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The last year has been a busy one for Andrew and Julie Thoreen, an Iowa based husband and wife duo who play as the band Har-di-Har. The two met in college and both have prior backgrounds and formal education in music. Although they each have played with bands in the past, the decision to play as a duo has been taken very seriously by the couple who are now totally committed to making music with each other and touring a primary focus in their lives.
The couple had been saving money for “three to four years,” according to Andrew, with the intention of moving. With the both of them gainfully employed, they lived on one wage and saved the rest. In December of 2011, while out visiting relatives for Christmas in Colorado, they came to the conclusion that they would start a music project ,”he said ‘what if we just quit our jobs and go on tour?’” said Julie about the decision. “We made a New Year’s resolution to write a song a day in the month of January,” added Julie. By the end of January the duo ended up with over 20 songs, four of which ended up on their first EP, “Words of Whim.” The title of the album is aptly named due to how the project started on a “whim.”
The two play a variety of instruments such as guitar, bass and keys. The duo shares duties on the drums; Andrew plays the kick drum while Julie plays the rest of the set. Julie stated that she picked up playing the drums in March of this year, “she’s a fast and efficient learner,” said Andrew. “We’re just at the point now where it’s not what I’d say easy, but we don’t have to be stressed out about the coordination of it all,” said Julie about the balance of pulling off a live show between two people who have been working with the project for just several months.
The duo does not use loop pedals in their live show so there are a few things that are in the album that are not on stage. Most notably some of the layers of vocal harmonies and the trombone in certain songs are not performed live. Andrew exclusively studied the trombone in college and in songs like “The Parade,” the mellow tone of the instrument carries the airy, mesmerizing and carefree mood of the song. “The songs don’t sound one-hundred percent the same, like on The Parade, I multi-tracked three or four trombone parts,” said Andrew about the difference between live shows and this first EP. “The way that the songs are on the first record, when we play them live they sound the same. All of the key ingredients are there.”
The first two songs of the album “Craze” and “The Parade” flow into each other seamlessly and establishes the mostly laid back and unique sound for the duo. The highlight of their sound is the beautiful and sentimental feeling vocal harmonies between them and how they compliment each other throughout. While “Craze” is only a little over a minute long, “The Parade” is a seven and a half swirling arrangement of parts that subtly send the listener off into a dreamy soundscape where one can lose track of how long this song is.
The last track “Strength Behind” stands out on the album with mostly just Julie singing. The sound is more jagged with a swinging jazzy piano that is purposefully played with a certain amount of tediousness. Julie’s vocals are also sung with more snap compared to the softer vocals on the previous three tracks. The last third of the song fades off into a light experimental mix of vocal harmonies and sounds.
One thing that is especially noteworthy about this EP is that physical copies of it are on a flash drive. The album can be downloaded for $4, but one of the perks to having the flash drive is that if you ever see them at another show they will upload any future releases that they have. The drive also contains a promotional photograph of the duo and five images of paintings done for the album by Tyler Biyeu, a friend of the band. There is one painting for each song and a painting for the album itself. The paintings are abstract, colorful and playful and fit with the mood of this album.
The duo’s second EP that will be coming out in December is mostly recorded live unlike “Words of Whim,” which was recorded more track by track. “In the second album we want to have a feeling of moving together, a more organic sort of sound,” said Andrew. Har-di-Har will be releasing their second EP titled “Feudal Kind” on December 7 at The Hub in Cedar Falls, IA with The Daredevil Christopher Wright out of Eau Claire, WI.
In the last week the group has played at Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior and at Amazing Grace in Canal Park. They will be playing one more show in the Twin Ports this year at Fitger’s Brewhouse on Monday, October 29.