Harvey Lush and His Orchestra are sonic explorers searching for their purpose in the universe through the power of music. With today’s music scene awash in a wave of guitar-driven groups, Harvey Lush offers an oasis of exotic instrumentation that’s more common to an orchestra than a pop band. Lush croons mournful lyrics about heartache and disappointment over the rhythmic whimpering of cello, guitar and viola on songs like “Turn On Me.”
BTRtoday had the pleasure of chatting with them about time travel, guitar music and Kate Bush.
BTRtoday (BTR): How did the Orchestra join forces with Harvey Lush?
Jen Smith (JS): I played cello mostly in my room. I had some recitals in New Jersey in my adulthood, which was fun for me. But I’ve never played in a band before now. I was discovered because it says that I’m a cellist on my tinder profile.
Steve Klett (SK): Harvey Lush came to me in a vision and said “Hey, I saw you onstage with The Meaning of Life rolling around. Do you want to join another band? I said “sure.”
BTR: Have you all collaborated in the writing process?
Harvey Lush (HL): Some of the songs I’ve written, some of the songs Steve writes. We all work on the arrangements, we are a collective. It’s a well-oiled machine. We all figure out where the song needs to go and what it’s going to be.
BTR: Who are your artistic influences?
JS: I really like the Illustrator Mahlon Blaine. He uses a lot of black and negative space. My general vibe is really embracing comforting dark holes. Black Sabbath will always be comforting to me. I’m always coming from a dark, down-home vibe. I love the Brooklyn queer country scene right now and how everyone is starting to talk very confessionally about oppression through country music. I like being able to embrace country music again. I thought I would have to ditch it as a Brooklyn transplant and as a queer kid [from Florida], since most people associate it with the oppressive south. It’s cool that this scene has blossomed up here and queers from all over are reclaiming and reinventing the genre.
SK: Marc Ribot out of Newark, NJ. He played on some of Tom Wait’s best albums like Swordfishtrombones. He does a lot by not doing much and that’s an inspiration for this group.
HL: Peter Gabriel. I like his solo stuff better than Peter Gabriel in Genesis.
Jenna Nelson (JN): John Cale from The Velvet Underground was always a huge inspiration for me. I really enjoy playing with textures.
BTR: How was “Turn On Me” written?
HL: “Turn On Me” is the more abysmal B-side to Harvey Lush and His Orchestra. It’s about relinquishing control to other people. It is about my ever dropping expectation of interacting with others and how disappointing it can generally be. I’ll throw out an influence for you—Kate Bush. I was listening to a lot of The Dreaming. That album is deliciously weird. I wanted to create something more atmospheric. These wonderful women started doing the pizzicato stuff on the strings and that’s really what brought it home.
BTR: What inspired you to breach beyond guitar music?
JN: I always wanted to be in a cool band with my viola. It was my dream throughout high school and college. This is the first project I feel I can really grow as a violist and use this instrument that I’ve always played in a new way.
JS: I always wanted to be in a rock band. I was a little metal kid. Cello rock was very much a thing when I was growing up. I thought it was an easy transition to be made.
HL: I’ve noticed there is electronic music and there is guitar music and then there are guitar bands with keyboards. But there is still this wedge between the two. The band Parlor Walls is an example of a happy medium. This is an example of something that hopefully can transcend both genres and bills. I wanted to have something that makes everybody go “Wow! What the hell is going on here!”
To experience the legend first hand, check them out May 31 at The Gateway for Wastoid Wednesday with Heavy Traffic, Mayve and The Worst Humans. They also have some unofficial North Side shows coming up June 8 at Our Wicked Lady and June 9 at Two Boots Williamsburg.