WITCHPOLICE RADIO: All right, welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with someone who is... I feel like I say this a lot on the podcast. I'm here with someone who's new to the podcast and new to me. But I think in this case, the guest is very new, including to the local music scene. So I think the best way to start this off is if you want to introduce yourself and give a bit of background about what it is you do as an artist.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah. So thanks so much. I'm Harper K. Smith and I'm a musician. I would say I'm probably in the indie pop realm of things. And yeah, I'm new to Winnipeg, new to the podcast and new to the scene and all that. I came here from Vancouver a couple of months ago and. Yeah, that's a little cool.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Cool. Well, I guess maybe a good place to start then, is what is your impression of Winnipeg and its music scene? I mean, I know like you said, you've only been here for a short time, but what is your sort of opinion of what we have here in Winnipeg?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, it's really great. I've been really impressed by all the art scenes so far that I've been introduced to since moving here. And I just think Winnipeg has a really...I don't want to say undervalued, but it's such a hidden gem of a music scene.
I feel like more Western Canada, so, like BC and more eastern Canada, maybe Toronto. They have always fancied themselves the epicenters, but I truly think Winnipeg is the epicenter of music in this country. And just endless, endless musicians that I'm always discovering every day. And, yeah, a lot of very genres and styles and, yeah, it's really, really great.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, well, I think you're going to get lots of listeners from Winnipeg nodding their head at that part because I think undervalued is a good term. I think we definitely have kind of an inferiority complex where we feel like we're sort of overlooked by maybe Vancouver and Toronto, Montreal, and some of these sort of bigger centers that get more of the shows that come through and they have sort of more of an industry presence and things like that. But, yeah, it's good to hear whenever someone from outside of Winnipeg comes in and has a positive opinion of it because I think we like to think we have a good scene here. So it gets that validated a little bit.
Were you playing music, I'm assuming you were playing music before, when you were in Vancouver?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, started honestly, not too long before moving here. So it was a little bit of a weird time to start and transition across the country, but yes, it was.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: And had you released any music yet or is this all just kind of rolling out now that you're in Winnipeg?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, so I released my first single, Grim, back in, I think, April of this year. And then once we moved here, I released Holocene on September 13. And then tomorrow, or I suppose tomorrow.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: From when we're recording this weeks ago.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, I released Not Sad. Yeah. And the music video and everything.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Cool. So I guess not to be too hung up on the whole, like, you're not from here originally, but how has it been so far for you? Trying to get into the music scene, trying to get. I mean, you're putting out these singles, you have new music coming out. You obviously want to get your name out and get the word out about what you're doing. Have you had much, I guess, even experience, sort of trying to get shows here and finding places to play, finding sort of how to get yourself into the scene that way?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah. So have a bit of a unique experience because I am pretty severely immunocompromised so I'm not going to pack shows and not really able to play packed shows and stuff like that. I mean, not that I would see playing packed shows...
But yeah, so I have a bit of a unique experience in that way where it's like, there's definitely some barriers access wise there. But that said, I've been really hauling ass on the social media promotion side of things for my music for the better part of this year and getting quite connected with musicians.
And I do have a collaboration with a musician from here coming up this year already, so that feels like a really great connection and that felt like strangely easy to make. And then also, even before I moved here, I did get selected for a Accessibility Arts Network. I don't know if you're familiar.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, sure.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah. So I did get connected with them before moving here and I got selected for their programming for this winter and so they're going to be hosting and helping me plan and promote and all that stuff. My EP launch in the new year.
Yeah. So again, I don't want to say it was so easy to get on their programming, but it felt like an easy connection to make.
The scene in Vancouver and just like art scenes in BC, I've always found, are very difficult to break into. I think resources and stuff like that are a lot more tight out there.
Anyway, it's been a mixed bag since moving here, but when I have opportunities to connect with people, it has been going really well.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Cool.
HARPER K. SMITH: So I'm really appreciative of that.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, well, like you mentioned too, the social media side of things, we're also just coming out of a global pandemic, which is still happening, obviously, but maybe to a lesser scale, hopefully.
Has this whole experience. I mean, that must have been more difficult for you, even if you're immunocompromised, than for the average person.
Has this whole experience over the past few years and including now, has it kind of driven you to find new ways to get your music out there, whether it's through social media or otherwise, seeing as you can't play shows packed or not?
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally. Yeah, it definitely has. Not only that, but it's the housebound isolation factor of the pandemic, but also sick and disabled life has really informed how things have gone for me.
