The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 6th

Diversions

Q&A with HRVRD guitarist Jason Shaw

HRVRD, a indie rock and experimental band from Charlotte, N.C., just started their tour with alternative rock band Say Anything. Staff writer John Howell, Jr. talked to HRVRD guitarist Jason Shaw about the tour, their fans and the Charlotte music scene.

Diversions: What are the origins of the band, and how did you guys come together?

Jason Shaw: It’s kind of like a long, ongoing project. It started off as artists with a similar mindset who wanted to play music. Over time there have been a lot of member changes for different reasons, like amicable splits. People wanting to start families and having kids and stuff.

We’re all friends, or musicians that we respected from other bands through the community. It took a long time for us to really put the band together and find out what exactly we were doing and what we wanted to do.

Dive: What was it like for you starting out in the Charlotte music scene?

JS: Our community is very welcoming to music and they’re not genre-specific in any way. Everybody listens to a ton of everything. I would say that a lot of what we do in our music is for the fact that we don’t want to sound like one thing, we don’t want any of our records to sound the same. I feel like a lot of people in Charlotte are that way — no one wants to get bored with what they’re doing. It’s not that anyone in the community specifically draws they’re influence from other bands, yet they see other bands doing crazy different things and it makes them want to do something crazy and different.

Dive: What are the steps for the band in the evolution of a song? Does it start with pen and paper, or the instruments?

JS: Every song starts in a different way. Everybody brings a lot to the table. It could be just one simple idea and we could start jamming on our practice runs, or someone could write a whole song and bring it to the band and say, “Hey I’ve got this, let’s work on it.” Ideas are constantly changing. We’re always trying to make what we’re doing the right song with the right parts. We try to no longer just write individual parts, but write together so the song is as good as we possibly can make it. It doesn’t have to be overly simple, but it also doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It has to have an emotional connection with the listener and evoke emotional context. That’s the most important thing that we think about when we’re writing songs. Like “How is it hitting me, how is it going to hit someone else, and is it really hitting at all.” As we write we concentrate on that and go from there.

Dive: Do you think live shows are one of the cornerstones of being able to communicate through music?

JS: I feel like the live shows are the most important thing about music in this day and age. The Internet makes everything available right at the drop of a hat. Everyone thinks that album sales will be a huge factor in a band’s success, which isn’t true. An hour after our album was released on iTunes or wherever it was released, you could get it off of whatever download sites people are frequenting. You can just download the entire thing for free, and people don’t care that’s how they got their music. It’s great that people are listening to the music, but I think it puts more pressure on all musicians to make live shows exemplary. That’s where musicians are able to connect on a more personal level. For us, we try and make our live shows different every time we play.

Going to see a band or an orchestra or any type of live music can be absolutely inspirational because it’s an individual that is imperfect playing music that is also imperfect and is subject to interpretation.

Dive: Have you had any memorable fan interactions?

JS: I wouldn’t say any one comes to mind in particular. In all honesty we do our best to be absolutely and completely available and approachable to anyone who listens to our music. People come up to us and talk to us all the time at shows. That’s why we make music, it’s a way of getting in touch with people. We meet people every show that we play and we don’t hide ourselves from them. We’re very honest, we’re very open and we just put ourselves out there. Take what you will.

Dive: What’s the story behind the band name?

JS: We do not care about our name. Our name means absolutely nothing. We think band names have gotten to a point where it’s just ridiculous. Everybody’s struggling to find the coolest name on the planet because they want to be recognizable. That’s what band names are nowadays, a way for people to know who you are.

When we were coming up with the name, we just wanted one that was easily recognizable, that you could just roll off your tongue, would be easy to say, and you probably wouldn’t forget. One day somebody said “Harvard,” and no one said no to it. We kept that name, and then it came to a point where we had just started to begin the signing process with Equal Vision and we got a cease and desist. So we tooled around and thought about changing our name completely. We decided that we didn’t want to do that. Then we thought adding things before or after “Harvard.” We didn’t want to do that. And then one day we were just like, “The hell with it, just take the A’s out.”

Our name doesn’t matter. Our music is all that matters.

Dive: How do you feel about touring with big names Say Anything and Eisley from the label?

JS: We’re pretty stoked about it. We’ve only ever played a really big capacity venue once. For me, I’m very excited to be playing our music in front of a ton of people and sharing it with a greater amount of people that aren’t there just to see us. We’re really excited because this is our first opportunity to play for a wide set audience of people who haven’t heard us before — as well as to really test the waters on what a big stage is. It’s like a new thing for us, and it’s really cool.

Dive: Final thoughts?

JS: We’re just five simple dudes trying to play music that we enjoy. And we hope that everybody enjoys it as much as we do.

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