Scarves hanging from mic stands, dirty riffs and even dirtier melodies, We Are Harlot have revived pure rock ‘n’ roll for the present day. Harvesting talent from Asking Alexandria, Sebastian Bach, Silvertide and Revolution Renaissance, their infectious brand of party-til-you-pass-out rock has landed them a #3 iTunes record and a UK headlining tour.
Upon the release of their storming self-titled debut, Already Heard discussed their fate-determined line-up, the songwriting-party equilibrium and their imminent Download Festival set with drummer Bruno Agra.
AH: What brought about the star-studded lineup of We Are Harlot? How did you guys come together?
Bruno: It was pretty crazy how everything came together so seamlessly. Long story short, I met Danny in the summer of 2011. We moved to LA together and started kicking some ideas around of what was supposed to be his solo project. Danny met Jeff (George -guitarist) at a 2012 NYE Party and on the next day the three of us moved into this house together in Beverly Hills and started writing music. We hit it off immediately. For over 6 months, we’d basically wake up around 3pm every day, tear it up through happy hour, run back to the house, write/record music, then every night around 10pm the house would turn into a huge party. It was really, really, REALLY wild, but also very prolific. We wrote a lot of good music during that time. There was this force behind us that was undeniable. I guess destiny decided for us that we were going to be a band. So we put an ‘industry’ ad out and Brian (Weaver – bassist) hit us up and he was in. We didn’t audition anyone else, we knew he was the missing link. Everything happened very organically, every step about it felt just right.
AH: That’s quite a graphic band name you have there! Where’d that come from?
Bruno: We started calling ourselves Harlot. The name just popped and we stuck with it. We were definitely NOT that band that had 30 names in a hat and it was the “luck of the draw”. Then I read online that the term Harlot used to actually mean “young male without a job, vagabond, beggar, etc” so it fitted us perfectly, ha ha! Then we found out that some harlot bar band actually had registered the name before us, so we were like “Well, f*** ‘em… We Are Harlot!” We still say Harlot all the time anyway, between us.
AH: When did Danny figure out his voice suited classic glam rock so well?
Bruno: It’s funny, when I started writing with Danny back in 2011, I was really surprised how versatile and how incredibly good a singer he actually is. I was blown away. I got to understand his register, his sweet spots and all the Danny-isms, as we call it. When we all lived together, Danny would wake up every ‘morning’ hungover as hell, go to the kitchen, do a wine slam and jam Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Queen… and he would just start singing around the house. I love when Danny is just wandering around singing, because he’s not really thinking, he’s just going with the flow. It’s really awesome. Whatever myself or Jeff throw at him musically, he always knocks it out of the park. Dude’s never let us down.
AH: How do you feel about stepping into the shoes of Van Halen and Motley and becoming the new patrons of the glam rock legacy?
Bruno: Each person hears this record a different way, which is great! Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘glam’ from Sweet, T-Rex thru to 80’s hair metal Ratt and Motley Crue, but I don’t consider us a proper glam rock band. This album’s got so many facets, from super-heavy Pantera-esque riffs like ‘One More Night’ to funky Prince vibes on ‘The One’. Heavy to pop, synth to piano, so many different colours and that’s, by the way, what I always loved about all the bands I grew up listening to: Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, Beatles, Stones… all these bands explored new musical landscapes.
They didn’t limit themselves with trends, styles, or anything in-between. They were ground-breaking because they dared to step outside the box and had the musicianship and the personality to back it. That’s what I think we’ve accomplished on this album. Every song is different, but they all sound like us, through and through. There’s a Harlot ‘layer’ that you can hear, start to finish. I love kids’ posts on YouTube when they say “Harlot is plain rock ‘n’ roll, no sub-genres.” They totally get it. Harlot is a huge party and everyone’s invited! Hop on the train and let’s all have a blast!
AH: Your debut record is crammed with real groove-inducing bangers, ‘Dancing On Nails’,/I> is infectious and ‘Denial’ is wickedly seductive. Is this the path you’re aiming to stick to?
Bruno: Well, we are a very, very sexy band – what else do you expect?! Danny, Jeff and I, we were together in the desert for over a month, locked away in this poolside guesthouse. We wrote ‘Dancing On Nails’ there, and I remember clearly: we got that song down SUPER fast. When we had ‘Dancing…’ tracked musically, Danny heard it and he was like: “Yeah, I really like that”. He just went for it and the vocals were done in like half an hour.
