You know you’re doing something right when Bruce Springsteen’s right hand man decides your song is the coolest track in the world. That’s exactly what Steve Van Zandt did this June –picking ‘Trip Into The Light’ for that very accolade on his Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show. It’s easy to hear why – the opening song from Jeremy And The Harlequins’ debut full-length, American Dreamer, it sparkles and shimmers with the glamor of rock’n’roll’s past while simultaneously forging forward into the future with confidence. Channeling the influences of 1950s and ’60s rock’n’roll through the (cell phone) camera lens of 2015, Jeremy And The Harlequins – Jeremy Fury (vocals), Craig Bonich and Patrick Meyer (guitars), Stevie Fury (drums) and Bobby Ever (bass) – have managed to capture the sound of New York both in the here and now and the there and then. It’s a record about love and loss, tragedy and romanticism, dreams and reality, as well as everything in between, and its ten songs are at once familiar and fresh, a new friend it feels like you’ve known for decades.
“In both the pop music world and the indie music world,” explains Jeremy, “everything’s very electronic and very produced-sounding. In the indie world, everything seems like it’s long songs with no choruses and it doesn’t feel to me like something I’ll be singing along with in 20 years and going back to, and the pop world seems to have lost its human element. Music should make you feel something, and I don’t get that from much music nowadays, so we wanted to strip things down again and get back to the essence of rock’n’roll and pop music.”
That’s precisely what American Dreamer does – from title to the artwork, the lyrics to the melodies and arrangements of these songs, everything has been created with the mythology of rock’n’roll in mind. Yet at the same, these are songs for the modern day, universal tales of living in a digital age but with analogue sensibilities.
“We don’t just want it to sound like it’s in a musical or something,” says Jeremy. “It has to have its own edge and relevance to the time. Part of that, we consciously tried to do lyrically. Take a song like ‘Right Out Of Love’ – it sounds almost like a clichéd love song, but it’s actually about falling out of love. Or ‘Cam Girl’, which uses technology in the lyrics to make it stand out. My hope is that in 50 or 100 years, if someone were to find it and listen to it, they’d be ‘Wait – it sounds like this, but it’s referencing all these things came out years later.’ I wanted to do something where I could have something new to say in music.”
It all started when Stevie, Jeremy’s brother, moved back to New York from Paris. They’d played music together before (“He was probably eight years old and I was ten,” chuckles Jeremy), as had Jeremy and Craig, who had been working on new music together when they found their current sound. Suddenly, it all clicked, the members each sharing the same kind of vision for what they wanted to do. That chemistry is clearly visible onstage when they play live, but, unusually, you can also hear it within the grooves of the record.
“I had most of the songs for The Harlequins written,” says Jeremy, “but a lot of the sound comes from not just the songwriter, but everyone in the group. Stevie and I were on the same page as far as what we wanted to do musically, and once we had that vision everyone just found their role.”That vision is something, in addition to the backing of Little Steven, that’s won them a great deal of attention, and saw them top the Best of 2014 Readers and Fans' Poll of New York’s emerging music website, Deli NYC, thanks to their catchy hooks and their knack for writing timeless pop songs. In addition to its gong on Little Steven’s radio show, ‘Trip Into The Light’ was also featured in the Tom Cruise movie Edge Of Tomorrow. It’s precisely that high quality of songwriting, as well as the earnest emotion they’ve put into it, which makes Jeremy And The Harlequins’ music stand out so much from the rest of the crowd.
“One of the hardest things for a band to do is to reach people,” says Jeremy. “Which sounds weird, because it’s so easy to reach people, but because everyone can reach people so easily, there’s so much more going on. So we wanted a sound that was almost shockingly different. I was at a bar in France and we put on our record, and people were coming up to the iPod looking at – it was so different to everything that was playing before it that it caught people off guard. But it’s difficult.”Tough as it may be, thanks to both American Dreamer and the band’s energetic live shows, Jeremy And The Harlequins has been reaching more and more people more and more often. Very much a part of the New York scene – and very much following the line of its heritage – the five-piece have managed to capture, with a beautiful, timeless zest, the sense and the sound of the city they call home. “The time and place and people that you’re around really do affect you,” says Jeremy, “and you can either choose to go with it, or rebel against it. New York has definitely influenced our sound, and from a really classic perspective, too. Even if you go to coffee shops and bars, a lot of what you hear right now is a lot of older rock’n’roll music – and I think it just turns a light on in your brain that this is really awesome stuff. It makes you ask why music like this isn’t being played anymore.”Well – until now, that is. True its title, American Dreamer is steeped in the reverie of nostalgia but also traverses the streets of today, merging the two until they blend into just one path, a road weaving through New York’s avenues and streets and into the hearts and minds of a whole nation.