Guy Harvey’s solar-powered brand of alt-pop revival is rare in South Florida, where local musicians routinely take their tropical environs for granted (with the exception of Fernando Perdomo). More importantly, the band’s chill factor isn’t of the Jimmy Buffet School of Banality (its sailfish-obsessed namesake is a red herring), but conjures instead a California state of mind.
Made up of Lake Worth natives Adam Perry (vocals, guitar), Mike Nadolna (bass), Drew Locke (drums), and Devon Nelson (guitar), Guy Harvey meanders seamlessly from brooding post-punk to jangly echo pop, steering with a surf rock guitar and arriving at a sound that would fit snugly in the Merge Records catalog. The band harks backs to Grandaddy, Jason Lytle’s songwriting style in particular, while their songs’ pith and punch pay homage to their punkier influences.
I recently hassled Perry by email and phone to chat about day jobs, “Bedsores,” the local scene, and getting dizzy on stage.
How and when did Guy Harvey form?
ADAM PERRY: About a year ago, maybe a little longer than that. I moved back down to West Palm a few years ago and ran into [the other band members] at an art opening. I had known Devon and Mike from high school.
Where did you move back from? What were you doing?
ADAM PERRY: I moved around a lot. Tallahassee, Chicago, Brooklyn, Minneapolis, and then back here. I worked at a lot of random jobs. Went to school. Sometimes I was playing music, recording music, recording other peoples’ music.
Do all of you work day jobs?
ADAM PERRY: Drew goes to school full time, Mike works at the Armory Art Center, Devon works in a lab, and I work at … an alcohol/drug treatment center. I’m the main tech. I handle the day to day affairs of the patients, help the counselors out, etc. It’s the first job that I’ve ever really loved.
Were you guys in any bands previously worth noting?
ADAM PERRY: Devon was in the Sleeparounds and the Dirty Boxes. Mike was in a band called Fotangle.
There is relaxed temperament in your sound along with some surf guitar more commonly associated with California. Is that an influence of your environment or your heroes?
ADAM PERRY: Both. Some of it is our influences. Maybe it is a reaction to the environment. I just haven’t thought about it that much. It feels like a very South Florida band to me, even the name of the band. It’s such a strange place … not necessarily a “bad” strange.
“Bedsores,” which sounds like an Editors track, only slightly less doomed, gets a little surf treatment as the song crests. Are you guys influenced by the post punk revivalism as well?
ADAM PERRY: I’m not very familiar with that band. I like a lot of post punk music though. I like Wire and Gang of Four a lot.
Speaking of post punk, there is an amazingly curt but powerfully melodic guitar rip at the 00:55 mark of “Closest Thing” that lasts all of 12 seconds (and comes back one more time later in the song). Where did that come from?
Ummm, I’m trying to think back to when we wrote it. I think that one started with Mike’s bass line and a drum machine and then me writing guitar parts over it and then taking it to Devon and Drew. Devon did the outro chords. I just wanted it to be a little crude or remedial. It kind of sounds like Human Television to me, who were also from South Florida originally.
You guys are currently unsigned, right?
ADAM PERRY: Yeah, we are not signed.
You have put out a limited 7” on Discosoma Records. Talk a little about that relationship.
ADAM PERRY: They rule. Jared [McKay] and Colin [Foord] are amazing! It is an unbelievable operation: all releases are limited to 100, profits go to charity [The Coral Restoration Foundation], packaging made by the artists. They contacted us through our Myspace page.
For the 7” on Discosoma, did they have their own staff, engineer, and producer? What was the process?
ADAM PERRY: No, but they do have the most amazing tanks filled with glowing coral! A friend recorded those first tracks for us at his home studio in Riviera Beach. The newer stuff is recorded by myself and Dan [McHugh] from the Jameses.
You and Mike did the screenprint for the 7” cover. Is that a bee robot flying through the city?
ADAM PERRY: It’s an image that I got out of a Time Life book from a thrift store. It’s a parade. Men are pulling this large inflatable Bullwinkle through the city.
Do you guys have more material for a full length? If so, do you have any plans on releasing it anytime soon?
ADAM PERRY: Yeah, we’re always writing new stuff and recording some here and there. No real plans right now, but always working.
How much material would you have if you went to record? You don’t have ANY plans of releasing it in the near future?
ADAM PERRY: Yeah, maybe an album. I like the idea of releasing a lot of singles though. If anybody asked us to do it, that we felt comfortable with, we would do an album of course!
South Florida is finally gaining momentum in its pursuit to cultivate a music scene. What’s it like being a burgeoning band here right now?
ADAM PERRY: It seems like Miami is doing a lot. There are a bunch of amazing bands in Miami. There really is a lot going on in all of South Florida right now, a lot more than when I grew up down here. The internet probably helps a lot. People helping other people out with little to no profit motive is what I like the most about it. All these bands are getting each other shows, helping each other record, and helping get the recordings released.
Guy Harvey bassist Mike Nadolna often plays with his back to the crowd. It’s not unheard of, and I personally could care less, but some concert-goers don’t like it.
ADAM PERRY: Sometimes he turns away from the crowd. I don’t know. I can’t really speak for him on the subject. It bothers some people. For me, I have a really short attention span and looking at the crowd can be very distracting. To be able to sing, remember words, play guitar… I have to close my eyes. Being on stage is kinda weird too. I kinda like being without a stage, on the same level as the audience. I don’t get as dizzy.
Your old classmate, music-video director Carlos Charlie Perez, said that you and Devon are always “listening to what’s new or popping.” What are you into right now?
ADAM PERRY: Lately most of what I’ve been jamming is local: The Jameses, Cop City/Chill Pillars, Tee Pee, love handles, sumsun. Outside of Florida, let me see … the new Crystal Stilts 7”, the new Fresh & Onlys LP, the new Ariel Pink.
Are you guys in it for the long haul? Is this something that you all want to do forever?
ADAM PERRY: I don’t know. It’s only been a year or so. As long as the other guys want to do it, then I’m down for it. But I’ll probably be making songs or recording people forever. Forever is a hard thing to look at for me.
Guy Harvey has a gig with PLAINS at Sweat Records on Nov. 13. On Nov. 27, the band will play in the Trash to Treasure show in Ft. Lauderdale with Sumsun, Lovehandles, the Band in Heaven, Evan Mui, and Hearhums.