By Alexandra Howard
Nick Harris is a young bedroom pop artist from Chicago who's recent release "night terrors" sounds like the soundtrack to a pensive, icy morning walk through the park. Night of terrors is the third EP Harris has released this year, the third cycle of a project he calls "Living in Liminality".
Liminality - a transitional state associated with confusion - is exactly what Harris' music embodies. These songs are the sonic translations of the transition from fall to winter, or rather, the uneasy feelings of growing up that hit you unexpectedly. The somber timbre of this EP, overlaid by his voice, draws you into a universe of icemen, nightingales, and infinite glaciers.
I sent the young Chicago recording artist some questions and this is what I got back:
Who is Nick Harris?
Nick Harris is a Chicago musician who plays live and records all the time with his friends in Sons of the West, Peasantry, The Kuhls and Luke Henry and Rabbitfoot. He also also spends copious amounts of time alone in his apartment whipping up songs and sounds with his computer and keyboard and guitars. The truth is, I don’t exactly know for sure who he is yet, but I’m getting to know him better all the time.
Could you explain your "Living in Liminality" song cycle project?
I was putting out demos and home recordings one song at a time through my Soundcloud for about a year before I started “Living in Liminality,” and I wanted to start doing releases in a longer-form format that would allow me to work more with over-arching themes while still making lots of music and putting it out at a fast pace in order to hone in on my production and songwriting. So I decided to start the project as a long series of EPs, with each one being as sonically and thematically cohesive as possible.
What does "Living in Liminality" mean?
Liminality is a fancy college word I learned in a class about homeric epics, and it’s the state of change, ambiguity, confusion, lostness that comes between two life stages (see Britney’s terrible yet applicable song “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”). But to think that what our lives come down to is a series of transitions from point A to point B is oversimplifying it. I think it’s way more complicated than that. To me, there’s a lot more liminality than any real sense of stability year to year, day to day, minute to minute, and writing songs and making music and records is how I respond to that perpetual twilight. Even though not all of the songs are explicitly about me and my experiences, you can look at the project as a record of certain fleeting moments in my life.
How did you begin writing and producing, and do you do it all by yourself?
It was through a cocktail of curiosity and ambition. I’ve been coming up with little bits of music since I first started playing years ago, but until the last couple years or so I hadn’t been writing fully fleshed-out songs myself. I’ve always helped with arrangements of songs, but the primary songwriter of groups I’ve been a part of was always someone else. I started doing things myself a couple years ago when I realized that all you need to make a great song is a guitar, your voice and literally any kind of recording device (including a laptop with a mic and cheap software), and that truly great music will shine through regardless of recording quality. And I do all the writing and recording by myself, except on my first EP “Goodnight, Morning” which features the talents of Gregg Midon on drums on a couple tracks.
Where do you draw your musical and creative influences from?
Everywhere. It’s a kind of a mix of musical auteurs and people who make lo-fi records. Prince, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, R. Stevie Moore, John Maus, Jay Reatard, Guided by Voices, Alex G, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Joni Mitchell. All sorts of people. I get lots of inspiration and ideas from movies, TV, commercials, sci-fi novels, my friends and things I see when I’m riding around Chicago on my bike.
Finally, what other Chicago acts should we be listening to?
Here’s a list of 10 great Chicago acts that I don’t play in:
Gregg Midon (giscooking.bandcamp.com)
Anthony Saint and the Downers (anthonysaint.bandcamp.com)
Dam Gila (http://damgila.bandcamp.com/releases)
The Walters (http://thewalters.bandcamp.com)
The Gnar Wave Rangers (http://thegnarwaverangers.bandcamp.com)
That’s just a starter list. There’s too many great Chicago bands to name, man.
Check out the music of Nick Harris here: http://musicofnickharris.bandcamp.com/album/night-terrors or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nick-Harris/401920913295417