Take note of Seattle’s The Horde and the Harem. Though the band has only been together three years (actually a long time for a band), they’ve created three EPs plus their first full-length, A Long Midwinter. They’ve performed at nearly every venue in Seattle and the festivals Block Party, Bumbershoot, and Folklife. Their harmonies, vocal and musical, are exquisite. The support they have received from fans has been strong, and inspiring for the band. Ryan Barber, songwriter/guitarist/vocalist said, “We have this crew, this community that really wants to help us. [They] bring us food and generators for the videos. I think that’s part of why we’ve been around so long. They’re really part of the journey.” I mention that the vibe at their CD release party at the Tractor last year was really positive, and I think this comes down to the band’s talent and humility. Barber explains, “We want to get better. I think it took us a while to get our path where it is. It’s an exciting time. We feel comfortable at our shows.”
The Horde and the Harem
The Horde and the Harem’s videos for “Chasing Crows” and “Gold Rush” are also creative and astonishing. “We had an EP out before this. That was the “Harvest” EP, and that was a collection of songs, like a song cycle. For the video for that one we did at Mary Olsen farm. It’s really beautiful. It was for the song “Gold Rush.” That was our first video. Our second video’s a little bit more low key,” Barber reveals. In regard to the “Chasing Crows” video, “It was fun – it was exhausting. There’s a couple people from the “Gold Rush” video in the “Chasing Crows” video.”
I wanted to know more about “Mother’s Den,” my favorite track off A Long Midwinter. Barber was somewhat surprised, “That one almost didn’t make the record. Shawn Simmons [producer] really liked that one. We were at a rehearsal and we played him twelve songs, and we were like hey we have all these songs, what songs grab you? [He picked] that one. We actually didn’t play it at our CD party – we ended up playing it the next week at the High Dive. That one I wrote maybe about a year ago. It’s becoming part of our repertoire. I’m glad you like that. It’s funny, what songs people get drawn to.”
Barber was previously in The Toy Soldiers, who were San Francisco-based electronic band. He said that eventually the band moved to Seattle, “Our first summer in Seattle, we were probably in Seattle for about six months, and we played everywhere from the Crocodile to Neumos, we played Block Party . . . Our last show was with Casiokids. I wrote all the songs for the first Horde and the Harem EP and met Matt Badger, from Ravenna Woods. He was the first drummer in Horde and the Harem – he named the band.”
I asked him what he likes to read. I always like to know this about people. “I read a lot of classics. I’m reading Great Expectations right now. James Joyce. I like drawn-out books. The Long Midwinter comes from Master and Man by Tolstoy.” Barber, who holds a degree in Music, also is employed as a music teacher. This skill has worked for him. It will also come in handy when The Horde and the Harem play the Family Matinee at Q Cafe this Saturday, May 5th at 4:00 pm. They also play Romtoms in Portland, Oregon on May 6th.
interview by Dagmar