Interview: Harlequin League

Seb Astone (Harlequin League)
Interview by Leo Abbs

Perth Sounds caught up with Seb Astone from Next Big Thing winners, Harlequin League, a few days after their victory to find out what they thought about their NBT win, the competition and what lies ahead for the band. When asked what it was like to win the NBT Final, Seb said:

‘It was kind of surprising based on the quality of the other acts that played the other night. We’re a really self-critical band. We tend to be very hard on ourselves with performances. We didn’t really like our chances at the end of the night. We weren’t even really expecting to place.’

The Next Big Thing not only provides fantastic prizes, but is also great exposure for the winning band. Seb seemed to think both were as important as each other.

‘I suppose they are as important as each other, really like the prizes are fantastic, like we’ve had an EP recorded for a couple of months now due to financial restraints, we haven’t been able to release it. So I suppose the double edge of it is, we’ve now got the financial ability to release it, we can get the CDs printed etc, but we’ve also got the ability to promote it really well because of the exposure.’

Seb believes it’s not just about winning the competition.

‘A good way to look at it really, it is a competition, but it’s a really good showcase opportunity as well.’

He mentioned that The HowlinNovocaines, The Kids, The Chemist and The Wilderness as bands that impressed him during the competition.

‘That’s the good thing about the whole competition, there’s always a band or two every year, you’ve never heard of, who come out of total obscurity.’

‘I think up until this point, and in the future too, the Next Big Thing is probably the most prominent showcase for new bands in Perth’.

When it came to the way the competition was judged, Seb believed there was one particular category which was important.

‘I think it’s good that they put an emphasis on originality. Bands know they have to do something different, or if you aren’t doing anything original, you have to do something that’s been done before really well.’

While Harlequin League has only been around since the beginning of 2007, They are far from new to the music scene.

‘I was in a band called Camden Stray for a while, which did a few gigs around the place. Our drummer, he’s never been in a band before, (keyboardist) Ben plays keys in another band, The Vice Chancellors.’

They’ve only been gigging for a short while, they’ve already had opportunities many bands don’t get, such as as triple J airplay.

‘We were lucky enough they downloaded one of our songs of the unearthed website, and that got a spin for a couple of weeks, which was pretty good. We’re not too fussed about that at the moment that’s something to aim for in the future.’

While it says on their biography that they’ve toured over east, the story is a little different to what you may expect.

‘We went over at the start of the year, but that was actually my old band Camden Stray, went over to do a few gigs. That’s actually how we (Harlequin League) had our first gig. In Melbourne (laughs). Me and James had been jamming with the drummer from Camden Stray.’

‘We were playing a set pretty similar to what we are playing now, but a band pulled out of one of the gigs, a gig at The Espy in St Kilda. They were looking for a band to jump in, so we put our hands up and we said we’d do a set.’

‘That was the first time we’d played live and the response was really really good. So we thought, alright maybe we should put a bit more effort into this to see where it goes. ‘

‘When we got back, we had another couple of rehearsals and then went in and did the recordings and we’ve had a little bit of interest from that.’

And they are set to go back for more touring soon, mainly due to the triple j unearthed airplay.

‘We had a bit of interest from industry people – I don’t want to blow it up too much. The reason why we are going over is so some people can see us play and stuff like that. Hopefully, something comes out of that.’

As for similarities between the two bands that lead vocalist, James Rogers plays in (The Fault and Harlequin League) it seems the most obvious according to Seb, is the way the songs are written.

‘James isn’t the sole songwriter in the band, so there’s going to be differences there, as there’s different people writing the songs. The Fault is more of a free-form band, they jam quite a lot, they move a lot to what they’ve done before, but we tend to structure a song, and be very focused on song structure.

‘Me and James will sit down with acoustics and write a song, and then take it to the band and put our dynamics on it. That’s what we think is the best way.’

‘We think if a song can survive in acoustic form, then it’s going to be really good.’

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