Have you ever heard a band for the first time that doesn’t necessarily fit into what you’re used to hearing or liking? Now, has listening to that band actually made you change the way you think about music? Now, to bring it all back, has that band hit you in such a personal way that it reminds you of the reasons that you love the things you love? Well, it’s happened to me… the first time I heard Harley Poe’s 2012 album called Satan, Sex, and No Regrets.
It was hard for me to describe the style of music that Harley Poe plays. According to Harley Poe’s Facebook “About” page the music is described as Folk/Horror Punk Music. I guess that’s as good of a description as any. There is definitely elements of folk and elements of punk rock. To me, it’s hard to define the genre. I would describe the music more based on how it makes me feel. If someone were to ask me to describe Harley Poe’s music, I’d tell them something like: it’s that band that is playing when you pull into that one-light town’s bar in the middle of nowhere where the locals don’t take kindly to strangers… as if they share a dark secret that they are keeping from you. It’s the kind of music that’s playing you’re sitting at your lone table in the corner at this bar with your friends as the locals shoot evil looks your way… THAT’s the kind of music Harley Poe plays. On top of that, the mood of their music is passionate and at times even frantic. As their music is playing it’s almost as if the lead singer, Joe Whiteford, is sharing very dark, personal stories for the very first time in some kind of desperate attempt for catharsis.
It was really the sum of all these points that really turned me on to Harley Poe. However, though I wasn’t necessarily surprised, I was excited to see that when I dug a bit deeper into the make up of this band that I learned that Joe Whiteford, front man of the band, is also a great artist. Like his music, his art, whether it be paintings, drawings, or sculptures are as unique as the music he sings. His art echoes the same passion that his music does.
Ever since I started listening to Harley Poe and I was turned on to Joe Whiteford’s art, I’ve been interested in asking him
some questions. I figured that the person who is the originator of a band as unique as Harley Poe who also happens to have a most unique style of art would be a very interesting and unique guy to get to answer a few questions. Lucky for me Joe Whiteford was kind enough to oblige. Here is the interview (Joe’s comments are highlighted in bold):
I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but after becoming familiar with Harley Poe’s library I’ve got to ask… Are you insane or just extremely passionate?
Where does your insanity/passion come from?
I think many people fancy themselves just a little insane. Not me. I know exactly what I’m doing…except for when I’m talking to myself or making strange noises. Those little urges are hard to control. Tics. So yeah, I guess I’m just passionate.
I know that you probably get asked this a bunch and I realize it’s lame and unnecessary to ask many bands, but I feel like this is a completely valid question to the singer of Harley Poe since I’ve been a big fan for a long time, and I still don’t have a hard time describing Harley Poe’s music to friends. So, how would you describe your music and how did you arrive at your sound? Where does the subject matter for your songs come from? How did the band get together and was it difficult to find enough guys like-minded enough to create a band that looks and sounds like Harley Poe?
We play folk, punk, and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s all. I just try to keep the subject matter interesting. I started playing by/with myself until I was able to convince some guys from my old band to record Harley Poe’s first album. After that, those dudes disappeared and I found new musicians to blackmail. Some have come and gone, but the current line up seems to be working alright for now. Not sure if any of us are like-minded, but I’ve managed to surround myself with good musicians via empty promises of drugs, riches, and lots of penis.
I took some time to visit your blog, and I was very impressed with your artwork… It’s seriously unbelievable. It’s something that I would always surround myself with if I was talented enough to create. I did notice that it seems to have the same kind of insanity that the music of Harley Poe has. Do you get the same satisfaction from your artwork that you do with your music, or is there a different sense that you get from it?
There is great satisfaction in creating music and art, but I’d like to believe I possess a sense of skill or talent when it comes to illustrating or sculpting. However, I don’t consider myself much of a musician. I’m one of those kids that just thought it would be cool to write songs and start a band. Years later I just happen to still be doing it. I don’t consider myself any better at guitar or singing than I did when I started though. Music is simply a tool to express myself, but I don’t feel the music the way real musicians do. Wish I did.
I am making an assumption here, but I feel like it’s a very safe one. I assume that you’re a very passionate person and you funnel that passion into your art. Where does that come from and what is the process that you follow to take that energy and pour it into your music, painting, drawing, sculpting, etc?
Oh man…I just see and hear the brilliance that others have created and I try to emulate those sounds and sights…or whatever it is I’m trying to rip off. I do the best I can, but my finished works always comes out different than what I was originally going for. I just accept that. Other than just wanting to create like other, better musicians and artists, I also just need a way to release my insecurities, fears, and righteous anger.
I think that every fan has his/her own “horror” genesis story… the tale that every horror fan has that explains why they are obsessed with this genre. For many people, and I assume it’s the same for you, horror isn’t just in the movies we watch or books we read, but it is something that permeates our every-day life. How did you get into (or dare I say obsessed with) horror? Was there a moment where you realized that horror was for you, or was it more of a process? Was there anyone who helped shape your love for horror, music, and/or art?
I’ve always loved horror films and scary stories. I think I have my mom to thank mostly for that love of the darkside. She let me see and hear this stuff at a young age. But I do remember a defining moment that really set me on this track. I was watching Nightbreed and it was during the scene when the cops go to Midian and capture the normal looking monster with the pet Boston Terrier. They pull him out into the sun and he begins to burn. They just watch as he writhes in pain and finally explodes. I remember thinking that he was a sweet character and didn’t deserve to die. He was an innocent monster and they killed him because he was one of the others; because he was different. As a child, it really bothered me and I decided right then that I was on the side of the monsters. If you’re an outcast, ugly, or just a weirdo, I got your back.
I understand that art is all about passion, and I assume that when you add the fact that you’re passionate about horror as well as art, that it may not be the easiest road to super-stardom. First of all, would
you agree with my assumption? Secondly, is there any advice that you would give to other horror-related artists or bands that are struggling that you feel could ease their minds?
I would mostly agree. There are few exceptions obviously. But horror is pretty mainstream right now. It sells. Zombies are more popular than religion, and rock and roll and art (especially lowbrow) have always been linked to darker, more horrific content. Just keep trying and do what you do because you love it. Make art and music because it makes you happy. Who cares how it makes everybody else feel.
I just want to follow this up with thanking Joe for taking the time to answer my questions. I also want to make sure everybody visits the following outlets:
I’ll leave you with a video that I feel does a good job illustrating everything I’ve been talking about: