John Harvie Embraces The Suck And Is Ready To Heal [Q&A] | THE NOISE

Alt-rock artist John Harvie came out the gate swinging with his debut album, told ya. in August of 2022. With high-octane instrumentation and passionate lyrics, he made it clear he wasn't messing around, never shying away from being himself and easily carving out his own place in the pop-punk and rock scenes. About a year and a half later, he has yet to lose any momentum, with tour dates alongside artists like girlfriends and Shinedown plus a handful of new singles under his belt.

Now, Harvie is playing some of his newest tracks and encouraging plenty of crowd participation from old and new fans while on the road with the pop-punk sensation Meet Me @ The Altar. Showcasing his fearlessness and versatility, Harvie not only has effortlessly won the crowd over with heartfelt songs like "Beauty In The Bad Things" and fun sing-alongs like "Bleach (On The Rocks)" but also spent plenty of time meeting with new fans as he traversed the US.

The Noise had the opportunity to talk to the rising artist about being a newly independent artist, where he finds his inspiration these days and his biggest dreams for the future.

You're currently finishing up your tour with Meet Me @ The Altar. Tell me about your experience on the road right now. What challenges do you tend to run into while doing these long stretches on the road and how do you cope with it all?

John Harvie: I actually feel like I'm more sane on the road than off the road. I'm super ADHD and a wired person, so the road gives me a lot of sense of routine and consistency, and I really value that in my life. I just hate being home for long periods, but this tour, honestly, has brought a lot of very interesting new challenges. 

Tell me more about that.

So this is my second tour since being independent. I was on a label as of last January with Elektra so it looked a little different. We had tons of support thrown at us, so I could afford to bring a full band. I'm such a sucker about that. Although it's a solo project, I want it to feel like everybody else is super involved so I've always had a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and me. On this tour, it's more grimy. We're in a Sprinter van, staying at all these Red Roof Inns – shout out Red Roof, honestly, they've done us right every time. But for this tour, it's just us four on the crew: Just one tour manager, our content person, Kelsey, who's been amazing and then it's just me and our drummer, Matt. So yeah, it's been four years since I put on a guitar and played shows, so it's like riding a bike. I'm getting back into it. I'm learning to move a little more, because without the guitar, I've always just been high energy, jumping off the walls and yelling and cheering at people. Now it's like, "Hey, how can I do that with the guitar in my hand?" Since there are two of us, how can I maintain that energy?

Do you get much inspiration when you're on the road to write music? Or do you feel like you want to focus on the experience and the present when you're on the road?

A little bit of both. It's easier because when I'm doing something mindless, like sitting in a car all day, it's a lot easier to think. So that's been the best part of it. I feel like I'm getting more motivated for new music, and even though traveling in a van from city to city isn't necessarily the most relatable thing in the world, it just gives me time to think about ideas or situations in my life since I haven't been on the road for so long. But at the same time, it is nice to be in the moment and enjoy this whole thing because I'm an independent artist now. Obviously, money's tight. I'm picking up my first side job in over two years to be able to pay for a lot of this. And it's just like – I say this to the band and crew every night before the show – play the show like it's your last because you never know when it is. So we're enjoying the opportunity we have in front of us and we get to wake up and play music in a different city every night. That's so cool, and I will never take it for granted. Like, I live this. I can't do anything else other than play live. It's just where I feel at home.

This tour is pretty stacked and you're supporting one of the scene's most up-and-coming bands in Meet Me @ The Altar. How has this whole experience of being on tour, hanging out with them, and being introduced to their fan base been for you?

