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Sara Samad 29 Aug 2014

How Sad: An Indian Summer Headed to Radio Beirut

If there was ever going to be a perfect soundtrack to your summer, it just might sound like Lebanese Montreal-based band How Sad’s EP, “Indian Summer.”Their energetic indie-electronic pop beats clash with smooth and somber lyrics in such a way that you’ll want to hit the repeat button more times than you’re probably willing to admit.

Lead singer Harris Shper answered some questions for Beirut.com ahead of the band’s show on Sunday, August 31 at Radio Beirut.

Beirut.com: How did you guys get started making music?
Harris: I’ve played and recorded/produced music for most of my life and this particular project started just as a way to make party music in my bedroom, not thinking it would ever turn into much more than that. After one show, though, it seemed to blossom more into a live experience than anything else so we kept going with it.

Beirut.com: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Harris: Frantic electronic indie-pop with a hint of punk rock.

Beirut.com: Your music sounds like a paradox between happy and sad, melancholy and ecstatic, fun and depressed. Why did you choose to play on this dynamic and how did you achieve it?

Harris: It wasn’t so much a conscious choice as it was what would just find me. A lot of the music was written at a very chaotic period in my life and even though I felt energetic and ready to dance and have fun, I didn’t have many happy things to write about, so it became the running theme in most of these seemingly upbeat songs, to not be super happy in the lyrical context.

Beirut.com: Where is your sound derived from? Who (or what) are some of your influences?
Harris: Montreal has a big impact on the sound I believe, being able to see bands like Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Think About Life, Land of Talk, etc. really helped shape some of the sounds that I love. Also there’s a big element of old punk rock in my opinion, the energy and grungy-ness of it, especially in the live show, that comes from when I was a teenager and playing in punk bands. Other than that, there’s just a huge portion of David Bowie because that’s who I worship.

Beirut.com: What’s the story behind the band name?
Harris: Sort of a dark little joke about making music. Also with the lyrical themes a little darker, it sometimes makes people realize it’s not all fun and games!

Beirut.com: Can you tell us about an experience that influenced one of your songs?
Harris: I wrote Indian Summer about a time in New York City when I was touring with my ex-girlfriend (in a different band) and we were totally broke and we had a fight and then she left. We were supposed to be staying with her friends so now I was alone in NYC with only a couple bucks and no place to stay. I walked into the cheapest looking bar I could find and the bartender seemed to understand the shape I was in and ended up giving me free drinks for a while. I ended up sleeping on the street.

Beirut.com: Your lyrics are pretty dark in comparison to the band’s high-spirited, enthusiastic façade. What are some of the themes you address and where are they derived from?
Harris: Turmoil, relationships of mine and my friends, love, heartbreak, sadness and happiness – pretty much all the things that make up life. I don’t try to stick to one subject in particular just write what I feel.

Beirut.com: What is an Indian Summer?
Harris: According to Wikipedia; “An Indian summer is a heat wave that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of above-normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost.” I thought this was a perfect metaphor for the way we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking things will work out. “We will have an Indian summer” we sing without ever truly believing that things will be okay. It’s a fantasy where everything is warm all the time mixed in with the harsh reality of the lyrics of the verses.

Beirut.com: We’ve heard your live shows are pretty insane. How do you think music changes when it’s played live versus listened to on a recording?
Harris: We’re all pretty expressive people so we all end up getting way too into it and jumping around and sometimes it’s crazier than others but I think it’s a totally different experience in person as we get to feel the energy from everyone in the room and they get to feel ours.

Beirut.com: When you play in a new city, do you approach the gig differently?
Harris: We love touring and visiting new places, I don’t know if there’s a different approach but once again it’s great to see the different types of energy in different parts of the world and try to understand it and then have fun with that.

Beirut.com: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you guys during a gig?
Harris: One time Phil was so sick that he couldn’t play a gig so Nadim had to pretend to play keyboards and to keep everyone distracted from the music (or lack thereof) he stripped down to his underwear.

Beirut.com: If you could have written any song in the history of recorded music what would it be and why?
Harris: Modern Love by David Bowie because it’s amazing and makes me super happy!