Thoughts from a neo-soul prodigy on the rise from LA

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Photo by Landon McMahon

Harlan, an LA-based newbie of A-side Worldwide management (Mayer Hawthorne, Jamall Bufford), blends together soul, funk, and electropop to name a few, and makes songs that showcase his wide-ranging influences and musical virtuosity in equal measure. In his work, he manages to create a sound that is hauntingly familiar and distinctly fresh at the same time—a difficult feat he accomplishes with seeming ease.

His recently released EP, 1984, indeed gives us a glimpse into the ambitions of a multi-talented, intelligent “genre hopper”, who wants to make us dance pretty much no matter what kind of mood we may be in. Though each of the four tracks has its own throwback quality—from new wave to Michael Jackson to 90s era jazz-funk—his background in classical music is unmistakable (he is a cellist), as is his eye for compositional detail, evident in complex yet accessible guitar lines and melodies that are catchy without losing their integrity. Take a listen here, and see for yourselves.


AudioFemme was lucky enough to have a little chat with Harlan, about his work, the superpower he wishes he possessed, his inspirations, and his background, as well as his forthcoming follow up single, “American” (appropriately timed for what we hear is an impending national election), which can be downloaded right here, just for you: Harlan_American

Here’s what Harlan had to say to us.

AF: Hi Harlan. We love 1984. Can you talk a little bit about your creative process in
writing it? What genre would you say your music best fits into—or is the name of
your EP supposed to indicate that? I’ve been listening to The Human League a lot these days, and can’t help but hear the influence of early new wave in your work—in a
good way.

I wrote the album in a short period of time with the exception of “Cathedral.”
That was an old song. I would describe it as electronic-pop-soul. I am definitely
a fan of new wave.

AF: To that end, what are your main musical influences? And what is your
background specifically; did you grow up playing instruments or just singing?

I am a child of the 80’s. That production style can be heard in most
of my work. I grew up studying classical cello. I didn’t start making
contemporary music until college.

AF: What aspects of the EP production were you involved in?

I produced the EP. I play all the instruments with the exception of
drums on two tracks. My good friend Alex Elena co-produced Pack
Light and AD. He also played drums on them.

AF:The quality is so great, and it sounds like you put a ton of time into it. How long
has 1984 been in the works?

I work really fast in the studio. I have the sounds and ideas already
in my head so that makes it a lot easier. There’s usually not a lot of
experimenting once I set out to record a song.

AF: You have one other EP, Native Son. How does 1984 relate to your earlier
stuff? Do you feel like your sounds are evolving?

I think 1984 is more focused. Native Son works in a lot of different
genres. So yes, I would say the work is evolving.

AF: In what direction do you see your music going in the next few years?

More R&B.

AF: What does your live setup look like? Do you play with a band, or electronics,
or both? We unfortunately missed your NYC show but hope to catch you in the

In LA I play with a 6-piece band. Drums, Bass, Keyboard, two Guitars,
and a backup singer. When I go on tour I strip it down some.

AF: What compelled your follow up single, “American”? Its seems motivated
by our current political climate. Can you talk about that at all?

I wrote the song to point out both the good and bad things I feel
embody my generation. There’s a lot of focus on the individual and
his/her own personal reward. You Tube fame and reality television
for instance are unsettling to me.

AF: What else are you listening to these days? Anything coming out that you find
particularly innovative or inspiring? How do you feel about the LA music scene?

I just bought the new Kendrick Lamar. I like it. I think hip-hop has
finally come back around. Kanye West’s production is a big reason.
I also have been listening to my friend Madi Diaz new record. She is
really great. There’s a lot of talent in LA right now.

AF: Lastly, if you could have any super power, which one would it be, and please
explain why?

Flight. No more having to deal with airport security :)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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