I hate when people say, oh, I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the pandemic. So lame. But yeah, I guess I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the pandemic. I graduated university a couple of months in, a few months in whatever. And couldn't get a job. The job market was total shit. And then it was just like, well, I guess I'll just make use of my time.
And that's kind of how this all started. So, yeah, I've been like, yeah. Not only has the isolation and housebound factors of things influenced the promotion side of things, but it's just influenced the whole thing, the whole operation.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Has it influenced the songwriting as well? Do you feel like that, those sort of feelings from being housebound and all of that? Is that coming through in the music?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, there's a lot of...In the past few years, I think there's been a lot for me in my life, a lot of loss of people's lives around me that are in my life or loss of friendships.
There's been. I mean, like, moving away from my home. That was, like, a big deal. That's a loss, in a way, even as much as it's a gain.
So there's been a lot of loss, a lot of grief, a lot of isolation, a lot of loneliness. And I pretty much spell it out right in my lyrics. Like, the song Not Sad is, like, one of the first lines is, like, "isolation, emptiness." It's right there.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: I was going to say. I mean, your first single is called Grim.
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, it gives a vibe.
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally intensely. I feel like it's a very intensely sad song. And that really sums up a lot of the feelings of the last few years.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: There you go. Does playing that music, is it cathartic at all. Does it help to get those feelings and those thoughts out in music form?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, I think writing it is pretty cathartic. Yeah, it's like a cheaper, free therapy session, to be honest.
I'm often either doing a therapy session and then writing sometime in a near time frame afterwards, or the other way around. Yeah, my therapy journal and my songwriting journal are on top of each other on my desk.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Does it feel weird putting that kind of stuff out in the world?
I think I've said this enough times on the show when I'm talking to pretty much anyone, but once your songs are out there in the world, it's kind of out of your hands, right. Someone else is going to hear it and interpret it and feel whatever they want to feel from it.
Do you have any sort of apprehension about putting such personal stuff out there, or are you quite comfortable saying, this is what I'm feeling, this is who I am sort of thing?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, I'm pretty comfortable saying it how it is. And, yes, saying the thing I'm thinking or feeling, like, to a fault, majorly. But the thing I do feel apprehensive about sometimes is I'm such a moody teenager at heart.
I hate to be misunderstood, to be honest. And, yeah, I guess when people are listening to the songs, it's not that they're misunderstanding them. Like you said, they're listening to it, interpreting it from their own, whatever, lenses and experiences.
And I think that that's a really great thing. And I don't disparage that in any way. I do that as a music listener.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, I think everyone does.
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally. It's part of the thing. It's just like one of those little hang ups for me where I'm like, oh, I hope I'm being clear enough. But, yeah, I don't know what I'm trying to say.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: No, that does make sense. Yeah. With these songs, like you said, you're working on an EP. Once you have that all done, is the goal to sort of make this into a larger project with more people involved, or is this something that you intend to do mostly solo?
HARPER K. SMITH: The EP is done, and that's done, and I'm just sitting on it to be released in the new year, like I said. And then in terms of future singles, full length album stuff in the future, I would definitely love to bring more people on board.
I do have on board an artist called Mutable Body who is remixing or has remixed. Not sad. Okay.
That's been a wholly wonderful experience. So would love to collaborate with other people to be honest, I'm super broke. So until I'm able to make connections where we can skill swap, barter, here we are. I'm DIYing it.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Fair enough. I think that a lot of people are in the same situation right now. Like I said, we just came through a pandemic and there's inflation. Everything. Everyone's broke.
Are these all bedroom recordings? Are these all then DIY, like, home recordings at this point, then?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, exactly. In Vancouver, we had, like, a laneway house. I don't know if. I don't think they have them here.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: I don't think I know what that is.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, they're kind of like a little mini house, like a little coach house on a property with a small. It's basically like the square footage of an apartment, but in the shape of a house.
So we had one of those, and there was a second bedroom on the top floor. And, yeah, that's where I recorded it. The acoustics were real bad, but I made due.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: How do you feel about the... I mean, like you said, you're broke. This is how you're going to be recording for now, anyway. How do you feel about the songs now that they're done? Now that you can listen back to them and regardless of recording quality in the house or whatever, but just listening back to the finished product, how do you feel about sort of what you've created as a completed, not piece of music, but completed EP?
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, I feel good about them. I think as a collection of songs, they're really interesting, like, thematically and topically, they really tie in together a lot, but sonically, they are quite. Well, not incredibly distinct from one another, but they are quite distinct from one another.
Every time I'm kind of doing the distribution of the songs or playlisting or whatever, I kind of have to put in a little bit of a different genre for each one.
