We spent a fair bit of time with the members of Harvest Thieves in preparing for our inaugural Austin360 Artist of the Month feature story. The interviews provided far more than that piece could accommodate, so here’s a half-dozen outtakes that may shed a little more light on the band, interspersed with a few Instagram videos shot over the course of the past year.
1. Frontman Cory Reinisch, on when he discovered Whiskeytown, the Old 97’s and other alternative-country bands in the late 1990s:
“I just became a sponge for everything that I could find with people who were writing songs like this or forming bands like this. And I heard influences. You could tell these guys listened to rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, Ryan Adams listened to Black Flag growing up. When I first heard Black Flag I was like, it’s awesome. I can understand why these guys are listening to this stuff.
“And here I am, growing up listening to Willie and Waylon and my first concert was Johnny Bush and I’m playing all these old-timey records on my old radio station in my hometown. It was like, somehow these things are converging here. And not only was it ‘Do I like this’ — it was, ‘That’s who I AM.’ It just resonated with me. And, all throughout college and to this day, I’ve always been drawn to those songwriters who are on the fringes.”
2. On when he moved to Austin from Dallas in 2007 to concentrate on playing music:
“I thought when I got out of college I should go get a good job in Dallas. Like, ‘You’re armed with two degrees, this is what you’re supposed to do. But as each day passed by, I was like, ‘I don’t care about this. I, I don’t want to work in a public relations firm. I don’t want to be a suit representing some clients and I don’t want to have to shave every day.
“So when I turned 27, I got my heart broken and as sometimes life will do, it’ll dictate change. And I said, ‘I’m making a break, and I’m moving to Austin. It’s a place I want to live, it’s a place I want to start playing music. Win, lose or draw, that’s what I’m going to do.’ I wish I had gotten into it earlier; I’m probably a little late to the game. But I think at the end of the day if a person’s doing something that makes them happy, then it really doesn’t matter how they got there.”
3. Band members Dustin Meyer (bass), Annah Fisette (keyboards, mandolin), Coby Tate (guitar) and Reinisch, talking with each other about musicianship:
Meyer (addressing Fisette): “I remember we had one conversation when you were like, ‘Would it be cool if I brought a mandolin in and just tried it out? And I was like, ‘Oh my god, yes! Bring a mandolin in! It’s amazing! You can play that?’”
Fisette: “I grew up playing violin in middle school and high school, so it was kind of easy to pick up the mandolin.”
Tate: “It’s not so easy to go the opposite way, though. Because I play mandolin too, and after I played mandolin for a couple years, I was like, I bet I could shred on the violin now. And I was over at a buddy’s house and he had one, and he was like, ‘Give me that.’ I was horrible. It was the most horrible thing ever!”
Reinisch: “You sounded like a dying goose. (Laughter all around) But Coby is the best guitar player hands down I’ve ever played with in my entire life. And he’s kind of nontraditional in certain ways. But Annah really opened us up vocally with the harmonies, and she’s a fantastic keys player, and can even take some leads when Coby’s not playing lead. With these two, it’s opened up a lot more possibilities musically, and just rounded out the sound that I don’t think Dustin and I have ever had. They’re two valuable weapons.”
4. New drummer Wes Cargal, about his work with Jonathan Terrell’s rock band Not in the Face:
“We had some really good momentum, and we’re writing stuff still that I feel like is going to be really good. We’re still going to be active, but Jonathan’s got a great opportunity with the solo stuff. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to this band so much, because the songwriting’s so good.”
5. Reinisch on his tendency to pack lots of words into the songs on the band’s new album, “Rival”:
“I try not to repeat the same chorus. That’s kind of by design. I’m very unapologetically a big Dylan fan, so years and years of listening to him I think somehow has weaseled into my brain when I’m doing some of this stuff. But I treat the chorus as another opportunity to further the story along. I understand the purpose of the chorus is to kind of use a nice little summation to capture the theme of the song. But when you can use it to further the story along, I think that’s more important.
“Another thing that might be counterintuitive to how much I like to write lyrics, and as wordy as I get, is that I want to keep a song between three and a half minutes and four minutes at most. I think we only have one song that’s approaching the four-minute mark on this album. But three and a half minutes is where I like to be. If you can’t get your point across and be catchy in that time — you know, we’re not a jam band.”
6. On the album track “Your Damn Vanity,” which includes some local perspective in its observations of “new condos, urban sprawl and high rises blocking out the sky / Austin ain’t quite what she used to be, but then neither are you and I”:
“It’s kind of a juxtaposition between the way a relationship changed and the backdrop to all that with the changing city as well. When you have the panic and the anxiety and the personal upheaval of ending a relationship, and you turn around and look, and all this stuff is changing, and you don’t quite recognize where you are.
“I wouldn’t call it a larger social statement, but it is a commentary on it. I think at the root, that song’s about narcissism. And it was probably the root problem in that relationship, for everyone involved. And then with the city, when I first moved here, I always thought Austin was kind of a small town masquerading as a big city. And to me it just feels like a big city masquerading as a bigger city now. It’s kind of undergoing a sea change.
“Some of it I don’t think is absolutely positive. But the good thing is that I think if you meet a stranger in Austin, it’s still easy to talk to people. People go out of their way to be friendly to you. Just kind of running around in the circles and the pockets and places that I do, there’s a community there. I think that still exists.”