It's been incredibly amazing! And to be honest, it has done wonders for my demographic; I will tell you that much because, number one, Meet Me is great, and they've been doing awesome on ticket sales. And Honey Revenge has also been incredible. They sell a ton of tickets, and they get that crowd rolling, so I have a very fortunate set of time where I can get a full crowd because those two crush it. And in the past, just with some of the tours I've done, it's been super like male-heavy, which is not bad, but like, my ratio was kind of fucked when it comes to people listening. It's so lovely to get the girly pops on the JH wave. It's been incredible, and it's translated way better than I thought it was, to be completely honest. Because with my music, I have a tendency to be very hyped and there's a lot of yelling and just high energy but they've loved it so far. It's blown my mind how many LGBTQ fans are showing up to these shows, too. Because I feel like in multiple cities, especially Boston, I gotta shout out Boston, I love that city so much! But yeah, seeing them pull up wearing the merch and singing the songs, I can hear it through my in-ears and I'm just like, "Whoa, this is crazy!" So yeah, this tour has been incredible. The rooms are amazing. The crowds have been awesome. Everybody on the tour has been awesome. I've been really fortunate to meet all these incredible people and really get to know them and pull all sorts of stupid pranks on each other, exchange stories, and whatnot.

What kind of pranks?

Tay, the Honey Revenge bassist, has these little poppers with them and they'll come into the green room, throw them on the ground, and just dip. [laughs] So we'll sneak into each other green rooms and throw a few down and be like, "Ok, later, see ya" and we just all kind of mess with each other.

What is your favorite song to perform live right now?

I think my two favorites to play right now are a tie between "At My Worst" and "Figure Eight," because "At My Worst" is dope, and we're coming off of "Beauty and the Bad Things," so it's like we're getting back into the energetic part of the set. And that's when the crowd kinda starts to get it, and they start putting their hands up, bobbing their heads, and moving, and it's great. And then "Figure Eight" is incredible to play live because it's a phenomenal song, and on top of that, the melody is so beautiful that you can pick it up right away. Even if you don't know what I'm saying, everybody in the crowd can still sing along.

Tell me more about how it feels to be an indie artist again. Do you now have more creative freedom, or for you, has that never been really an issue?

The best thing about Elektra is that they basically told me, "Hey, man, we don't give a shit. Make whatever music you want to make. We'll put it out and figure it out." So, they gave me complete creative control and trusted my pen, which was awesome. Nothing's really changed regarding actual creative control, which has been nice. So now I get to do what I want, but it's definitely different because of the machine of finances.

Right, of course.

Labels are like giant banks; they have all the finances and resources involved in everything and it's recoupable. It was also extremely helpful for them to put me in the right direction. And now, as an indie artist, I got new management as soon as I moved on from the label, so now it's just about figuring out our game plan. What demographic do we want to hit? What's the best strategy to get us on social media playlists? What's the best way to outsource merchandise and whatnot and do it all at an affordable rate? So it's been a grind. And the beautiful part is, I'm catching my feet. 

There are a lot of artists who are very personal to me, like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Chester Bennington. Those are the kind of people I look up to as of late. It’s best thing that I actually messed up in my last label experience was, like, at the end of the day, music is a business, and it's my job and I think I didn't have everything figured out as well as I would have wanted to. Then, I brought on a huge partner to help us out with a lot of things. And so now, I'm in such a great spot because I get to figure out what I want and ask, "What's my vision?" So now I'm getting into all the nooks and crannies and getting this project real tight and well-oiled, and when it makes sense to bring on another partner again, we will. It will only be way more beneficial for us. So that being said, there are a lot more challenges with it being indie, but, you know, I've been able to see a lot of good friends of mine, such as Charlotte Sands and Jelly Roll, really be able to succeed with full independence and absolutely crush it.

Can you walk me through what your creative process is like right now? What is your vision, and what kind of stories are you trying to tell with your art in this phase of your artistry?