So, yeah, I feel good that I was able to do four songs, start to finish that are unique from one another and aren't terribly repetitive and speak to the truth of my experiences. And I think I first felt really proud of them when I was finished them and testing them, the sound of them in the car and stuff. Driving around Vancouver, I drove around from. Left my house at dusk and was driving through the city. And that was the first time I felt really proud of them. Like I was surrounded by so much shit in that city, but somehow made something I think is good.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: What are some of the influences you're drawing from? Like you said, you kind of have different styles from song to song. For someone who hasn't heard you before, how would you sort of define some of the styles that you're playing on there? I know you said indie pop at the beginning.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah. So some of the artists that I'm drawing from pretty heavily are like Sidney Gish and Jordan Klassen, Elliot Smith, all those kinds of artists. And style wise, of the four songs, there's probably a bit of a freak folk song that is going to be on the EP. And then grim is probably just like folk pop and then indie pop for not sad and Holocene would be like, dream pop folk. I don't know.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, it's a hard question, right? Every genre has, like, 16 subgenres now. And you have to, like you said, dream pop, folk, indie, whatever.
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally. Yeah.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: This maybe is not something you can answer yet, because, again, you're very new here, but have you sort of figured out where in Winnipeg you fit? Like, have you heard other artists locally that you think, oh, hey, this would be a cool person to maybe at some point play on a show with, or your record could sit nicely in a store on a shelf beside this person's record or something. Have you found kindred spirits?
HARPER K. SMITH: I guess, musically, yeah, I'm really connecting with Virgo Rising and their new EP. I guess technically it would be an EP.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, they just released that too, right?
HARPER K. SMITH: Calling it. Yeah, they just released it. Vampire Gear. I'm really connecting with that. And I think, yeah, that's wonderful work. And a lot of the stuff coming from House of Wonders in general, that was kind of one of the first, I don't know, subsects or whatever of music that I found before moving here. Just sussing things out, was some of the House of Wonder artists.
But yeah, that's kind of the Virgo rising in the House of Wonder peeps. And who else have I been listening to lately? I have, like a seven hour playlist of my Manitoba faves.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Nice.
HARPER K. SMITH: Field Guide. I really love. And, yeah, there's just so many. Where do you begin?
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, there's lots. I've been doing this show for like ten years now, and I have 800 and some episodes. And there's still so many bands I haven't even talked to yet. So. Yeah, it's ridiculous. There's so many bands.
HARPER K. SMITH: Exactly.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: So for someone hearing you for the first time on this show, what's the best way to hear your music? I mean, it's a podcast, so someone could hear it the day it comes out, or they could hear it a year from now. Maybe by then your EP is out by that time and you might have other stuff going on. What's the best way to, A, hear your music and B, sort of keep up to date with what you're up to for shows and things like that?
HARPER K. SMITH: The best way to hear my music would be to come to my EP launch in the new Year and perhaps buy a CD. Yeah. I mean, listen to the music how you want to listen to it.
It's everywhere. It's on Spotify and Apple and all that stuff. And it's on YouTube, it's on Bandcamp. And in terms of keeping up with me, I'm on social medias. I have a website people can check out, harperkesmith.com. My social medias are just @harperistired. I'm like, pretty active on TikTok, quite active on Instagram.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: That seems like the thing that lately is the newsletter. It's like such a throwback to an older way of communicating, but because you're getting directly to people who want to hear from you, it seems like a good way to do it.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah, totally. I think a lot of friends sign up for it, which is nice.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah. And you can just flood them with information about what you're up to.
HARPER K. SMITH: Totally.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Before I let you go, you did mention that at your EP release show, buy a CD. Are you hoping to put this out physically? Is that the plan?
HARPER K. SMITH: I think I would like to, yeah. It's been a little while since I looked into how much that costs, so we'll see. But I'm sure there's, like, funding and stuff like that.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, I'm sure you could figure it out. Yeah, there's always a way.
HARPER K. SMITH: Right?
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, the reason I ask is because I'm definitely a Luddite and I pretty much only listen to physical media. And so it's always exciting to hear when someone's going to do a CD because there are so many people who just don't. And it's a perfectly reasonable way to release music nowadays. But whenever I hear someone releasing a tape or a CD or a record, it's like, yes, we're not dead yet. There's still someone out there.
HARPER K. SMITH: Yeah. And I just think back to when I was a teenager and watching bands and buying all their shit and whatever, and just in the back of my brain like, oh, wishing and holding this thing and this, wishing that that was going to be me. And I'm like, well, it's taken me this long to get here. I have four songs that can be an EP and I might as well print it and hold it in my damn little hand.
WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Awesome.