HARLEQUIIN TALKS “YOUNG ONE” & PREMIERES NEW TRACK “BANDIT” 114

Having already been a session musician for Paolo Nutini and others, artist and producer Rory Simmons, AKA Harlequiin, is no stranger to the music industry, and his own work reflects everything he’s learnt since he first starting playing instruments at the age of 10. With his third EP due out later this year and as ThisIsTheLatest proudly premiere his new track “Bandit”, he chatted to us about the artist he’d most like to produce for, his upcoming performance plans and his thoughts about the impact of social media in the music business.

TITL: Hi Rory. First of all, what would you say your unique selling point as an artist is? What makes you different from your many other artistic counterparts?

Rory (Harlequiin): I’m a musician who’s come from the jazz world as a performer, but now I really feel I fit into electronic music and alternative pop as a producer. But being an instrumentalist that brings perhaps a different dimension of live performance to the music I make as Harlequiin.

TITL: Has music always been your career plan or did you have other ideas and ambitions growing up? 

H: No, music has always been the thing for me really, as a young Cornish slip of a man, I basically just wanted to play in as many different environments as I could. I started playing brass instruments and guitar in local bands and school bands in the small town I grew up in and when I was 18, I got a place at Trinity College of Music in London.

TITL: You’ve been a session musician for the likes of Paolo Nutini and Blur among others, so at what point did you ultimately decide it was time to focus on your own musical ambitions? What did your time working/touring with those artists teach you?

H: Being on the road with any big successful artist is really interesting both in terms of the everyday workings of a large operation like that, i.e. all the different people it takes to keep it rolling, but also the way the artist and management approach the overall arc of their career. It’s really interesting seeing different audiences being cultivated and various territories being prioritised. Quite often this is a more sub-conscious thing; it’s not as if these are always first hand conversations being had with artists – being in that environment is a real eye opener I guess on how you become really successful in the music industry as an artist.

TITL: You’re both an instrumentalist and producer – which of the two did you get into first and is it hard or fun to juggle/work the two? 

H: I was an instrumentalist first. I started playing trumpet and guitar at about 10, and then only started getting into production and music tech at about 25. I’ve always been very much into writing but until getting my head into music software, it was always a pencil and manuscript that helped me channel that.

TITL: If you could produce music for any other band or artist, who would it be?

H: There’s an amazing kind of macabre country singer from the US I love called Lera Lynn, I saw her playing on True Detective a while ago and totally fell in love with her vibe. I’d love to do something a bit heavier and produced sounding with her….she lives probably 3000 miles away – but you never know, it might happen.

TITL: Is there a story behind your latest single “Young One”? Can you remember when and where you wrote it, and what made you decide it’d be a good choice for a single release?

H: I wrote “Young One” with an amazing vocalist called Amelka May who also features on the track, and we kind of wrote the track with another artist in mind – but it was languishing on my hard-drive and when I revisited it 6 months later, I felt like – “no, I’m keeping- this is meant to be a Harlequiin track.”

TITL: You’ve released 2 EP’s so far and are soon to release a third. What can you tell me about this latest collection, and how would you say it differs from its predecessors?

H: This third EP is maybe a bit tougher sounding than the others, and perhaps a bit more psych too.  I’m just trying to write songs and develop the production in a way that serves the song. I think this EP has twists and turns but still very much sounds like Harlequiin. Caribou, Jamie Liddell and Fourtet are still big influences, but I’m also trying to include as much live instrumentation as possible – as long as it sits sonically within the music.

TITL: You’ve received recognition and support from the likes of BBC Introducing and Wonderland, among others. How much of an impact on your career has such reaction/responses had, and which outlet/individual would you most love to hear praise you and your work?

H: It’s been great getting support from the people you mentioned of course – but really it’s people listening and connecting with the music that’s important. That might sound trite, but that’s what really connects for me. There’s something visceral and exciting about seeing Harlequiin tracks being DJ’d. The idea that people connect with the emotion of the song by moving or dancing is huge for me.

TITL: How do you feel about social media, and do you feel it is still possible for bands and artists to achieve success without being socially interactive with their fans/potential audiences?