Funny enough, as of late, I've been writing a lot for more for other artists than myself because I recently just picked up a pub deal, and I love writing music for other people. So I gotta shout out all the homies! I got a lot of cuts coming out for Games We Play's album. There's a band called Nothing More, Cassadee Pope, and Braden Bales, like all the homies, are about to drop dope songs. Be on the lookout for those please! But the creative process has been nice for me because I haven't written for myself as much, so it's given me a vision of what I want to do. I kind of called this trend back in 2021 after MGK dropped Tickets To My Downfall because I did my whole take on the pop-punk thing for my first album and everybody was trying to sound like Blink-182, but I'd always been more inspired by Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Sum 41, and those types of bands. And so I've noticed this trend in music to the point where it's almost going backward. After I dropped my album, I had this theory that 90s music is about to make the most disgusting COMEBACK EVER. And so I started writing more like 90s heavy things, I was inspired by bands like Weezer, Nirvana, Incubus, Deftones, and whatnot. And so you can see that with "Something In The Way" by Nirvana going absolutely crazy, then you have old 90s-style songs like "Covet" by Basement. There are a lot of these 90s-inspired songs and very shoegaze stuff that's really come to fruition, and like the whole Deftones movement, it's really awesome. I've always been a fan of heavier music anyway; I grew up on metalcore, and that's how I learned all my song structure and songwriting as a kid. And so for my new songs like "Roses," "Not My Worst," and "Figuring It Out," there's this more 90s feel-good energy where there's just big anthemic songs that are also a little sadder.

Can you share any more details about the music you're working on now?

I think that one thing with the next project that I'm gonna end up doing is – the first album I did, I was just young, dropped out of college, was just full testosterone, just wanted to prove people wrong and be like, "Hey, this is me. I do the college party thing. Blah!" Now it's just like after I've gone through a little bit of shit, and there were a lot of things up in my head that weren't feeling too nice, and on top of just a lot of stuff I won't get into right now, but I think going into this next phase of life and music I finally feel like I have something to say. Mainly, making music for me was a healing thing and then everybody else was invited. So I think that at the end of the day, if I make music for me, where it's just like real, I feel talking about problems and situations that are very important to me, whether it's relationships or being stuck in bed all day, or trying to figure out my purpose of me being here and coming to terms with death and figuring out what I believe. Putting all that into songs has been really cool, and so for the following stuff, it's going to be lyrical; it's going to be a little darker. Still, for the instrumentals, it will either be really angry or uplifting. It will be a mix of a lot of those '90s guitars that are just like really blown out and huge drums mixed with a lot of EDM and hyper-pop music that I've been listening to as of late to give it this almost euphoric feeling. I think it'll be really dope for me to make this healing album that shows what I'm about and who I am as a person instead of just showing the one-sided, hyped-up, ready-to-go-after-everything version of me. It's gonna be more honest, honestly.

As cathartic as songwriting can be, it can be triggering and overwhelming having to tap into those parts of yourself. Do you do anything to ground yourself when you go to those places? Or do you go there, do it, and get it over with?

I think I just embrace it. One thing I'll never forget, which is going to sound so douchey, I'll never forget at football practice in high school, one thing our coaches would always tell us is to “embrace the suck.” Like, it's just bound to happen. It's just a part of life, so I'm embracing these moments of trial and trying to get as deep as I can because there's no point in watering down stuff. Stuff that gets watered down is not as impactful. When it comes to the music, the one thing I tell my producers, as soon as I get started in the studio, is, I want you to strip away everything you think you know about music because I don't want to imitate anybody else. That's just no fun. There's no point; it would waste everybody's time. I prefer we start from a blank canvas, and even if we fail, just like I've failed in life, I'm making something really special and creative and that's okay. And so I think musically and lyrically, I want to tap into places where I can start fresh, and it's really going to touch a lot of people. When people listen to the new music I have coming out, I think they will be more impacted by something that stands out rather than sounds like everything else. So yeah, I think I'm just gonna go for it. I have no expectations. I want to make the greatest song in the world, but I don't want to have any expectations of how something's supposed to sound. We're going to let the feelings talk for itself.

Right, and then in the end, when you look back on what you've made, you're like, "Oh, damn, it's not what I anticipated, and I'm so proud of it."

Yeah, and it's just about taking risks and figuring out the best way to stand out from all the other music coming out because everybody and their mother can make music now. So you might as well do something that's really fun, you know?

What's your biggest gripe with the music industry right now, and what would you like to see change?

