Q&A: Griffen Harris

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with Griffen Harris, the vocalist and guitarist of local band Chasing Shade. We spoke with him about the band’s sound, its first time in the studio, and its upcoming show.

Daily Iowan: How did you meet band members Tim Cigrand and Elliott Beenk?

Griffen Harris: Well, I was playing a show with another band of mine and [the two] happened to be in the audience. When the show was over, they approached me and introduced themselves. Through the wonders of modern technology, such as Facebook, we stayed in touch until my previous band split and I was free to begin building.

DI: What sparked you to start Chasing Shade?

Harris: Since we started playing music together, under various different monikers our sophomore year, we had different lead singers/songwriters who were all unable to continue playing with us because they either lived in another city and had to commute for shows, graduated college and moved to a different city, or suffered from stage fright. This forced our hand, and I told the guys that I had some original tunes written on guitar and that I could sing a little bit. From that moment onward, Chasing Shade was born as a three-piece band with music written largely by me but complemented heavily by [Cigrand’s] and [Beenk’s] creative viewpoints.

DI: How would you describe the band’s sound?

Harris: This is always that question that trips bands up, and I’m certainly no better at self-descriptions. I would have to say that our music is folk-influenced, because the music is written on acoustic guitar and can be played acoustically, but our shows are largely “electric” — by which I mean we use drums, electric guitar, and bass guitar instead of acoustic guitar. Our sound is pleasing and features vocal harmonies and intricate guitar parts that complement each other’s parts throughout the songs.

Our sound also features a rock aspect to it because of the electric nature of the live shows, but we are not hard or classic rock by any means, not that there is anything wrong with those genres. Also, being a part of the Iowa City music scene forces a band to try out the “jam” genre, but this is something we don’t ascribe to, but that does not mean we do not solo or “rock-out.”

We have high-energy electric sets that are split up by acoustic songs to put in something unexpected at a bar-scene show. We also play many shows where we only use the acoustic versions of the songs.

DI: You are just about to release your first album. How long have you been writing and recording songs for it?

Harris: The songs featured on our upcoming album, pen to paper, span a range from my senior year in high school to junior year in college, which is present day. The CD is 10 songs in length, and we selected the songs that we thought would work well together to create a cohesive, interesting, and entertaining listening experience for those who purchase it.

So, far as recording goes, we won the Iowa City Yacht Club/Flat Black Studios/New Belgium Battle of the Bands during first semester and received a week of free recording time with Luke Tweedy of Flat Black Studios. We started recording over Christmas break and worked during various weeknights and weekends to finish up the final touches before sending it to be mastered in Chicago.

All in all, we have spent a total of eight days recording over the course of the last four months, and we’re incredibly proud of the final product.

DI: Are there common themes in your songs?

Harris: There are common themes through the songs, but it isn’t intentional. The lyrics stem from experiences that vary from day to day and touch on things such as love, heartbreak, anger, confusion with life paths, frustration with things that happen every day of the week, such as school or work, and the idea of the future and what it has in store.

The most common theme is loss and melancholy topics such as breakups, but because every day is different, every song has a different emotion in it.

DI: When is the next show?

Harris: Our next show is at 8 p.m. today with Mason Jennings at the IMU Ballroom. We open up the Sustainability Concert hosted by Engineers for a Sustainable World, the Renewable Energy Symposium, SCOPE, and many others.

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