The Harmed Brothers Return With "Picture Show" (premiere + interview)
A cross-country move, new love, and a sense of home provide the basis for the Harmed Brothers' new LP, Across the Waves. Hear the new single, "Picture Show", while co-founder Ray Vietti tells the Americana band's story.
Across the Waves, the latest album from the Harmed Brothers arrives on 5 June via Portland's Fluff & Gravy Records. The label has been a longtime home for the band but Across The Waves marks a departure for the veteran group: Unlike in the past, Fluff & Gravy isn't the unit's hometown label. Having traded digs in Oregon a few years back for Ludlow, Kentucky, the Harmed Brothers have, according to co-founder Ray Vietti, found a new sense of belonging and stability. Much of that is evident on the new single, "Picture Show".
"My fiancée told me she had a dream that we'd known each other for a very long time," Vietti says. "I was sitting around with a guitar, playing the melody. In the second verse, the part about 'finally I see your face', is very much about that idea. A lot of the other songs on the record circle around the idea of being OK with death. People say that your whole life flashes before your eyes when you die. I hope my story is pretty cool."
With sturdy, emotionally-driven lyrics and the sweet Americana sounds fans have come to expect over the last decade-plus from the Harmed Brothers, "Picture Show" is evidence of a band that have fully come into their own and are creating their best work. "Picture Show" and Across the Waves may find us all meditating on the movie of our life and hoping that the next reel is the most exciting one.
Vietti recently spoke with PopMatters about how he and band co-founder Alex Salcido made their cross-country move, the creation of Across the Waves, and the uncertainty of a musical career during a worldwide pandemic.
The Harmed Brothers were based in Portland, Oregon but now you're in Kentucky.
It's the ever-changing saga of where the Harmed Brothers call home. I live in Ludlow, Kentucky, and have for the last couple of years. It's where this record started taking shape. It was really about finding home and finding a place where we felt like we could fit in with the community.
What led to the relocation?
It starts with the Whispering Beard Folk Festival finding us in 2013 and booking us continuing to do so. We'd go and stay for the whole weekend. We made so many friends there and started putting Cincinnati on our tour map, and a lot of Beardos and Whispering Beard faithful were attending our shows. The bonds grew stronger and stronger, and soon we were hitting Cincinnati two or three times a year at least. I started doing solo shows here.
I took an artist-in-residence position at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky, which is just across the river from Cincinnati and only a few miles down the road from Ludlow. I ended up staying here. I was renting a room from a friend in downtown Cincinnati. I clicked with this area.
I grew up in Missouri, and if you drew a straight line across the United States from here, it wouldn't be far until you ran into where I grew up. There's a Midwestern feel to this city. The people here lift us up. That's not to say that that didn't happen in other cities we've lived in because we've been treated with great respect and great love throughout our entire career.
Did being in a new town impact your writing?
Being in other cities, it was really hard to find a place we could call our own. Coming here, we were both able to find those things. We'd get together on our drummer's house and work on stuff. We'd work on things individually and together. We took a trip to North Carolina as a band, where we sat down and wrote songs over a week. Almost everything that we worked out at that time made it to the record. Ben Knight, one of our new members, would get together with Alex and me, and there are few songs that were penned by the three of us.
This still sounds like a Harmed Brothers record but it feels like a big step forward as well. Did you have a sense of that when you were writing the songs?
These songs can still work on a guitar and banjo, but they're not trying to be folk-punk or something else. These songs have helped us find how this band wanted to be for so long. This is who we are and the music we love. It's something different, isn't it?
I think this is also the best-sounding album to date. Was there a concerted effort on that end?
We flew our buddy Inaiah Lujan in from Pueblo, Colorado. His records all sound good. He's not doing super flashy. He's doing things in an old school way. We worked at the [Herzog Recording Company], which is not active as a recording studio. There was nothing fancy with the microphones or anything. We went live in the space and just played. Maybe there are some old ghosts in there that helped this sound like it does.
How are you coping with the unknown right now? You've been on the road for so long, now there's a new record and no way of going out and supporting it or at the least not supporting it as you have in the past.
It's not really pressing on me the way it normally would. We've slowed down drastically already. But I feel grounded and at home right now. I love that because throughout the years of us being a band, we've never really been there before.