When Carrboro-based musician John Harrison was in seventh grade, he bought his first record: "Licensed to Ill" by the Beastie Boys. Now, under the stage name Jphono1, Harrison is releasing his own experimental music.
His latest album, “Parliament,” which was released on March 12, has six songs and is his first album created completely during the pandemic.
Since last April, he has released two other records composed of songs he collaborated on before the pandemic put a pause on how musicians traditionally create music.
Harrison said the main theme of "Parliament" is trying to be present both internally and externally.
“It's not a very lyric-heavy record,” Harrison said. “When I do sing, it's about being grateful to be here. Everything’s sort of temporary, so it’s just reminders and notes to myself. You can actively listen to it and relate to me in that way, but I think you can also passively listen to them and they just sort of work within the music, and I like trying to work that balance of literal and more abstract or metaphysical.”
Since this is his first record produced entirely remotely, Harrison discovered parts of the creative process that were challenging but rewarding.
“The writing of the songs was kind of always the same, so that has remained unchanged,” Harrison said. “I had to do more recording at home which has been really great because I had the time. And just sort of the freedoms that come with that, like, I have more control and more time to spend learning different instruments and different ways to make sounds.”
Harrison is a co-founder of a music collective and label in the Triangle called Potluck. Their goal is to collaborate with and support other artists in the area by sharing local music. Another co-founder, Reid Johnson, said Harrison has been able to remain flexible during the pandemic and is growing as an artist.
“John started off with North Elementary and it was always interesting,” Johnson said. “Then Jphono1 split off, and he started doing some of the more experimental quirkiness... He’s gotten into embracing the cosmic plane and embracing his openness to letting compositions flow. He’s embracing his psychedelic tendencies as well.”
Harrison is also a part of the group Tacoma Park, which is a collaboration between Harrison and Ben Felton, another Triangle-based musician.
Felton said that working with Harrison has helped him see some of the silver linings of creating new music during the pandemic.
“John is someone who I’ve really admired,” Felton said. “On one hand, he’s got this light, very open, very relaxed approach to life and art and music, and on the other hand, he has one of the most rock-solid work ethics and senses of how to do things that I've ever seen.”
Even though traditional collaboration has changed for the near future, Harrison has found ways to make his music seem like it was created in normal conditions.
“There's a lot of, for lack of a better word, ‘jammy’ parts on this record,” Harrison said. “That is a little more difficult to do when you're doing it remotely, but the guys I was working with are incredibly talented. I feel like when I listen to that stuff it sounds like we're in a room playing together, which I'm proud of.”
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