“Tory arseholes stole my name” Alistair Milton-Seall catches up with the enigmatic Harrison Wright.
As summer draws to an end and lockdown two (electric boogaloo) beckons, I find myself outside a South London pub with Harrison Wright. We’re now in October and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord ale is the drink of choice. Harrison fills me in with his current musical tipples – from Stella Donnelly and Charli XCX to Aldous Harding and Lorde– and begins to detail his journey so far.
Harrison went to university in Bristol. Whilst he was there he joined and helped form the five-piece progressive rock band Insomnichord, as a “keyboard goblin”. Unfortunately, the creative force of Insomnichord is no more, and was drawn to a close as a result of factors we won’t cover now. We can, however, mention that there is an album out in the ether for those brave enough to hunt it down…
This introduction to Bristol’s live music scene seems to have been the bug Harrison wished he bit earlier. Insomnichord provided the support and education he needed to write songs, sing in front of crowds and understand his love for producing. He honestly recounts the experiences of his former band, noting that it helped him get to where he is now – both in terms of performing and producing music. PG Flips, Bristol’s tea-based answer for I’m not quite sure what, soon followed. Yet this too this ended. My pint companion was kicked out the band for songwriting disagreements, with Harrison favouring pop to former bandmate Mat’s DnB prog.
At this point, Mat called Harrison but provided no comment for this.
We also spotted a pink stretched Hummer limo (strong Don’t Tell The Bride vibes).
This rose-tinted revving vehicle brings us neatly onto the topic of his solo work. Harrison explains how the current virus outbreak led to the cherry on his cake: challenging himself to write a song every day. Whilst this lasted only three days, it paved the way for ‘New Normal’ – a name at the time he admittedly took from the Caroline Polachek. Despite this there’s strong animosity with Boris Johnson over names; apparently “Tory arseholes stole my name”. This unravels our conversation, as it becomes clear Harrison’s not a fan of having his name attributed to his music. He wants to avoid “sounding like a businessman on Spotify” or a guy with an acoustic guitar. It’s not a badge of honour or a level of pride for him, but the complete polar opposite. There’s a distinct message here, the music he produces and creates is shared because of the passion and authenticity of the sounds rather than the fact it’s by him.
This brings us not his new song “Warm Words”. It is a departure from the synth dream-pop sounds of “New Normal” to indie. It was written in bed accidentally over the course of two months from lyrics to chords, and followed a completely different process for him. Ableton and its loops are out the window, Logic is back, and he’s collating lyrical ideas before structuring and threading the fabric of songs together. “Warm Words” is an indication of this; the lyrics espouse love songs, particularly how everyone else seems to be able to write them but him – “trying to write a love song without being in love” is understandably tricky. It took two months to rediscover and add harmonies until this file formed a more complete and well-rounded entity. Whilst Harrison, now two pints in, dislikes “Warm Words” and labels it as “cheesy”, I learn it is actually meticulously constructed and consists of over forty vocal tracks and five harmony segments. Perhaps, more importantly, it has no synths, a first in his songwriting journey.
This, alongside the confidence he’s found in his own voice (moving from the shadows of a keyboardist to centre stage), has propelled his solo work. Now his sights are firmly set on producing a cohesive EP, which will preferably resemble a playlist instead of an album (similar to Wolf Alice). Harrison is dreaming of returning to his favoured venues and is set to embark upon a diploma at Abbey Road on music production, in search of a career in either the industry or incorporating music. His current cut-and-shut, efficient approach to music will likely develop and evolve as a result. With the future of live music uncertain, he’s considering interesting ways to perform online, noting Pheobe Bridgers and Sophie Ellis Bextor’s approaches (shoutout the kitchen disco) and the role in which music plays in our lives.
He played an online show for Bristol’s Louisiana during the first few weeks of Covid-19 restrictions, but working out the best way to promote his music at present without gigging is hard. What he tells us is how websites and blogs such as Visceral Records are now more important than ever. Small artists are unable to tour, build up their musical connections and engage with the community. As such we can dream with Harrison around a future of live performances, whether that’s at his favoured Crofter’s Rights in Bristol or Lion Coffee in London. We hope we’ll be able to see him centre stage sometime soon.