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Harper: 'I’ve Finally Reached The Point Of Coming Into My Own As An Artist'

28 June 2024 | 2:34 pm | Emma Newbury

With his newest single ‘37’ now out in the world and a debut EP still to come, harper has a lot on his plate. The Sydney-based singer caught up with Purple Sneakers to talk all things music.

Harper

Harper (Source: Supplied)

Meet harper, the UK-born, Sydney-based artist who is quickly making his mark in the realm of alt/pop/rock.

His solo project may have only emerged onto the music scene as early as 2023, but this muso has been behind the scenes for quite some time now, touring as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter.

With his own curation of nostalgia-driven melodies and introspective lyrics, harper has supported acts such as Forever Ends Here and IVEY, while being inseparable from fellow collaborator Lovemedo. Living a life split between the Britpop boardwalks of his youth and the pulsating live sounds of venues across Sydney, Harper’s music truly is a thread between the two worlds. 

Purple Sneakers caught up with the singer-songwriter to talk all things music and life to celebrate his new single, 37.

If your music was a flavour, what would it taste like?

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This question is a bit of a sensory nightmare because I want to answer ‘correctly’ even though it’s completely subjective to me. I don’t want to sound obnoxious or cringe [haha]. If we’re talking super-literally, it probably tastes like a gin and soda—fresh but with a little kick, and you can keep on coming back to it no matter what state you’re in.

What’s been the biggest moment in your career so far?

As romanticised and self-inflated as it sounds, I don’t think my biggest moment has been a single tangible moment in time.

In the last year of working on music and myself as a person, I believe I’ve finally reached the point of coming into my own as an artist, which has always been a big-picture goal of mine. I’m currently making the art I’ve always wanted to make, and I’m really proud of all the stuff that’s coming out this year.

I’m so grateful to all of the artists who have inspired me because opening up your favourite music and seeing what makes it tick is such a special and important part of being an artist yourself. However, being able to distil down whatever it is that you find in all of those different places is another thing entirely, so feeling like I’ve reached that point makes right now a really exciting time for me.

What's the most unusual or unexpected source of inspiration you've drawn from when writing a song?

Usually, when I’m writing, it’s at least a little bit retroactive - as in at least a few days have gone by before I want to write about something that has happened in my life. However, this new song 37, came together so quickly that I felt like it was basically writing itself.

It’s about a situation that unfolded over the first couple of months of this year, and I was working on it in basically every free moment I had - constantly rewriting to try and best capture the complexity of what I was feeling. The notion of using songwriting as a way to process things has always been really valuable to me and definitely catches me at my most unedited and transparent.

Favourite place to hang out in your city?

Honestly, I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to my free time. I love spending time at home, as it’s a really grounding and comfortable place for me. If it’s daytime, I’m probably justifying the purchase of an overpriced coffee because I like the interior fit-out of the shop and taking it home to work on music. If it’s nighttime I’m probably on an aimless walk with my friends for the sake of people-watching (whilst always finding time to stop by our second home at Bar Planet in Newtown for the friendliest drink you could ever have).

The pace of the city has always captivated me, especially not growing up around it, and it’s yet to grow old on me. There’s just something about knowing that you’re among so many like-minded people who are all working at whatever it is that they’re passionate about.

Who are three artists you’re vibing on right now?

I feel like I’m just adding another voice to an ever-growing choir in saying this, but mk.gee’s new record, Two Star & The Dream Police, is almost definitely going to be my album of the year. There’s so much about the form that is familiar, but at the same time, there’s so much in those songs that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

I use this metaphor a lot, but it’s like 80s pop music and the New Jersey sound put through a dishwasher. Lots of familiarity with the structure and cadence, but so many textures and things are done with a guitar that no one has done before.

I’ve been listening to the most recent album by Quarters Of Change called Portraits, which is such a great ‘band’ record. I stumbled across them online, and really love their take on what a modern rock band sounds like. I just love guitar-driven music so much, which is reflected in my own music too, and it’s so great to see that people still care about a band in a room writing great songs. The feeling that album gives me is similar to what I get from U2’s The Joshua Tree, which happens to be one of my favourite albums ever.

Fontaines D.C. are such an important band right now. I’m pretty heavily anticipating the new record and have had A Hero’s Death on perpetual repeat for the last few months. I love that they are giving the post-punk fire burning, but without being afraid of going to new places with every new release they put out. As I said earlier, guitar-driven music is so important, and I love hearing how different artists approach the same six strings so differently.

Are there any Aussie artists you're keen to collaborate with in future?

I’m very grateful to have one of the most exciting Australian artists also be one of my best friends - the inimitable lovemedo. If you haven’t heard his new EP, sit me down, shut me UP!, then please find a pair of headphones and go front-to-back in one listen. We already collaborate a lot, as we’re cut from very similar cloth as artists and respect each other's art very highly, but we’re both in a period of writing a lot towards bodies of work, so I’m excited to continue bringing the best out of each other.

What’s something that fans might now know about you?

I actually wasn’t born here in Australia! I was born on a little island called Guernsey in the English Channel and spent my early childhood growing up in the UK. I think this influenced the basis of my taste for music and culture a hell of a lot, as so many of the artists I still love now are from there. Even though my family moved to Sydney when I was 8, British rock and pop music resonate with me so heavily as it’s basically all I heard as a child.

What's in the works for you in 2024?

My debut body of work is being chipped away at every single day, so that will be out in the world later this year. It’s going to be a sort of diary of the last year of my life, where I’ve experienced a lot of change and a lot of growth both as an artist and as a person. I know what I want now, and I’m working harder than ever to get it.

I love playing live more than anything, so I’m wanting to play as many shows as possible to get these songs in front of people in a tangible way (rather than just through a screen). The plan is for that to include some shows outside of Sydney too, which is really exciting!

Across the board, I guess my goal for this year is to do this the same way that all of the artists who have inspired me did: make the best and most honest music I can and play the best and most impactful shows I can in as many places as possible.