Considering the tight and professional approach displayed by The Harlots at QMF, it is surprising to discover that the band has not been in existence for years. “We have just gone past our two year anniversary as a band…We played a lot of shows in 2011 and we tried to scale it back a bit in 2012,” Julian explains. “We have been feeling our way into the scene. We’re not formal musicians who have been in other bands before. We are a bunch of friends mostly who have been thrown together by coincidence. We’ve been figuring out how to be a band and I think we have reached a few conclusions now and hopefully more people will know about us in 2013.”
The Harlots showcase the type of deep lyrics that enthral and entrance without overshadowing the music. “The trick is to be dark and theatrical to some extent without being pretentious…I like to think we manage to strike a balance where you can engage with the narrative without being excluded from the music. The groove is still there,” Julian says.
A clever sense of humour underpins some of the band’s lyrics and certainly drives the astonishingly memorable and deliciously surreal video for Got No Soul which features the rather absurd talents of a small rocking horse. According to Julian, “If we made a literal video of one of our songs…it would be rather dark and might be difficult for people to engage with. So we thought, ‘Well, what would be a funny image?’…we had whole lot of semi-grandiose ideas and we realised that we don’t really have any money, film stock or back-lot or anything. So we scaled it back and back and back until we had the idea of a strange rocking horse which turned out to live in the garage of our film director. We said to him, ‘Look you have got two weeks to make something. We have a bunch of friends who are actors. Can you go away and do it?’ He said, ‘Ok. I’ll see what I can do.’ In a couple of weeks we got ourselves an entertaining, nicely assembled piece of film…the lyrics will hook you in a certain way and hopefully the video will hook you in a different and original way.”
Intriguingly, despite the humorous absurdity of the video, it manages to inspire the viewer to deeply engage with the thought-provoking lyrical content and bizarrely clarifies, in a decidedly left-field and off-beat manner, the central themes that lie at the heart of the song.
This sparkling originality that runs through the band’s work is of the utmost importance to Julian. In considering how he would like The Harlots to be viewed in years to come, he thought deeply and said, “I think we would like to be remembered as original…there are not too many people at least in Melbourne who are trying to do what we are trying to do.”
In a live setting, The Harlots hook the audience by delivering each song with maximum passion. Charismatic lead singer Tom Pitts sweats and gyrates his way theatrically through each song while the band brings precision and focus to their powerhouse performance. Each member appears to be totally ‘in the zone’ as they live and breathe each lyric, melody and rhythm. For even the most casual observer it can be impossible to leave once the band hits the stage as the performance is both engrossing and compelling. When discussing the band’s approach to stagecraft, Julian laughed, “I’m one of the more reserved members of the band! I kind of cower at the back! It’s the most fun when people come up the front and dance around and they feed off your energy and you feed off their energy.”
Other than the February residency at the Spotted Mallard, The Harlots are hoping to launch a double EP later this year and tour as much as possible. If you get the opportunity to catch this exciting band live you won’t be disappointed as their magnetic stage presence, sophisticated wordplay and infectious tunes are rare treats worth savouring.
BY GRAHAM BLACKLEY