In a world of airy soundscapes and crying in public, Harrison Storm’s emotive folk-pop structures mark a beautiful meeting in the middle.
Listening to Harrison Storm can feel like putting your hand through a dense, heavy cloud. Folk-rock structures intertwine with pop-hooks on singles such as Be Slow – creating a grounded, yet miasmic pressure under the atmospheres that Harrison has coined as his own.
Amid a revival for NSW’s live-music scene and the recent release of his Be Slow EP, Happy sat down with Harrison to chat about the meaning of art, the beauty of ambience, ‘bloody’ performances, and the inner dialogue that comes with creating a debut LP.
HAPPY: So, I guess my first question is, congratulations on coming back and touring. I just wanted to know – your music is so dreamy, and soundscape-y, and ambient. How do you translate that over into a live show?
HARRISON STORM: Good question. It’s a little bit different, actually. I think my live shows are quite stripped back – it’s just me and the acoustic guitar, when I’m just playing solo. That’s actually something that I’m working on at the moment – just to have a pedalboard that I can take around with me, to kind of have that atmospheric layer. But I just like travelling light, so it’s just a couple of guitars for me. And also, when I play with a band, that’s where more of the atmospheric stuff comes into play.
HAPPY: Yeah. So why do you enjoy that atmospheric – almost ambient, I would say – but also like very much, I guess, that sort of folk structure. Why do you sort of lean towards that?
HARRISON STORM: I think it’s just been like a natural progression of working with other people really. My guitarist that I use a lot, that’s kind of his forte, so I’ll usually come up with the acoustic patterns, and chords and structures, and he’ll bring in the atmospheric stuff. It just always adds a different kind of element to a song, and a different kind of energy or emotion that you can’t convey with an acoustic guitar and a voice. So it’s always just been something – pretty much from day one, from the first day in the studio, he was with me, so it’s just kind of attached itself to my sound a little bit.
HAPPY: Do you see yourself evolving that further, or is it something you want to keep constant through your art?
HARRISON STORM: It’s pretty much bedrock now, I think. Even when I’m demo-ing at home, I will lay down my version of an atmospheric bed, which just really helps with creating the mood. But, you know, it’s always a challenge – a goal of mine – to evolve, even if it’s just the slightest little bit. And that just goes with the atmospherics – kind of just twisting stuff to make it sound a little bit more interesting, or weird.
HAPPY: Yeah, and this is a really basic question, but what is your songwriting process? What’s the first sort of thing that comes, and how do you get that? It’s all so raw – I’ve cried to this EP so many times!
HARRISON STORM: Awwww!
HAPPY: So how do you sort of get that emotion out?
HARRISON STORM: I think it’s pretty – you know, talking from other artists – it’s a pretty standard way of creating, I guess. It’s just me and an acoustic guitar. Generally, I’ll plug into my PA, just in my little home studio. And then it’s just mucking around, coming up with a guitar piece and singing over it – singing gibberish. I think the gibberish – because there’s no words as yet to the emotion that’s coming out – it’s kind of like this gate is opened, that’s undefined. So I think there’s more room to explore, and just release that – whatever you’re trying to release. And once that’s there, I’ll record it on my phone, and then I’ll put my thinking brain on, and it’s kind of like being a detective or an archaeologist almost. I’m kind of digging through, what is that phrase? What does it say? What does it mean? And then I try and apply meaning to the expression. And then it’s just chipping away, working on lyrics, and structure, and the melody, and just refinement.
HAPPY: Do you think, does all of your art have meaning, or does some of it just kind of free flow what you’re feeling at that time?
HARRISON STORM: That’s a very good question. And I think, a lot of people argue that art is something where there should be no meaning to it. What’s the point? Like, it’s going to be different for everyone. But I guess, as the artist, I don’t try and think about it too much. Sometimes I’ll write a song, and it’ll have a very specific meaning, and it’ll be about a very specific thing, and it could be really personal. But sometimes it’s just something that I’ve liked doing, and I’ll just have fun, just being with my guitar and my voice that day, and it has absolutely no meaning whatsoever, then it just is.
HAPPY: Yeah. Who are you listening to right now, but also, who would people be shocked to find out that you’re listening to?
