By Taylor Linzinmeir, Contributor
[Photo by Harley Wince]
Q&A with vocalist Bret Anderson, drummer Kenny Sevier and bassist TJ Tumblinson of Cincinnati alt-pop trio and Skyline Chili lovers, Harlot.
Tell me the brief history of the band. How did you guys get started?
Bret: I went to Hocking College and met our drummer Kenny there, and we started forming this idea of Harlot. After we graduated last spring, we moved to Cincinnati where TJ already lived. Kenny introduced me to TJ, his lifelong friend and now our bassist. We have been starting to build a home base there since we all live there. We’re originally from Athens, though. Since we went to school here, Athens is our home venue. I actually started out playing at The Union by myself. We still like to think of ourselves as an Athens band since it’s our hometown.
Read more: Lobsterfest 2019 Q&A: Machine Girl
I have to ask, how do you guys feel about the Cincinnati classic, Jungle Jim’s?
Kenny: I grew up on Jungle Jim’s. I work there now—and no, I cannot get you a discount.
Bret: It was actually a whole event for my family to go there when I was a kid. When you went to Cincinnati, you went to Kings Island, you went to the aquarium and then you went to Jungle Jim’s. I’m so excited that I live 15 minutes away now. I do all of my grocery shopping there.
TJ: I actually dislike Jungle Jim’s. It’s so overwhelming. I always get lost in the jungle—how the hell am I supposed to shop there?
Switching gears a little, can you tell me where the name “Harlot” comes from?
Bret: My family is very, super religious. I started playing music and doing more non-conservative things. There was a joke where I use biblical terms to describe myself. Like, “Yeah, I’m a heathen.” And one day Kenny was like, “Yeah, you’re such a harlot.” I feel like that word is super eccentric and also grabs people’s attention, so we started working our image around that. Our logo is an H, and then we have an eye looking up with a crown above it. It represents the idea of how everyone thinks they’re supposed to hold themselves to this higher standard and pristine, clean image that’s very hard to keep up.
TJ: It can be interpreted in many different ways.
You guys released a single on Spotify in August called “Yellow Light.” What was it like to record it?
Bret: It was very interesting because Kenny and I recorded it in our apartment in a blanket fort. We recorded the vocals, and then everything was layered on through Logic. Every synth we sat down and wrote on the keyboard and then built it and layered it on top of each other. Kenny sat for hours and mixed it.
It came out really well. What was your inspiration behind that song?
Bret: I write all of the lyrics and melodies, and really I was just driving home late from work one night and got stopped at a red light. In my head, I wrote the lyrics to the chorus, and I went home and just sat down at my piano. Then I pitched it to the band, and they made it super cool, as they always do. They turn my songs into band music.
What’s the story behind the album art?
Bret: That is small Bret! She had taken a sharpie to her hands and legs. I was a wild ass kid. That’s one of my favorite memories as a child.
Speaking of childhood, what artists did you all listen to growing up?
Bret: My main inspiration was Regina Spektor. That was the first artist that I started listening to when I was like 10. She was the one who inspired me to write music.
Kenny: I’ll give you my top three. I started listening to Led Zeppelin. They were kinda my gateway drug into music, so I kinda have to hold them at the zenith of my opinion. And then, it goes Thelonious Monk, a really badass jazz artist. And then Envy On The Coast, which is this emo East Coast band from the mid-2000s.
TJ: I grew up listening to Mötley Crüe. They really molded me with their imagery of rock ’n’ roll and shenanigans. Their image was always super intrinsic to me. I grew into more rock bands and heavier bands like Pantera, which is kind of ironic that I’m in a pop band now.
Bret: I love how you guys have a million bands, but I grew up in a conservative home where I found an artist and kind of kept it to myself and hid it from my parents.
What were you guys like in high school?
TJ: I was kind of a misfit kid. I liked athletics and stuff like that, but I also dressed in girls’ pants and had long bleach blond hair. I was too stupid to be a nerd, but I liked nerdy things, and then I was also a burnout at the same time. I was a little bit of everything; I didn’t have a definitive place to belong in high school.
Bret: I was a theater kid. I was such a theater kid, and that was that.
Kenny: I transitioned from class clown in middle school to an emo introverted kid. Our lunch table was like a nerd who wasn’t nerdy enough—TJ, who wasn’t enough of a jock, and skaters who weren’t cool enough. We were a group of about 10 people who just didn’t fit in and pissed people off.
How did you guys find your sound?
Kenny: We really play to Bret.
Bret: Our band is a little bit of Regina Spektor, PVRIS and Paramore thrown into some sort of conglomerate. That’s the inspiration behind our image and performance. We’ve focused a lot on our image and how we put on a show.
TJ: Everyone brings something different to the band. It starts with Bret, and Kenny brings the rhythm, and I am the “rock guy” who tries to amp it up a little. We get inspiration for our live antics from our musical influences.
Kenny: We want to be as visually entertaining as aurally.
What has been your favorite memory from a performance?
Bret: Our first Union show with all three of us when we officially had all of our merch. Everyone in the crowd was so awesome, and some people came and got on stage to dance with us.
Kenny: That was also the night we sold out all of our shirts.
TJ: We had hand made all our own shirts and were on cloud nine when we saw everyone dancing in them. It really cemented that we had a good thing going here; it was the best feeling in the world.
Kenny: My favorite memory from a performance was during a house show when TJ took his shirt off.
Who has been your favorite band to perform with?
Bret: Probably Jeremiah Hayes. He’s a really good friend. He always brings such fun people out. I’m excited to see where he goes.
TJ: He’s the most fun-spirited person you could ever hope to meet. If you like Frank Ocean, you’ll like him.
What’s next for Harlot?
Bret: We did just release our single on Spotify last month, and right now we’re focusing on playing out and around Ohio. Follow our Instagram for updates on when and where we are playing!
Check out Harlot’s latest single, “Yellow Light,” below.