.  We’ll have it available at the show though!  The real bummer to me is that we have about six unfinished songs that would have made a great companion EP to Snake Says Woof.  We kicked around equally terrible album titles, like Sick Windsock and More than a Furlong which would have featured a collage of Ed Furlong headshots as the album cover.  Sadly, we never got to choose between the two.

MS: Haha – I think about that all the time. It really is a shame because I think it’s the most solid record we put out, but not many people got to hear it. If I remember correctly, we didn’t actually finish mixing/mastering it until two or three days before the last show, so promoting it was just about impossible.

BBC: Is this definitely the last hurrah for Harris, or might we get more reunion shows down the road?
MS: I think this is it for us. Playing a reunion show is fine, but constantly reuniting every year or so is kind of silly. Maybe if Rob was still around and we could write some new material it would be a possibility, but I don’t think we’ll ever do this again just to play the old songs… unless Mike Bishop comes up with another 50k to cover our guarantee.

BBC: Play “Carousel”?
MS: No! But we’ll play “Round Here” twice.

Catch the Harris reunion show on Friday July 22 at Brighton Music Hall, with The Fatal Flaw, Taxpayer, and The Young Leaves.

18+ | $12 | Facebook event | Tickets

* = Actually I just emailed them

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