If you’ve been craving a true rock n’ roll, guitar driven live show up near those Great Lakes, then you must investigate the Minneapolis-based quartet known as Two Harbors (Chris Pavlich, Kris Johnson, Jeremy Bergo, Shawn Grider) – influenced by 90’s brit-pop sensibilities, the gentlemen of Two Harbors tell us that live audiences should expect “a big sound, with soaring vocals, and very catchy hooks and melodies
Chris Pavlich (CP): I guess you could say it has a 90’s Brit-pop sound, but it’s rock n roll. It’s a big sound, with soaring vocals, and very catchy hooks and melodies that really get stuck in your head. When you put it on, it makes you feel like you’re ready for battle. I like that.
Kris Johnson (KJ): I think a fan tweeted it best: ”@TwoHarbors sound very tight and fine. It’s the 60′s by way of the 90′s by way of 2014.” I think we stand out because we have songs that have the big chorus and we aren’t afraid of guitars, which seems off trend today.
PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
CP: My dad was in radio for many years, so I listened to all kinds of different music. My parents played a lot of Elvis around the house as I was growing up. But I listened to all sorts of different types of music.
I do remember my first concert vividly. I saw Elvis about four months before he died. It made a huge impression on me, and really got me into music.
KJ: I was into a lot of punk and hardcore growing up, although my parents listened to mostly 50′s and 60′s music around the house, which ultimately influenced me more I think.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
CP: We had all played in other bands and know tons of people in the music community, so it wasn’t that difficult to get shows. Our first show was at the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis, and it was great. If I remember right, it was a good crowd and a great gig. We really miss the Uptown Bar. A lot of great bands played there: The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Husker Du, The Jayhawks, Nirvana, Oasis. It’s now an Apple Store.
KJ: We had the advantage of all of us coming from established local bands. So it wasn’t terribly difficult, from one perspective, although we really didn’t have a breakthrough until we started getting airplay on the local station.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Two Harbors show?
CP: Well, they can expect to have a proper night out for one. As far as tunes, we are playing mostly stuff from the new record and a few from previous releases. Maybe a cover. The sound is big though, and these tunes are really meant to be heard in a big room full of people. We just opened for Temples at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and it was just that. We hand-picked the tunes for The Natural Order of Things with the live show in mind, and they sound really good live.
KJ: Loud guitars, good clothes, big choruses.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
CP: I have a good look at everyone in the audience, and I can’t wait for people to hear the first song. It’s a good feeling when you can make a connection to a crowd straight out of the gate. It all falls into place from there, and I try to settle into the tunes, remember my parts and all that.
KJ: I just try to remember to relax and remind myself to enjoy it.
PEV: How has playing in Two Harbors been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
CP: For me, the biggest difference was the transition from lead guitar to lead vocals. I had a completely different rig, and it’s an entirely different mindset when you know all eyes are on the singer. When I was playing lead guitar, my focus was on catchy guitar melodies and hooks, and I was using tons of effects pedals to make mind-blowing sounds. Now I’ve simplified my rig for rhythm guitar and most of my focus is singing.
KJ: We’ve been a band for a long time and have had very little friction or drama. Everyone is on the same page musically, and mentally, which is very hard to come by. I listen to friends’ horror stories about bandmates and band situations and am reminded that what we have is special
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
CP: I get the best ideas from what I’m into at that moment. A lot of Beatles and The Who, The Smiths. Or maybe something on the radio. I find a chord progression I like, switch them around, change the strumming pattern, and it’s a new song. Mostly though, the songs just sort of reveal themselves, and it’s just a matter of putting them together and getting it out. Sometimes I’ll just pick up an instrument, and just the weight and feel of it in my hands will make something happen that wouldn’t happen the same way on another instrument. Do you know what I mean? A riff or progression doesn’t feel the same on every instrument. I write songs on my Gibson, that just don’t sound the same on my Rickenbacker. It’s amazing.
KJ: As far as what I bring to the songwriting process, I just always make sure that it’s something I myself would want to buy and listen to.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
CP: Not really, I’m mostly looking forward. I mean, we’ve had great gigs and I’m proud of the records we’ve made, but I’m excited more by what lies ahead. The unknown. We really set the bar for ourselves with this record by going to Abbey Road, and having Brian Cannon do the sleeve. I’m excited that we’re already talking about how to top that.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Two Harbors?
CP: I was struck by lightning when I was 10 years old, so that always raises an eyebrow! As a band though, I think people would be surprised at how well we all get along. There’s a lot of adversity and external forces at work that can really be a challenge to navigate. But we have a great time working together and just hanging out together. This is the first band I’ve ever played in without incident. It’s good man.
KJ: Depends on what surprises you I guess. I’m not really sure.
PEV: Tell us about your latest release, The Natural Order Of Things. What can fans expect from this work?
CP: 10 great tunes that could all be candidates for radio. TNOOT was made specifically for vinyl though. The CD and digital releases are great, but if you want the full experience the way the band intended it, you need to have the vinyl. 180g white vinyl (as pure as Minnesota snow), gate fold, printed inner sleeve, a full-sized poster of the cover, and download card. We spared no expense.
Also, the story behind the making of the record is one I love telling. Writing the record, demoing it, recording it, flying to London to have it mastered at Abbey Road, working on the sleeve with Brian Cannon of Microdot (The Verve, Oasis). It was the greatest journey of my life, and to cross the finish line at Abbey Road Studios…it just doesn’t get any better.
KJ: This is the record we wanted to make front to back. It’s a guitar driven record that isn’t afraid to be epic. Some shy away from that, but that’s where we feel at home and it shows.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete, and you can sit back and listen to it for the first time?
CP: It’s amazing. You want everyone to hear it! Sometimes you just sit back and think wow, we did that. Then you play it again.
KJ: For me, it’s never complete until its been pressed, and by then I just let go.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
CP: Well it’s very satisfying, but it’s more satisfying when it turns out better than you could have possibly imagined. That’s what you strive for. It’s already played out in your head how you envisioned it, but when you hear it better than you imagined…then you have something.
KJ: I’ll let you know if that ever happens. Part of being in a band that lasts as long as ours is to allow it to become something other than what you may have initially envisioned.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
CP: I would love to tour the UK. But it would be good to get on a support tour here in the US and hit major cities and a few festivals. We’re open for anything that makes sense.
KJ: London and Tokyo.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
CP: Everyone has been very supportive. Minneapolis has an amazing music scene, and we love playing here. Our last show with Temples at First Avenue was a special gig, and I suspect our record release show will be too.
KJ: My family is into it. We just played First Avenue recently and I think my sister was more excited about it than I was!
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
CP: I run, and I like to shop for records, clothes, sunglasses, guitars, and stomp boxes. Very busy.
KJ: I have my company Kjaudio which I make hand-wired tube amps. I made the amps we play live.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
CP: Present would definitely be Johnny Marr. He’s one of those guys who is so much fun to be around. Full of ideas, and stories. I’d love to see his guitar collection and his bag of tricks. Yeah, definitely Johnny Marr. Thanks for asking!
Past would be John Lennon. He doesn’t require elaboration.
KJ: Johnny Marr. He’s my number one touchstone in music. I’d love to learn anything I could from him.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
CP: Yes. Two Harbors.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?
CP: Protective branch of the US Secret Service. I would make a good spy too.
KJ: I can’t really think of anything else.
PEV: So, what is next for Two Harbors?
CP: We’re going to spend the next year working this record and playing shows, and we’ll start writing for the next record soon.
KJ: More shows, more songs, more jackets.