HARRISON STORM: Probably not shocked, but I’m an undeniable Ben Howard fan – like big time, I always listen to his stuff. He’s just a huge inspiration to me. Who else? There’s this Egyptian-Belgian artist named Tamino who I really love. He’s kind of like – he has this weird twist on like a Jeff Buckley reincarnation that’s really cool, and he’s just a total enigma. It’s just… it’s awesome. So he’s really inspiring as well. But you know, it’s just a bit generic. I like digging through Spotify and finding random stuff. There’s an artist called Orlando Weeks, who I’ve been listening to. It’s pretty different to my music, but when I’m driving, I’ve found, in the car, I just listen to ABC Classic. I think a lot of the time, it’s purely instrumental, and I think I need that. I get really tired of human voices. So yeah, probably a lot more classical music the past six months than I would’ve ever imagined I’d listen to. But yeah, check out Tamino.
HAPPY: I’ll give it a go! I had a really good question in mind. Oh, that was it! When you’re not at the studio and you’re not at the beach, what are you doing?
HARRISON STORM: I don’t know, I think my philosophy is just ‘enjoy life’. I like to just do what I want. I don’t know what I’ll be doing. Just hanging out, reading, playing tennis with my housemates. Just random stuff, I guess. I don’t know, like… what do you do?
HAPPY: Just be quirky, that’s what I would say! I wanted to ask, with touring as well, what is the most embarrassing touring story that you have?
HARRISON STORM: Actually, yes, I do have one. And it was like, no-one else knew – it was just me, and I think that was like the most mortifying thing. It was actually the very last show of a tour I did with a band in North America last year. And it was the last show, everyone from the label was there, and yeah, a lot of the team was there. And I was just about to go on stage, and I think there was like 800 people there. Last show, everyone was very happy. Anyway, I blew my nose, and just blood started pouring out of my nose. And I was just like ‘Fuck! What do I…’ Because I literally… I was meant to be on stage. And I was like ‘OK, well I have to go on stage.’ So I just like crammed my nose full of tissues. And I went on stage, and I soon realised at this gig, that when I sing, quite a lot of time, quite a lot of air comes out of my nose. So this tissue was just slowly coming more and more… Anyway, it didn’t fall out, but I had to alter… I was just the most self-conscious that everyone could see this fucking bleeding tissue in my face. And it’s going fall out everywhere, and everyone’s going to see it. It didn’t happen, no-one knew anything, and I was just… It was just a torturous half an hour.
HAPPY: Do you get nose bleeds often?
HARRISON STORM: No! I don’t know why I got… I think I was just a little bit exhausted from the end of tour of something. But yeah, it wasn’t fun!
HAPPY: It wasn’t fun.
HARRISON STORM: It wasn’t fun.
HAPPY: Also, what’s the part of touring that – I feel like we always talk about what you love about touring – but what don’t you like about touring?
HARRISON STORM: Well, I’m a vegan, so it’s really hard to eat vegan food, especially travelling – or I guess just in general, you know. Because like, you’re going from city to city, and a lot of the time you have to stop into – if you get enough time before soundcheck – a lot of the time it’s like petrol stations, and like the glamorous side of touring… It’s like what do you eat? Pretzels… So that’s probably the hardest thing, and just trying to stay healthy in general. And the lack of sleep – I love sleep. That’s probably the two main things that I don’t get when I’m touring.
HAPPY: Yeah. I know I hate going into this, but during COVID, you’ve had to adapt and survive. Is this something that, during these sort of live gigs you were doing for your North American audiences, is this something that you want to sort of keep doing?
HARRISON STORM: Yeah. You know, it was different. I wouldn’t not do it. It’s just adapting to kind of, and looking to incorporate… you know, making it look better and sound better. It was just me and a small team figuring it out together. And yeah, it was really good, actually. It was fun. People were all… people enjoyed it, I think. And gave me something to do. I think it’s probably, depending on touring overseas in the next year or two, it might be a necessary thing I have to do.
HAPPY: Yeah. Shit. I guess that sort of brings me to my next question. What projects do you sort of have coming up for the future, or what do you see sort of coming up for you.
HARRISON STORM: Yeah, there’s a few different things. I’m working on a collaboration at the moment, which is really cool. We’ve been to the studio, recording that. And then, yeah, a piece I did on – finally – my debut album, which has been a long time coming for me… I’ve just been too scared to do it. No, I’m not too scared, just never got around to it. Yeah, so obviously, there’s two big things that I’m working in. And then, yeah, like I’m planning another Australian tour for the end of the year, and fingers crossed, overseas next year.
HARRISON STORM: But yeah, apart from that, that’s pretty much what’s on the plate.
HAPPY: I just want to come back to the being scared thing, because I think that’s really interesting. I guess, what’s more daunting about creating an album compared to an EP?