I think a lot of things. Social media has gotten so big, and the game has changed 100% since I started. So many people are really upping their social media game while trying to make just the most simplistic song, which is okay. And they're trying to make the most simplistic song to cater to a large audience while having their socials look amazing so they can get the biggest grab. But where my theory stands is I don't think the audience knows what they want to hear. And it's going to take both a really well-thought-out social media game; as much as it sucks, it's necessary, and you got to do it, and I'm talking to myself when I say that, because my social media game is not great right now. But I think that that mixed with something--it's hard to explain. It's having it be simple enough for people to understand and take it in while also having tiny minute, very intricate details, like something you wouldn't notice in the song, but if it wasn't there, you wouldn't notice it. So it's a good mix of people just like, Yo, keep up the social media thing, y'all are crushing it, and y'all can get numbers. Or like, instead of these, like, he saw songs to, like, get views. And like, I mean, I even feel like I see it politically a lot like people are just making political songs. And they may not even actually give a fuck, just to, like, get an audience riled up and get them to listen to the songs. I think he's just like, you know, say some real shit and keep your social media, like, for real, you know. And if you can figure out the balance, I think it will help a lot. So what I would like to see is people taking more risks because my theory is, you're gonna see the songs that, like, in my opinion, maybe could be better. And it's just like, you know, cheap song to get people riled up or to get them in, but great songs will stand the test of time. And I think people will see in the next couple of years, that some of the songs like they're dope now, but you're gonna listen to them in two to three years, and you're gonna go Google, and like, just cringe at it a little bit and be like, Oh, my God, that was? Yeah, it was like, Oh, that was so 2023. That was so 2024. But yeah, I think it's just making something timeless; it's really going to help, and it might not, it might not work now; it might take five fucking years before that song really has its moment. And the beautiful part is I'm seeing that with many bands right now, especially on TikTok, and songs that are blown up at least 10 years old. So, sticking to my point, great songs stand the test of time and have their moment. But yeah, everybody's doing great on social media. Keep that shit up because it looks awesome!

Ok, for my last question, I want to do some mainfesting. Who would be on the bill with you if you could build your dream show?

Let's pretend I'm fucking Post Malone-level huge.

Alright, I'm with it. Shoot.

I want to sell the shit out of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. I think the perfect lineup for me, it'd be me headlining. I'm doing a four-band bill. So it'll be me headlining, and then I will have to Bring Me the Horizon as direct support. Then I think I'm gonna have Turnstile be three, and then I guess I'll have $uicideboy$ open up the show. I think that's my that's my dream lineup. I think it's a really dope show with much energy. Every band on that bill will challenge each other every night to have the best performance of their life because all three of those bands are phenomenal live performers. You got a little bit of everything with Bring Me having this hard rock sound mixed with a lot of electronic elements. And then with Turnstile, they have this more raw kind of straight up early punk style by utilizing all those cool synths, and then for the suicide boys, we're kicking it off with a ton of pyro and fire with almost like that grunge rap type of deal. 

We do love fire.

Listen, when we did that Shinedown tour, those dudes, I shit you not, they probably blew six figures worth of concussion grenades and fireworks every single night. It was ridiculous. And I am such a pyro person. My first concert ever; my dad's a pastor, for reference. He went to this Winter Jam conference in 2008 or 2009, and all these Christian bands were there. I saw Skillet, and they came out the gate with so much fire. I was in the front row. I was nine years old and just in awe and was like this is the coolest thing I've ever done. The poor Fire Department on that soil.

Do you have a message or anything you'd like to say for any fan or any person who stumbles upon this article? 

Welcome to the family! I'm gonna make music for people that rock with good music and want to forget about all the bullshit that's going on in their lives for as little as two minutes. This music is really energy-based and invokes this feeling that gets all these emotions out of you while also being honest. So if you're a thinker who also likes to move a lot and wants to have a good time and a lot of energy, this is a perfect project for you. So yeah, come to the shows, get some merch, and mosh, let's have a good time. Let's move a little bit. If you're not the mosh type, kick it in the back, smoke a little joint if that's what you like, and we'll have a good time.

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