You’re probably reading this on your phone right now, and if not, your phone is right by your side or in your pocket or purse or wherever, readying itself to notify you of something else happening while you’re taking part in something else. That’s where we’re at right now as a society, and that’s okay. But you should know about Harriet Brown and the messages he’s laying down for us in his tunes.
In a musical lineage that includes King Khan and The Shrines, ? and the Mysterians, and Prince, go ahead and add Harriet Brown to the list of intelligent innovators yearning for organic diversity in not only the music scene, but life in general. Tackling issues from our dependence on social media to real-life communication issues in a way that hits home while still maintaining a sense of allure, a cosmic connection is achieved on Contact.
“I’m pretty low-key in general, so it surprises me when people pick out songs and pick out words that speak to them.”
We need an emotional intellectual revolution now more than ever. The dumbing down of our people has reached a tipping point, and for us to reach our true potential as a human race, revolutionizing the way we think, learn, and communicate needs to be at the forefront of our collective attention span. Enter the Bay Area artist with the potential to accomplish revolutionary thought through funky romantic, ’80s dance tracks fused with futuristic soul and provocative falsetto songwriting with a little bit of Bowie tendency.
“Charles Mingus’ Colloquial Dream is what made me decide that I had to do music.”
Musical influences ranging from the aforementioned Prince to PM Dawn and ’90s UK like Soul II Soul and Loose Ends’ later stuff to Shuggie Otis and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Harriet Brown has carved a spot in the universal musical spectrum by not playing to a certain pigeonholed definition of what his music is or should be, and that has allowed for a truly transcendental experience.
“I love how music transcends so many things and is universal in a way. I love that it can change or add to how you feel. It’s really powerful. The human race loves it. It’s kind of weird, right? Everyone knows, loves music to some degree, it’s a part of every culture and transcends all those boundaries.”
Hints of ’90s freestyle, obvious Prince-infused stylings and melodies with ballads like Mother and Atlantis balancing out his debut LP, Contact is a journey into what music can be when we put down our presumptions of what we think something should sound like and instead bask in something sonically experimental while simultaneously accessible.
“So much of it is self-reflection and trying to figure things out for myself…when people know exactly what I’m talking about and feel that connection, that’s what I want, for people to not feel like they’re by themselves. Songs come together very organically. I have things that I know I wanna write about. I kind of just let it flow, honestly, and the balance just happens naturally.”
A natural creative process and a knack for spectacular storytelling that can also apply to general thoughts and ideas has Harriet Brown poised for stardom, even if that means revealing layers of consciousness listeners didn’t know they had.
“When Contact came out, people didn’t know what Harriet Brown was, so hopefully the full album painted a clearer picture, and I feel heads are getting into it, seeing the layers. I feel like people at shows are really actually taking it in.”
After a 24 hour stint in Chicago for his set at Lollapalooza, Harriet Brown is currently on tour with Nite Jewel and is working on a new record for next year, as well as multiple collaboration projects, including a seed planted with his tour partner.
During our conversation at Lollapalooza, I give the artist only two options when taking in his music: they dance their asses off or an intellectual revolution is sparked. He contemplates and even has me repeat the two options to make sure he’s understanding what I am getting at with the hypothetical ultimatum.
“I would pick intellectual revolution, because they might still dance. Lyrics are really important to me. The thing that makes me the happiest is when people come back to me and say, “Hey the lyrics to that song really hit me.”
Cybernetiplegia. How’s that for a song title, 21st century? When we at Gozamos saw the title, we had to look it up together and start putting together the etymology to get a grasp on its origins. Reminiscent of Chronomentrophobia on Outkast’s Idlewild soundtrack, the title instantly makes you think and wonder about the song’s meaning and intention, in the best possible way. It challenges our ways, and it forces us to look ourselves in the mirror to determine if we are, in fact, living our best life.
“The song came about from facebook messaging with a friend of mine about whether to meet up, and I was sort of on the fence. I didn’t hear back from that friend after I said, “Maybe I won’t go and I’m sorry.” He’s a really chill dude, but I got into my own head and I’m sure this happens to a lot of people: I freaked about it for a few hours. Did I offend him? I hoped I hadn’t said something off. I came back to the computer from feeling stressed that night from something kind of trivial, and he had responded hours earlier, “It’s cool.”
“So that’s how that song got birthed: Something specific but brought to a more generalized thing. Hazy communication in today’s age through text or instant messages. It’s crazy how you can feel so wrapped up in something so trivial, and it can make you really crazy but at the end of the day it didn’t mean anything. And that goes along with a song like Mother where there is actual real shit happening and here we are super focused on social media. Or even making art. How do I feel ok with myself as a human being focused on something that can seem really small?”
Go ahead and check those notifications you received while reading this. These words will still be here.
And so will Harriet Brown.