I caught up with “Reading’s best new band” Harroland at their third ever gig, at Readipop in Milford Road in March, and they kindly granted me a very public interview in the car park. It was a freezing cold night, but I was ably assisted with questions by Whitley and Katesgrove aristocracy, music gurus Trevor Absolom and Michael Wyatt, as well as a very pleasant passer-by. When they become big and global in the years to come, you can boast about seeing Harroland early on at Reading venues.
Despite being serious musos with an anxious message, Harroland are a very likeable, friendly bunch to chat with. They are comprised of Michael (guitar, vocals, lyrics) and Kate (keyboard, vocals), Steve (guitar, vocals) and Sam (drums).
[Matthew] What’s the perfect amount of alcohol to have before you perform?
[Steve] Two pints is good; you definitely need a relaxing drink or two.
[Kate] Two G&Ts for me.
Where does the band name come from?
[Kate] The name came out of a brain-storming session. It isn’t connected to anything; it also stuck ‘cos no-one had that name when we Googled it. I think it does reflect our sound somehow.
Have you any family musical lineage ?
[Kate] Yes, both our parents [Michael and Kate are siblings] were once in a band in Egham called Once in a blue moon. They were a bit folky and Fleetwood Mac-like. Our next gig is at our dad’s 60th birthday party.
Funnily enough, although you do sound unique and distinctive, if there is a nod to anyone it could well be Fleetwood Mac.
[Kate] We are definitely influenced by them musically, if not lyrically, but aren’t copying anything and we don’t do covers in our set.
Why are your voices so non-Berkshire?
[Kate] It’s probably because our mum’s from New Zealand.
Oh sorry. I said in my last review that Michael’s voice was mid-Atlantic. Mid-Pacific then! Have you played anywhere so cold?
[Kate] God no!
[Michael] Steve and I live where we practice, in a static mobile home near Caversham golf course and that gets pretty cold.
Where is your drummer?
[Michael] He had to leave right away as he is dog-sitting.
How come you are so tight a band?
[Kate] We practice six days a week, although we have our day jobs too.
Why were these tracks on Sound Cloud for 11 months before your first gig?
[Michael] We lost our bass player, who left the band, so we were really trying to hone and perfect our sound and music before we gigged, and that did knock us back.
How many tracks have you got ready to play?
[Kate] We have seven down ready to play and three in preparation at the moment.
What do you think of Steven Siddle’s statement that you are the best new band in Reading?
[Steve] We are flattered and so grateful for his help and encouragement; it means a lot to us. We sent him a recording and he reacted instantly.
What do you want to achieve?
[Kate] To be honest, our goal is just to be able to give up our day jobs! We find working life a bit of a drudge and want to be creative and express ourselves.
Do you ever want an audience to sing your words back at you?
[Michael] That would be odd – we will have to cope with that somehow, if it ever happens!
Do you like lardy cake?
[Passer-by] They are too young for that. My dad ate it every single day.
Your songs seem a bit dark at times What are the central themes?
[Kate] They are pretty dark themes lyrically, if not musically. Our lyrics are about feelings of alienation, mental illness, modern anxiety and paranoia. Also, the soul-destroying stifling drudgery of work.
Who writes the songs?
[Kate] Michael often starts them, but we all do collectively.
Do you own any fridge magnets?
[Kate] No-one in the band has any; sorry!
Harroland are melodic and tuneful, and lyrically they take a principled stand against the vagaries and anxieties of the modern world. Harroland had their song Annie played on BBC Radio Berkshire recently, and they will be appearing at the Readipop festival in July. You can see them at the Purple Turtle on 19 April and Readipop again on 5 May.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.