On March 31, 2023, local Arizona band hhharpies released their newest single, Look Left. The song features distorted instrumentation and contrasting layering that breathes life into a song filled with nostalgia and hope. Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with hhharpies’ bandleader and songwriter, TJ Friga, to discuss look left and the future of this up and coming DIY group.
hhharpies is a relatively new group compared to some of the years-old bands we find local to the scene in Phoenix, Arizona – it was founded only last August, and stands as a testament to the importance of friendship between bands. “I contacted everyone else in the band after working with them on other things,” Friga said. Currently, hhharpies has five members: Mickey, who Friga met while playing a show at local venue The Van Buren in 2021, Johl, who played in another band ‘Instructions’ that Friga headed, Torri, both Friga’s student and a member of bands Lilac Cadillac and Doll Skin, and Josh, a longtime friend. This is the first and only lineup of hhharpies to date, but as Friga suggested, “We are all about collaboration, so there will certainly be different combinations of the band in the future.”
For a band that hasn’t yet seen the turn of its first anniversary, hhharpies is already on a roll releasing music. In 2022 alone, the band released two singles – bad decisions and Learn to Breathe – before releasing their first EP, ohio EP. Now, in 2023, they have released two more singles: silvius in February, and their latest release, look left, at the end of March.
At first glance, look left appears to be a very simple song. It starts with very simple, clean vocals and a nice harmony.. before dissolving into something that immediately will catch your attention. look left is defined by crunchy layering and distorted instrumentation. In contrast to the clean tracks featured at the beginning of the song, the majority of the song’s body features the ebb and flow of distorted guitar, beautifully complex harmonies, and dissonant layering.
In the middle of the single, the occasional pop of vocals or moment of clean guitar pierces the surface of the song and carries the listener into a bright, fresh sound. I especially enjoyed the pre-chorus/bridge section about halfway through the song; a clean, resonant guitar was layered on top of the dissonant track beneath it, which provided the perfect opportunity to carry the song into a series of remarkable transitions.
The contrasting sounds in hhharpies’ look left seems to be a very clever choice when examined a little deeper. On one hand, it is very reminiscent of the crisp sound of hit features from the 90s. Friga commented on this, saying that, “[look left] is my love letter to 90’s feel good radio rock from my mom’s car as a little kid.” However, there’s more to the single than a clean blend of ‘60s pop and ‘90s alt-rock; even the meaning behind the lyrics of the song reflect a theme of contrast. “The lyrics are about contrasting how much you can miss things and feel nostalgic, but also trying to recognize what’s in front of you in the here and now in an attempt to appreciate living in the moment,” said Friga.
To say that this single is impressive is to undermine the ability of hhharpies as a whole; the contrast in every aspect of look left breathes a unique life into the song that has the potential to take the band as far as they want to go.
hhharpies will be performing at their second show ever on May 20th at the Space Cadet Fest: get tickets here! Follow the band as they grow on their socials, linked here, and make sure to stream look left at the same link. For the full interview with TJ Friga of hhharpies, read below.
Performed by: hhharpies
Written by: TJ Friga
Produced by: Joshua Medina
Full interview with TJ Friga:
Ellery Clark: Could you please introduce yourself?
TJ Friga: Hi, I’m TJ Friga - bandleader/songwriter of hhharpies.
EC: When was hhharpies founded?
TJ: We founded last August after I had been writing some songs and keeping them aside for a new project I wanted to start.
EC: How has the band grown and changed over time?
TJ: I contacted everyone else in the band after working with them on other things. I play guitar and sing in the band Playboy Manbaby, and we’re no strangers to guest musicians in that band. We did a big first show after quarantine at the Van Buren in 2021 and that was the first time I played Mickey who also fronts the band MRCH here in Phoenix. Johl played in another band I fronted called Instructions. Torri I’d known for years through teaching music and at one point almost a decade ago was a student of mine, but has come up brilliantly fronting her own band Lilac Cadillac and touring as a member of Doll Skin. Josh has been a longtime friend of mine but always an engineer to whatever band I was recording. So, I finally wanted to have him in a band with me and he’s an incredible musician on multiple instruments. All that explained, this is still the first lineup of the band and our only show was Zonafest in December. We are all about collaboration however, so there will certainly be different combinations of the band in the future.
EC: What would you say hhharpies draws most of its influence from, and how does that impact the music you put out?
TJ: We take influences from many places, but in particular 60’s pop like The Beach Boys and Beatles, 90’s alt rock like Pavement or The Dismemberment Plan, and modern indie. At the moment I really really love the new Yves Tumor record.
EC: How would you introduce your single to new listeners?
TJ: It’s a song I’ve wanted to write for a long time because it’s so evocative of other sounds I really love. It’s my love letter to 90’s feel good radio rock from my mom’s car as a little kid.
EC: What can you tell us about the concept of look left?
TJ: The lyrics are about contrasting how much you can miss things and feel nostalgic, but also trying to recognize what’s in front of you in the here and now in attempt to appreciate living in the moment.
EC: I noted that you’ve released quite a bit of music over the past year, including the singles silvius and bad decisions and the EP, ohio. How is this single similar to (or different from) those releases?
TJ: This is the first song to feature all three voices of myself, Mickey, and Torri. We all sing together on the chorus and the way our voices blend together is something we haven’t done yet. In particular, Mickey’s voice really shines in the lead part of the chorus and that’s something we plan on doing more of.
EC: After this single, what is planned for the future of hhharpies?
TJ: Our second ever show is going to be at Trunk Space in Phoenix on May 20th at Space Cadet Fest with literally ever other band we play in (Playboy Manbaby, MRCH, and Lilac Cadillac), so we’re all going to be doing double duty that day. After that, we are planning to release a full length later in 2023.
EC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TJ: Our band name is stylized all lowercase (hhharpies) and is a very buried reference to the Holyhead Harpies which is a quidditch team from the Harry Potter universe. We considered calling ourselves that, but just in case, bent it enough to avoid litigation while still paying homage.