HARRISON STORM: It’s totally a mindset within the creative industry that doesn’t really exist, but it’s just this perception of it. Like the debut album, and cementing yourself as an artist. And I guess, I kind of fell into music, in a way that was very unplanned. And I don’t know, it’s probably like… like a strange kind of denial of being an artist? And like an avoidance of calling myself an artist. And the way to get away with it was to do these kind of small EPs, which are not as significant as an album, so it’s not as serious. But yeah, totally something that’s… this weird pressure that I do feel like does exist from within the industry. But shouldn’t exist, and I think doesn’t matter. Like fans aren’t really going to care… the listeners. So yeah, I think I’ve really kind of shed that over 2020, like in lockdown, just thinking about what it means to be an artist, and what it means to create art, and kind of dropping all those ideas that were in my head that weren’t mine, and with the album – just doing what I like and not worrying about what anyone thinks, really.
HAPPY: So what does it mean to be an artist?
HARRISON STORM: What does it mean? I think just like knowing what you like, doing what you like, and not caring what anyone else thinks. And yeah, all of those kind of cliches I guess, but they are cliches because they’re true. And I guess, like finding out who you are as an artist, is part of the process of being an artist. The art can reflect that – not should reflect that – but it can reflect that, in a meaningful way to you, as an artist. And it’s taken me a really long time to figure that out, and be comfortable with those answers, and understand what they mean. But yeah, it’s something that – just looking around – understanding is really not as prevalent as it should be in the arts community, especially in music. Everyone’s really treading around on trends, and what they should be doing, and how they should be perceived, rather than just being who they are and enjoying that.
HAPPY: Do you think that’s influenced from the industry, perhaps?
HARRISON STORM: For sure. It’s like the ugly side of commercialisation, I guess. You know, just trying to appeal to other people, rather than what you like. And it’s in so many different industries as well. But I guess, it’s a little bit exploded in the music industry, especially because… yeah, it’s so common.
HAPPY: I also wanted to ask… sorry I smoked a bit of weed last night, so I’m very spacey. Love it at the moment. So please excuse me. Oh yeah, what’s your best weed story?
HARRISON STORM: There’s probably too many. I don’t smoke anymore – I just don’t need it anymore. But what’s my best weed story? I don’t really know. Probably like when I first started playing music, I became really good friends with this reggae band, which is just like… self-explanatory. But I think it was just like, they invited me up on stage, to play like a bongo. And I don’t know how to play a drum. And there’s people that have come to watch the gig, and I’m just up there having the best time. Just like, smacking a drum. Probably happened a few too many times than it should have. But yeah, I have weed to blame for that. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t have too many. It’s all just like…
HAPPY: It’s a blur!
HARRISON STORM: It’s all just… yeah, it’s pretty much a blur.
HAPPY: Did you get a blood nose there too?
HARRISON STORM: No, thank God! No blood noses!
HAPPY: Oh my God. I guess my final question is, is there anything that I haven’t asked that you think is important? Is there anything you just want to add in there?
HARRISON STORM: No, it’s probably just like highlighting – to other artists, I guess – and it’s something that I’m working on, and will continue to work on until the end, but it’s the finding out why you create art. Finding out why you do what you want to do. I think it’s just a really important thing that I haven’t thought about enough, and I know a lot of people I know haven’t thought about it enough. So yeah, to just kind of be inquisitive into that, and find out who you are, which is something I think is really important.
HAPPY: Yeah. I lied – there’s one more thing I want to touch upon. You’re very much, like lyrically, of the same vibe as Carly Rae Jepsen, in the sense that it’s not these cataclysmic, high senses of emotion. It’s very much celebrating the little things – or, at least, that’s what I have interpreted it as. Is that something that A. you would agree with, and B. is that something that you’re sort of looking to do?
HARRISON STORM: I haven’t listened to her music, so I wouldn’t be able to comment, but I don’t know. Like I said before, sometimes my art’s very intentional… It’s usually something very immediate to me. I tend to write about something that’s happening in my life, so you know, it’s like a moment with someone, it’s a thought – things like that – and experience. But they’re always quite… intimate, I guess. So there’s nothing kind of… big. Or I’m not trying to do something philosophical or anything like that.
HAPPY: (laughs) I mean that’s fair. Well, I’m out of questions and this has been fucking lovely and, thank you so much!
HARRISON STORM: (laughs) Thank you!
Harrison Storm’s new EP, Be Slow, is out now!
Interview by Mike Hitch
Photos by Four Minutes to Midnight