Unusually for one of our introductory pieces you’ll almost certainly have heard Harkin in some shape or another. You might have seen her as a touring member of Sleater Kinney or Wild Beasts, heard her compositions for Turner Prize-winning artist Helen Marten or British comedian Josie Long, or seen her sing backing vocals for Dua Lipa on Saturday Night Live. It would be no exaggeration to describe Harkin as one of the most prolific collaborators of her generation, and after all those years working on other people’s music, her debut self-titled solo album, released last week through her own Hand Mirror label, was definitely long overdue.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Harkin is a record made on the road, with sessions everywhere from the Peak District to Los Angeles, Harkin worked with various producers and musicians to create a record in a way perhaps only she could. It’s an album that perhaps sounds as nomadic as its creator, a reflection on the highs and lows of constant touring, the jarring contradictions of a desire for both, “the eeriness of the English countryside” and “the pace of the mechanized world”. Musically too, this is a record that seems to fall between different worlds; at times it’s a luxurious pop record, with shimmering production and perfect choruses, at others, like the paired back Red Virginia Creeper or the brilliant New France, it slides into atmospheric electronics and pulsating bluesy-guitar lines that are distinctly uncommercial. This is the sound of the road put to tape, it feels lived in and well-travelled, ideas given time to develop, a true testament to the life of its creator and her unique viewpoint on what music is meant to be.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Harkin?
I’m a musician originally from Leeds. I like making noises, sometimes for myself and sometimes for others.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first solo Harkin show I played was in a circle of ancient yew trees at the top of the Fell Foot Sound festival site on the shores of Lake Windermere in the UK. I wasn’t quite ready but it was such a beautiful setting I couldn’t say no to the gig!
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I studied fine art when I was younger, I ended up doing History of Art at uni, but I think it was the sense of community that drew me to music.
FTR: What can people expect from the Harkin live show?
Well, that’s certainly changed! I’m so grateful I got to do a short tour with my bandmates Glenn and Lena before COVID-19, check out their band Kairos Creature’s Club
FTR: What’s next for Harkin?
I’ve been very heartened by the reaction to the Patreon for our label Hand Mirror. We launched it (the patreon) in light of all the touring for my album being cancelled. Being able to look into the future and start planning the monthly releases for that has been hugely helpful and inspiring. https://www.patreon.com/handmirror.
They Listen To…
Latin Playboys – Crayon Sun
Kelis – 4th Of July (Fireworks)
Of Montreal – The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
Yo La Tengo – Saturday
Television – In World
Harkin is out now via Hand Mirror. Click HERE for more information on Harkin.