H: Difficult to say. Probably if you are big enough, you don’t need to engage with those platforms to remain connected. However, a lot of those people that are big enough probably aren’t of the generation that naturally would use social media in that way. And for those artists it would feel contrived and un-natural. If Thom Yorke starts using Snapchat, I’m out….

TITL: Are there any tour or performance plans in the works? 

H: We are playing a show in Paris next month as part of Disquaired Day, and there are a couple of festivals coming up over summer too. We are also planning on a London headline show later in the year, along with another release…. a London headline show has been a long time coming!

If you could play one venue anywhere in the world with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and where would you perform?

H: The Filmore in San Francisco is a venue that I’ve already had a chance to play, but would love to go back there. It’s got so much history and it’s an amazing sounding room. It’s pretty difficult to choose 3 musicians, and I want to avoid saying Miles, Hendrix etc., so I’m going to say Slim Harpo, Captain Beefheart and Andy Stott, at the Filmore. That would be a weird gig – but hopefully quite fun!

Check out “Bandit” below and for more information on Harlequiin, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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KENDRA BLACK PREMIERES NEW SINGLE “DANGERLESS” 89

Kendra Black, an Italian born, classically trained ballet dancer, is most certainly making her mark on the music world. Having received considerable attention from media outlets and music fans on both side of the Atlantic thanks to her single “Rude”, which featured Snoop Dogg, Kendra Black’s career has continued to rise ever since. Now, following the release of her debut EP The Edge in December, a collection which was produced by the acclaimed Trend Def Studios team, Black is launching into the summer months with her new track “Dangerless” which ThisIsTheLatest are delighted to premiere.

Asked about the inspiration and power behind the song, Black said: “The beauty of ‘Dangerless’ is that the track inspires the courage to build your reality by finding the strength in love, rather than losing yourself into lifestyles that are often damaging and destructive.”

With performances in France, the Caribbean, Monte-Carlo and the US already under her belt, Black is currently on a Spring US tour, impressing crowds all over the country. As her EP continues to win over fans both old and new, the rest of 2018 is certainly looking good for this gifted performer.

Check out “Dangerless” below and for more information on Kendra Black, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

BISHAT TALKS NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & HER PLANS FOR WORLD DOMINATION 46

Having written her first song at the age of 13, music has been in Bishat’s blood for many years and now, following the release of her Q417 (Mixtape) EP, she’s ready and raring to share her passion for what she does with the world. She spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about the honesty and emotion behind her lyrics, her thoughts on social media and her plans to tour the world.

TITL: As an artist who comes from the same place as the legends that are ABBA, have you or do you ever feel any pressure to try and replicate their success or are you just happy to see that, over the years, more and more talented bands and artists from your country have graced stages around the world and won over music fans?

Bishat: I think it’s inspiring more than anything else, it just makes me feel like it’s possible to reach a global audience from this little corner of the world. The industry is so small in Sweden so you know a lot of the people making waves and it’s an amazing feeling when you’re in a taxi in New York or in a club in Ethiopia and there’s a global smash playing and you know the people who wrote it.

TITL: You wrote your first song aged just 13, with Jose Gonzalez. How would you say your writing style has changed and evolved since then and what advice would you give to anyone looking at writing their own first piece?

B: As with everything else, you mature and experience life and with that you evolve your way of thinking and how you’re expressing yourself. I’ve also had time to be influenced by a lot of other music and I’ve studied what others did to then land in something that is me. I think my music is much more raw and intuitive and a mash-up of all the genres that I’ve grown up listening to now.

TITL: You’ve so far been compared to the likes of Tove Lo and FKA Twigs, among others. Do you mind such comparisons or would you much rather be labelled an artist in your own right? 

B: Both Tove Lo & FKA Twigs are brilliant artists that I admire and am influenced by so I take that as a huge compliment. But yes, sometimes comparisons can be a bit lazy. People seem to crave the need of labeling and comparing and I get that in a time when there’s so much music it’s good to have some guidance and indication of other artists you might like. I’m really bad at explaining my sound and genre so if other people nail it then that’s all good. Of course I hope and think people see me an artist in my own right  – there’s room for everybody.

