Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harmony interview with Tom Lyngcoln

“You have all these worries when it comes to playing in a band,” says Harmony “slave master” and singer/guitarist Tom Lyngcoln, “particularly when you’re organising things. The one thing I never have to worry about is just how fuckin’ good Jon [Chapple] the bass player is.” Looking around the rest of the cast, you’d imagine he doesn’t lose a lot of sleep. Born out of a (very cute) newlywed agreement between Tom and wife and drummer Alex to set aside some time every weekend for songwriting, Harmony quickly morphed into a six-piece aural explosion. Along with Chapple on bass, the couple brought in the nothing short of exquisite vocal triplicate of Quinn Veldhuis, Amanda Roff and Alex’s sister Maria Kastaniotis.

Those who caught Harmony’s Melbourne Music Week performance at Pony a few weeks back will attest to the band’s near-flawless execution of their innovative and matchless songs. Key to their sound is that the treble of the vocal harmonies be cut by Chapple’s bass. Mr Lyngcoln enthuses that it’s not only bass playing that Chapple brings to the band. “The guy’s a machine,” he says. “[Harmony]’s the first time he’s played bass since Mclusky and I reckon that’s a crime. He brings an energy, this unpredictable tension to things. At first I was like ‘Jon, can you please not leave the stage to take a piss halfway through the set, can you not go to the bar halfway through the set’. Then I got bored and thought ‘You know what, just let him do what he fuckin’ wants’... We accept that if you give him slack he’ll produce genius.”

Armed with the songs carved out of Mr and Mrs Lyngcoln’s matrimonial lounge room, the band came together in waves. “We didn’t take it for granted,” he continues. “Every single person who we discussed and thought about said yes so that really helped. It’s just worked really well. Everyone has completely different personalities and for some reason everyone just tolerates each other really well.” But, regardless of musical pedigrees, the misshapen songs were difficult to nail. According to Lyngcoln, it was hard work and touring that bent the music into shape – though the moulds may have been lost along the way. “It’s like this slave master who’s holding people captive and making them perform things they don’t wanna do, like some kind of war experiment,” he laughs. But of creating the material, he reckons they had to loosen the reins and let the music take its own form. “It comes from wide and varied listening. You take all the things you’ve been listening to and you have a theory and you try to punch out that theory and no matter what it’s going to come out as skewed as your perspective of things. I guess my perspective’s a little white, creepy soul type of thing – it’s pretty horrid. On paper it looks like a hate crime which we perpetrate on music.”

Testament to the quality of the songs (and quite possibly one of the local music coups of the decade), Lyngcoln managed to land bona-fide living legend and Tom Waits collaborator Marc Ribot for guitar duties on Heartache. “I’ve got this mate in the UK who’s played [sax] with Tom Waits,” Lyngcoln continues, “and I thought I’d get him to do something, but he was kinda lukewarm about it. Out of frustration I turned around thought ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna track down whoever represents Ribot and have a crack’, fully expecting the standard response that is: ‘Mr Ribot is really busy’ and ‘you write shit songs’. He came back to me and said he really wanted to play on this and this, and I said ‘Well, that’s not what I asked’.” The resulting number is the next single to be released from their outstanding self-titled debut album. Lyngcoln doubts Mr Ribot will make it out for the launch.

Samson McDougall