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Harsh Crowd is a punk-pop band composed of four 14 year olds who formed in 2013 after meeting at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn, New York. Harsh Crowd are already veterans of the indie rock scene (NY Times); they’ve collaborated and performed with the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Mirah, and opened for indie heartthrob Mac DeMarco, folk-blues New Orleans–based outfit Hurray for the Riff Raff!, shared a bill at Cooper Union with Sharon Van Etten, and performed on Center Court at Madison Square Garden to open the WNBA’s New York Liberty season in 2014.
Much has changed since the girls were middle schoolers singing about parents making them clean their rooms. Harsh Crowd’s sophomore EP BETTER, is exactly that. They have more experience writing and arranging, and of course, more attitude. The band digs into bassline-driven funky-drummer breakdowns whilst having fun with Pachelbel, gets more comfortable with guitar solos and feedback, and also delivers plenty of feels. With lyrics ranging from not-able-to-vote-yet commentary on the two-party political system to fairy tale allegories, as well as longing and heartbreak perhaps beyond their years, singer Willow’s voice is badass yet delicate, powerful and clear. With their sophomore EP, Harsh Crowd had more creative input in the studio as co-producers of these latest songs, collaborating with their meticulous, steady-handed producer Steven Wright-Mark.
Lately, the band is into music by the Who, Joan Jett, Le Tigre, Pink Floyd, MGMT, Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens, Sia, Radiohead, Anderson Paak, and the Clash. [Their adults also hear Pavement and the Pixies (especially that Quiet LOUD Quiet aesthetic), but they’ve rarely listened to that old music.] They’re just exploring whatever happens to excite them: K-pop, classic rock, effects pedals, jazz standards, Brazilian beats, Prince (as shared with them by their adults), Bollywood, and something else they might discover tomorrow. The coolest part is how their musical minds transform these disparate influences into the next Harsh Crowd song.
Harsh Crowd is definitely the sum of its unique parts. Guitarist/vocalist Dea loves exploring effects pedals to impact the guitar soundscape, even though she writes on acoustic guitar and plays drums every chance she gets. Her appreciation of Broadway also informs her musicality, as she has always been extremely active in Theater Arts at school, starring in shows from an early age. Bass/keyboard player Rihana studies upright bass and violin, enhancing her already solid classical keyboard training. Rihana moves effortlessly between styles and instruments, composing standout melodies on the high register of the keyboard and cranking out killer low-end bass guitar lines, often jumping back and forth on the same song. It’s no wonder she was tapped to participate in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy. Drummer Lena conjures up consistently well-chosen grooves and complex, yet tasteful fills. Sometimes at rehearsal, she’ll bust out a Brazilian bossa nova, lay down some funk beats, or even move to keyboards to help come up with parts. Then there’s Willow, the band’s explosive and magnetic punkass frontperson, who can always be relied upon to find a catchy vocal melody (or three), in addition to being the main lyricist. Willow has also appeared in concert dress for NYC’s Face the Music programs.
“‘Girl band’ is more than just a label that has to do with gender—it’s also a type of sound—and it’s not a sound that we want to have, or that we do have. So... we are a group of four girls playing music, but we’re not a ‘girl band’!” —Harsh Crowd, from a 2014 interview, published as part of the Feminist Utopia Project.