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The alt-rock, Brooklyn-based band herMajesty has a sound as captivating as the title of their latest EP, “My Body Your Mind,” which dropped just this past January.
Poetic, weighted lyrics paint alluring, sometimes dark stories against multi-layered guitars, a flirty bass, and invitingly dance-able drums. Frontman JP (vox, samples, guitars), along with bandmates David Leatherwood (bass, lead guitars), Joan Chew (bass), and Konrad Meissner (drums), are often backed by a host of talented guest musicians–like, for example, Fountains of Wayne guitarist Jody Porter, who adds an extra touch of psychedelia to two already mesmerizing tracks; “Crystals” and “Days Turn To Nights.”
Needless to say, they put on one hell of a live show, and if you’re in the area you can check them out for free on Saturday, March 5th, at 10 p.m. at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage One.
BTRtoday caught up with herMajesty to chat about striking a discourse between body, mind, and music.
BTRtoday (BTR): What’s your musical background and how did you guys first come together?
JP: I’ve been playing in bands since high school, mostly gigging in the NYC area with a few jaunts outside of the city in the early 2000s, and herMajesty was formed around 2010. The current version of the band came together about two years ago, and we started touring outside of the city consistently last year, when we were on the road in the Northeast three times. I met David, the guitar player, through another musician friend who invited me out to see his show. David was playing bass and I approached him and I invited him to play bass on herMajesty’s first EP. I was also intrigued by his guitar playing and asked him to perform on a couple demos, which he did. After that we decided it made more sense for him to be the guitarist.
At that point we were going to see a lot of music, and another friend of mine was doing a show and this keyboard player, Joan Chew–who is our bass player–I met at that show. I chatted with her and she was this very smart, sweet, and a musically savvy multi-instrumentalist, and originally she played keyboard for the band live. But I really liked her bass sound so we switched her over to bass. So you see, there’s a theme emerging here.
I met Konrad, our drummer, through another musician friend, a really talented singer-songwriter. When I asked if he knew anyone who would be a good fit for the band for drums he recommended Konrad. We’ve been playing with him now for a couple years and he’s just an awesome drummer, a really great guy, and we felt that it was the right combination of folks, and we took it on the road.
This month we did a show in Irving Plaza, and we’ve played Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos, and the Highline Ballroom.
BTR: Looking at all the additional musicians that you used for “My Body Your Mind,” you seem to have a lot of connections in the New York music scene! Is that just from going out to shows and friends of friends?
JP: Yeah, a lot of it is that way, a lot of it is just performing in front of people and sometimes luck has it that a musician is there and we chat after the show. I like using various musicians to enhance herMajesty’s sound–we performed a year and a half ago in front of Jody Porter of Fountains of Wayne at Rockwood Music Hall. He just happened to be there, and we reached out to him, he really enjoyed our sound, and I invited him to play on a couple tracks on “My Body Your Mind.” Jody was kind enough to accept, and did some wonderful psychedelic guitars on “Crystals” and “Days Turn To Nights,” two of our stand out tracks on the EP, and my personal favorites.
BTR: We loved them too! We were going to ask about them, so perfect that you brought them up, but before we do, “My Body Your Mind” is such an interesting title, what’s the story behind it?
JP: Yeah… I invite you to use your imagination.
BTR: [Laughs] We will!
JP: No, I mean, I think we all have fantasies, and when we look at other people, we tend to project our fantasies onto them. Whether our fantasies capture segments of their sense of reality is open to debate. So the idea of the title is really an invitation to the listener to actively produce a page in our music, in the body of our work. So by really using the body as a symbolic representation for the music that we put out, our emotional experiences, et cetera, I was hoping to spark a discourse between the band and our listeners. I thought the title was interesting and seductive at the same time.
BTR: Definitely. Also interesting and seductive is your EP cover art, what was the creative process behind that?
JP: You know, a lot of what influenced me was current events, particularly immigration issues, civil wars and strife. I’m originally from Greece so I know a little bit about what it’s like to move from one country to another. It’s a daunting experience for many people and I think this daunting experience we oftentimes store in our bodies. I had this idea of wanting to use my body as this canvas; a canvas that can be written on. What better way than to actually write lyrics on my body and have someone photograph me, with a lyrical cogent really conveying something that tapped into the difficulties of a journey, whether it be physical, emotional, or metaphorical, or a combination of all three. That was the inspiration behind the idea.
I reached out to Alice O’Malley, who took the series of photos. Alice has worked with a lot of great actors and musicians and I thought, based on her work, that she would be a great person to reach out to, to do this photo shoot. I didn’t want to be something beautiful, I wanted it to be compelling, and if there was some kind of beauty that we could capture out of it, however one chooses to define beauty, that would be wonderful. I hope that we did the original inspiration justice.
BTR: I think you did. You mentioned that you have a certain affinity, an affinity that I happen to share, for “Days Turn to Nights,” and “Crystals.” Could you expand on why those especially speak to you?
JP: “Days Turn to Night” really does a couple things. On one level, it’s about the emotional experiences of a breakup and on another level it’s about the protagonist’s experience after the breakup.
“Crystals” is a different kind of song, it’s a love song about perseverance. The protagonist in that song is a woman and I tried to write the song from her perspective; someone who is resilient, focused and determined, regardless of the emotional scarring that would happen over a period of time. Someone who is a survivor, and has a sense of self and belief that helps her overcome whatever obstacles may be. “Crystals” is also about the redemptive qualities of love, I think that’s also contained in the lyrics.
BTR: What was the recording process like for you guys while you were putting the EP together?
JP: Well, the recording process is pretty interesting, usually we build from the ground up. So we will go in a 24-track studio with a live ram, usually we like to work out of Atlantic Sounds Studios in Brooklyn, and we’ve been working with the same producer for over five years, we’ve been working with Nic Hard, who has produced The Church, The Bravery, as well as the engineer for a lot of Snarky Puppy’s live releases. We will go with him and cut drums and bass, and also record rhythm guitars, so they are all live.
Then we start building. We usually do keyboard tracking in my studio, I have a nice little setup at home, so we do keyboards here. I also do live vocals in my home studio, and we’ll go in and overlay lead guitar lines back at Atlantic Studios, and when we’ve tracked everything, we usually go to Nic Hard to mix. That’s been our process.
During the course of touring, we had a down date in Rochester so went into Blue on Blue, Sam Polizzi’s place, to cut decent tracks that we will be releasing over the next couple months. But most of the work is done in NYC.
BTR: Speaking of touring, what do you have on the horizon?
JP: We’ve got a show coming up on Saturday March 5th at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1, which is a favorite intimate room to play in the city; a great place that we’ve been gigging in pretty consistently for the past two years. We’re also planning another jaunt out of the city. We’re guessing it will take place in May or early June and we would like to target some of the cities that we visited last year: Providence, Boston, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Rochester, and most likely Syracuse. That’s what’s on the horizon, I think we have another Irving Plaza show coming up soon, but we’re still in the process of ironing out the details. Look forward to seeing us at Rockwood, we’ll be going on at 9:45 and it will be a free show.