It's been a busy year for the hardest working surf-psych trio in the Queen City. Hot off the dusty trail in 2013, which featured an official showcase at South by Southwest, a tour through the Gulf States, an appearance at Bunbury and an upcoming date with MidPoint, The Harlequins somehow, someway managed to find time to sneak in a brand new recording. We caught up with Mike Oliva, the Harlies' front man and got the skinny.
"This was a work of passion," Oliva said. "We had a lot of songs we were sitting on and some that were in the works. Started doing some sessions after our tour last October (before we got accepted to SXSW). Some songs were written on a previous tour, but most were sitting around waiting to be recorded. We basically juggled around our work and show schedules and did six or so recording sessions. We were mixing whenever we could."
Sex Change, their third full-length album, will be self-released as a limited run of 75 cassettes, as well as digitally on BandCamp. The band hopes to follow with a true label release on CD or vinyl.
"This album is our most eclectic, combining our darkest most experimental tracks and our brightest sunshine psych-pop," Oliva explained. "The closer is an atmospheric, simple acoustic song I wrote for my girlfriend on the beach after a long tour last summer."
As might be expected of a guy who has, on previous records, successfully integrated bright, melodic pop with howling surf psychosis, Oliva is enigmatic in his explanation of the direction of The Harlequins' sound.
"I think our sound is [simultaneously] expanding and getting tighter," he asserted. "We are more freely doing what we've always done, but on a larger scale. The vibe is still raw and live. Most vocal cuts are scratch tracks and first takes."
In the upcoming year, Oliva hopes to expand The Harlequins' reach, too. Long a staple of the Cincinnati rock scene, he is hoping to perform more outside the region and grow the band's following.
"We'll be performing once again at MPMF and applied for CMJ in NYC," Oliva said. "We'll do a few long tours as well, but none for the immediate release. Our main focus right now is getting picked up on a label and landing a solid publicist."
In such a whirlwind of a year, one naturally wonders what highlights stick out?
"It was nice seeing the Black Lips at shows in Atlanta," Oliva shared. "They came out to a house party and bar show we played. They were a band we were into, so that was a neat experience. All of SXSW was a blast. The road is always fun, if a bit blurry, so picking one [moment] is hard. I'd say one of the highlights was getting our Gringo time in at South by. Playing and partying with our friends Gringo Star is always a pleasure. Also, we met The Zombies. That was surreal."