The first ‘Bite’ sinks raw into your gums, perking your ears with sound. Harsh Armadillo and their latest four-track EP release is uninviting to the easy-listener. Regardless, you delve in for seconds and it becomes clear- there is no turning back. It’s “quick, punchy and powerful,” said vocalist Andrea Belaidi.
Bite hooks your lip and reels you deep into the 24-minute storyline of Harsh Armadillo on the rise.
Since their inception in 2013, the New Hampshire based ensemble is out for blood. Harsh Armadillo debuted their first full-length album Thayer It Is in 2014 and quickly began to draw crowds of 700 or more. Harsh Armadillo was named New England Music Awards’ Best Band in NH (2017) and has shared the stage with bands like The Nth Power, Kung Fu, Twiddle, After Funk and Kat Wright.
The seven-piece is equipped with keyboards, synth and organs, saxophone, trumpet, guitars and drums making their soundscape endless. R&B, funk and soul roots create a whirlwind of driving dance grooves that are paired with slow feel-good vocals and melodic leads throughout the EP.
Bite was recorded at Iron Wax Studio in Erving, MA with Alan Evans of Soulive. “Working in Alan’s studio was like getting catapulted through a black hole and emerging with no pants or conception of time,” siad Max Harris (saxophone, vocals). Harsh Armadillo looks up to artists like Evans which made the four day recording endeavor energetic and natural for the band. “It was just wild seeing how Alan did his thing,” said bassist Thomas Forbes.
“The EP all works together in sequence. These songs are comprised of bits and pieces that make it different,” said Max. The band recorded the album together – all in one room, whereas it is typical for bands to record each part layered independently. “The intention was for it to be a cohesive unit. There’s something about proximity,” that makes it all flow, said Max. “We learned that it was okay to have bleed into the drum parts.”
“Gravy” starts the EP off smooth, building in volume, before the drums and horns crash in unison. The groove is sharp and interrupts with syncopated off-the-beat phrases. Male and female vocals, funky guitar licks and changing drum and bass grooves drag your head from left to right with your feet. The feel livens up in the bridge with syncopated snare, contrasting horn pads and rolling bass fills. Soon you timehop, fired-up for the hot saxophone solo in “Two Wishes and a Truth.” When playing these songs “we want someone like ‘Sput’ from Ghost Note (one of our idols) to turn around and say: What was that?,” added Forbes.
The new songs are all about pushing the envelope. Spoken-word rap in “Animal” contrasted by Dmitrys’ synth leads expand your mind. When the band digs through the bridge they become unstoppable, in full break dancing force. Songs like “Live Action” are amped up and refreshing from the laid back push-and-pull of the rhythm section. It drives hard, so you better hang on.
Guitarist Camden Riley felt that the EP is “one tiny seed planted; It is a landmark of how we are as a unit [at this moment in time].” According to the band’s press release, “The EP is about biting hard into life and being the most unapologetic version of yourself possible. A lot of the songs have this swaggy feel that everyone’s frothing over these days. I think Questlove calls it drunk drums. Either way it’s an addiction. It takes a team to get this feel.”
Harsh Armadillo is cueing up for the second EP release of the series within the next few weeks. Evolving with the changing times of the music industry Max Harris felt “You can’t put an album out every two years and still be relevant.” Harsh Armadillo’s second release “Blame Bad Habits” was exactly that – two years in the making, which became boring by the time it was ready to drop. Thus, the ensemble is ‘keeping it loose’ as they move forward not only as a band, but moreover as a tight-knit collaboration of friends.
For those wondering about the ‘moldy basement’ – it’s Dmitrys’, the bands keyboard player. “It [actually] is moldy,” added Dan [the band laughs]. To this day, Harsh Armadillo continues to practice in the same stinky rehearsal space where they were founded. “That’s where the fun comes in.” It allows Harsh Armadillo to sound raw, capturing a live feel effortlessly on Bite. “An idea sparks the song…and then we start arguing in the most exciting sense of the word. The idea is growth – to push the bar one-hundred percent.”
“Stay Harsh, Dan.”
“Gravy” is one thick serving of horns, backed by ‘2’ and ‘4’ on the snare. It cuts right to the groove and sucks you into the song. Tight melodic hits occur when you least expect it and the drums continue to push and pull you in time. Andrea’s smooth vocals, add the right amount of soul, half way through the track.
The EP would not be complete without “Live Action.” As their press release describes, “It tracks the speed of the missile and shoots just enough in front of it to hit it.” With lightning speed it is too energetic to soak up the funk from each instrument. Guitars take the spotlight early on with hot, up-beat rhythm and a blazing guitar solo within the first minute of listening. It is ever-changing. “Live Action,” is all Harsh’s best ideas morphed into one; from funk to a jam band with heavy synth-lead, to soulful vocals and back around again.