The desert sessions were great, we were writing and recording a song a day, pretty much. We had this huge Harlot board with all the song titles, with boxes for each instrument: drums, bass, guitar, vocals. We had a rule: whenever we got all the boxes ticked and the track was done, we would go WILD! There was this pizza joint about 15 minutes away from the house that we would terrorize every other day. I still remember the look on those bartenders’ faces, as soon as they saw us walking from the parking lot they would be petrified like, “Here we go, these crazy dudes again…!” We had a designated driver, this handyman guy that fixed up stuff around the house – we used to call him Rydawg. We would have that guy do so many shots with us, one day I woke up and that dude was laying on the garage floor. He almost flipped the car on the way back from the bar one night. We’ve had some pretty close ones!
‘Denial’ was actually one of the last songs we wrote for the record. Danny was on tour and we actually emailed him the track and 5 minutes later we got a voice memo with the vocals for that intro part. ‘Denial’ is one of my favourite tracks we’ve ever written, that song really takes you on a journey. I love The Who-esque intro and the fact that it never repeats – totally 70’s. That’s the kinda song you really have to hold your corner as a player, it’s got some tricky arrangements, but it’s SO fun to play live. We always kick off our set with ‘Denial’. Great show opener! The fans love that song too.
AH: The record was a long time in the making, did you take your time about it to make sure you’d perfected your sound, or were you just enjoying teasing us?
Bruno: Believe it or not, we re-recorded this album roughly about 3 times. We are not the easiest band to work with. We are very hard-headed, we have a vision and we don’t let anyone get in our way. We did the record the first time ourselves. Then we started tracking with the first producer. That didn’t work at all because he tried to change things, got very opinionated, and we were like “We don’t need anyone to tell us what to do – we know what we want”. So it all came together once we started working with Kato. He totally got it. He took what we had and just made it sound sonically competitive. He didn’t touch the music, even though he is one of the best producers on the planet right now, hands down. He knew what we had and he said, “what you guys have is very unique and I don’t think you guys should change anything at all.” He made our record sound great and I feel very lucky to have worked with him. I learned so much from him, he’s an insane engineer.
The other thing that pushed things back was the music business itself. We’ve had so many twists and turns, ups and downs, pushes and pulls, it was brutal to get this record out. It took us almost 4 years, so you can imagine – actually you can’t. It’s a very tough business, but you can’t give in. You’ve got to stick to your guns and power through it as a band of brothers, because one day, people will respect you for what you’ve accomplished. We stuck together and fought head-to-head against everyone that tried to stop us, but looking back, even though we went over some rough ground, we also had a blast. We had some lows, but also a lot of highs. The highs were definitely high!
AH: In contrast, ‘Someday’ holds some of the most contemplative lyrics and riffs we’ve seen in recent years. Where did this solemn tone come from? What inspired it?
Bruno: ‘Someday’ was one of the first songs we wrote in the desert, but we didn’t finish it until we were living at the Le Montrose hotel. It’s definitely one of those songs, we knew that it was a big one right away. Danny really pours his heart out. In my opinion, it’s one of his best vocal performances and it’s got one my favourite guitar solos. It’s got a pop vibe to it, but it also flirts with country. It’s one of the fans’ favourite tracks for sure – we get shout outs every day for that song.
When we signed the deal with Roadrunner/Atlantic Records, they were blasting the demo version of ‘Someday’ and everyone at the label was just so pumped about it. I think it really comes down to when we are writing together, we are not trying to be anyone else, we are just playing what comes to us, heart and soul. When you put that much love into what you are doing, people notice it right away, and everyone can relate to it. It’s a beautiful thing.
AH: What can we expect from We Are Harlot on stage? Bandanas on mic stands, anyone?
Bruno: Danny loves his scarves, so yeah! You can expect a hell of a rock ‘n’ roll show with four wild dudes that love what they do, and most importantly love their fans. It’s all about them. We love to play live and the connection with our audience is what fuels us to be a better band every single day. When we hear a big shot in the music industry saying “Hey guys, you have a great record in your hands, congratulations”, it’s great of course, but when we play live and we hear our fans singing every song, that really means the world to us! Come out and join the party! This summer is going to be one for the books.
AH: Jeff’s riffs on this record really are something to behold. How well do you think they’ll translate live on stage?
Bruno: Every song we write, Jeff and I sit and work out the riffs together. Even though the album just came out, we’ve been playing some of these riffs for 3 years, give or take. When we come up with a riff though, we rarely change it, we’re not that kind of band that tweak things over and over. If the riff’s good, it’s going to stand out right away. It won’t make a difference if you sit down and re-work it for 3 hours. We’re not trying to launch a rocket – it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s got to be spontaneous and that’s the whole life about any riff. You can play pretty much any of our riffs on an acoustic guitar and they will sound great. Every time we start playing ‘One More Night’ live is such a rush, that riff especially always gets me. It sounds huge live!
AH: We can’t wait to see you grace the second stage at Download Festival this summer, what have you got in store for us?
Bruno: Yes yes yes YES! Download is one of the gigs we are really, really looking forward to. We still can’t believe the album is doing so well in the UK. I checked it last night and it was #3 on the UK iTunes Rock charts. It’s going to be mental! You know what, you go everywhere in the world, play all these festivals, but I still think that Download takes the cake. The crowd is one of the wildest, if not the wildest. I mean, everyone’s there to PARTY. THEIR. ASSES. OFF. It’s unbelievable. And I’m actually really happy that we are playing around the 3pm mark – that is perfect. Couldn’t be better! That’s the time of day when the rockers have already shaken off the hangover from the night before and are starting to kick in fierce. So everyone’s going to be drunk, but not too drunk, just right. There’s a science behind it, you know? And people from all over the globe are there – Download definitely went global. I can’t wait for us to get out there, raise our fists, salute the crowd and play a fucking rock ‘n’ roll show. Download, we are coming for you!
AH: With only one record to your name so far, will we be hearing the debut played in full for live sets? Or will you be venturing into covers to spice it up a bit?
Bruno: Of course we are spicing things up! Give me the habanero bass drum and the chili cheese Marshall! But yeah, we have a couple of surprises up our sleeves, of course! I don’t think we are playing every song on the record live this coming summer, but that’s something that will eventually happen. I’d love to play the album front to back, that’d be amazing. Who knows, maybe a secret show somewhere, maybe a surprise acoustic appearance, who knows? The Harlot boys are always up for anything so keep your ears open.
AH: It seems premature to be asking as soon as the record goes out, but you’ve got us hooked – what’s next for Harlot?
Bruno: We are going to tour – A LOT! It’s time for us to meet and thank the fans all over the world that stuck with us for all this time. They are the ones that fuel the Harlot fire. Of course we are writing new material, and we’ve got other really good songs that didn’t make the cut on this record. That part of the equation doesn’t really change, we are always working on music. But 2015 is definitely the year that we are going to get out there and give the fans our Harlot love. The Harlot Army is out there, in every corner of the globe. We get messages, tweets, shout outs everyday: “come to Brazil, come to Singapore, come to Argentina, come to New Zealand, come to South Africa…” I still freak out when I see that. I’m like, “are there people in South Africa listening to our music right now? Really? This is crazy!” I know it isn’t but if you really think about it, it is. So that’s the plan so far – we’ve got to make sure we make all these tours work so we can play as many shows and get to see as many fans as possible. The Harlot Army deserves it!
AH: We’ve all learned from bitter experience that supergroups don’t stick around for long, are you aiming at part time game changing or full time world domination?
Bruno: Well, I’ve got good news for you then: we are not a supergroup! We are just 4 guys that love rock ‘n’ roll and hopped on this crazy journey together to do what we love the most. We’ve lived together for almost 4 years and as crazy as we are, with all the other variables in place, all the ups and downs, we’ve never had a fight. We argue of course, like brothers do, but the mutual respect has never left the table. We love each other and we have one big goal ahead of us, so we are willing to work harder every day to achieve this goal together as a band. The Stones have been out there for 50 odd years, so why can’t we?! And they are one hell of a supergroup! You never know what the future holds, you’ve just got enjoy every minute of it.
AH: You kept us hanging on for the record for far too long! Please don’t tell us we’ll be waiting that long for a second release?
Bruno: We’ve always been super hands-on with everything, but some things you can’t control. It’s in the label’s hands, management, etc, but what I can tell you is that we have a lot of great material just sitting. The Harlot drawers are packed with ammo and we’ll release it when the time’s right. I can’t wait to see where this crazy train will take us in 4 years, 8 years, 12 years… we are here for the long haul, and the fans that are joining us in this journey at this very moment will be able to say in the future that they are “Harlot Old School Fans”. “Dude, I got the first record the day it came out!” Can you imagine how cool that’ll be when we hear that from a fan in 10 years. Unbelievable! I want to thank you guys for the fun interview, and I can’t wait to see you maniacs at Download. Let there be rock!
‘We Are Harlot’ by We Are Harlot is out now on Roadrunner Records.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)