TITL: You’ve just released your debut EP Q417 (Mixtape). How was the creative, writing and recording process and is there one track/feature on the collection you’re particularly proud of?

B: This was a little different than I how I’ve worked before. I’ve always had a lot of sessions where we wrote lots of stuff over a long period of time but this was pretty much all done in the last quarter of 2017, hence the title. I was going through a lot of stuff, coming out of a long relationship, not having a place to live, so creating this EP became my mission, not to lose myself completely. I wrote all the songs myself except  “Unholy Romance” which I wrote with XOV, and then involved a few trusted people in the production process to help me finish it so it feels even more personal with the entire core coming from me. I’m most proud of “Give You Up” because it’s the first track I produced all by myself, even though I’m always involved and co-produce all my stuff. I have, as a female, struggled with daring to call myself a producer but now I feel that I truly can and no one can tell me nothing and that feels good. It’s also the rawest song I think I’ve ever written and listening to it reminds me of how broken I was at the time. It’s a bit painful but it also feels like the whole reason I even got into music in the first place. To create things that are raw and vulnerable that hopefully resonate with others going through the same things.

TITL: Now that the EP’s out, have you started thinking about writing again for the follow-up or are you just going to go with the flow and see what the response to this EP is like first?

B: Yes, I have some songs written but I haven’t entirely set the tone for the next EP, or maybe album, just yet. I’m going to London for a while to do some writing – the music scene there is really inspiring at the moment with so much great music coming out, so maybe that will shape the sound. But, I will definitely try to put out more music after summer.

TITL: The EP as a whole is rather dark and addresses a considerably difficult time in your life. Were you ever apprehensive about sharing those times with the world through your music as you have, or is it something you’d like to see more artists do – address real issues in their lives and those of others?

B: I personally love music that I feel is super honest. I mean it doesn’t even have to be real life, but some artists make you feel like it is anyway. Life is messy and hard and incredible and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think everyone would be better off if we were more open and honest about the struggles, depression or whatever it is that we go through. There was a point when we were mixing and I was like ​‘wow this feels pretty exposing’, but at that point I wasn’t gonna throw it all away. It was a little scary but I’m proud of my work and proud that I managed to put it together even though I was such a mess.

TITL: You’ve also dropped the video for “Dream About Me.” How did you come up with the concept, and how hands on in terms of the creative process, do you like to get when it comes to making videos and such?

B: Post break up analysis I guess triggered it. I was like I’ve been in these long relationships but in the end I somehow mess them up. They may not have been the right ones for me but still…I started to see patterns in my behavior and in everyone’s really. Most of us repeat the same mistakes over and over and so I had this idea of showing several relationships, which in the end ended up being just two, where you are super intense and all in in the beginning but then grow restless and end up leaving and then repeat it with someone else. The fear of space and change – which ironically is the thing that usually ends up ruining it. I’m very involved in every aspect of my artistry. I do almost everything by myself from artwork to styling and I was very involved in the video so it’s all very much me which is really nice even though it gets crazy stressful at times. The anxiety is real.

TITL: Personally and professionally, are you much of a social media user and how do you feel about the power the likes of Twitter and YouTube can and do have in terms of helping an artist grow their fan-base and keep themselves current?

B: I use social media a lot but not a crazy amount. I understand that it’s important and it’s really cool to have that instant way of connecting with people. To be able to chat to someone who loves my song in Peru in my Insta DMs is amazing. However, the flip side is the fact that there’s such power in numbers – I think we are too fixated with  followers, likes and streams and that it influences what we think of the artist before we’ve​ even heard the music. I wonder if you’d listen to the same stuff or talk about the same artists if you couldn’t see streams on Spotify or didn’t have YouTube views showing.

TITL: Finally then, with the video and EP out now, what’s next for you? What does the rest of the year have in store for you, and have you started looking further ahead as to what the more distant future could and might hold for you?

B: I’m gonna play some shows which I’m really excited about, write lots of music for myself and other artists and slowly work on that world domination stuff. I’m ready for that world tour.

Check out the video for “Dream About Me” below and for more information on Bishat, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Her Q417 (Mixtape) EP is available now.