Harvey Causon: Inspired by Subatomic Matter, Serotonin, and Social Media [Interview]

Updated: May 5, 2019

Interview with Harvey Causon

photos by Phil Martin

“We understand our situations while they’re concrete / What if they melted into liquid in the blistering heat?” Harvey Causon asks in the opening lines of his most recent single, “London Stock”. The rich, complex imagery of his lyrics are just one part of the hypnotizing production that is his music, self-labeled as “homemade electro-pop butter”. But on the first listen, it might seem to resist fitting the mold of a genre.

“I think I’ve been lucky in that I have had a lot of close people around me with different and interesting music tastes, from R&B to jazz, drill, afrobeat and dubstep,” Harvey explains. “I like to merge different ideas and tones, and use found sounds to keep things fresh. This year I got my first proper analogue synth after spending years trying to create sounds with computers, so that should be fun.”

The Bristol-based musician makes easy listening out of the unexpected. His releases thus far feature unique sounds, yet they are intertwined with insistent, recognizable melodies inside of carefully-crafted layers. “I like to record random things to sample,” he says. “I sometimes wake up to lots of strange recordings on my phone after a night out. I have only rarely started being really prolific with shorter ideas, whereas before if I started something like a beat, then the next thing I made, whether it be a weird synth line or concept for the lyrical content, would get forced into one piece. I think having live elements in something can always add something interesting and ultimately be more accessible on a human level, so I like to just merge sounds. Mount Kimbie, Tirzah, and Photay do it really well for me!”

As a producer as well as songwriter and singer, Harvey is all too familiar with each step of the process, getting a “big kick out of staying up till 4am when the creative juices are flowing for an idea”. However, despite the individuality of his soundscape, production wasn’t always his strong suit. “Learning to produce music to the level that’s deemed acceptable these days was probably where I was most out of my comfort zone a few years ago. It’s something you have to really want and spend all your time with.” Where he really feels most in his element is playing live. “It’s the biggest high. I have always performed since I was a kid, and I’ve always been excited by the nerves and thrill of playing in front of people.”

After his 2017 debut with A/B side single “Frisson / Alliance”, he worked on a collaboration titled ‘Murphy’s Hand’ with Gabriel Gifford. “Gabe’s my flatmate and we have a great space that we share for music in Bristol. It was weird that it took so long for us to make music together, but it makes a lot of sense when we do. We’ve recently been doing some sessions together on each other’s solo projects and for features with artists,” he reveals.

His next step was to sign to a record label called New Fugue, just recently founded by electronic musician Henry Green. “Henry is a man of many talents and a good friend of mine,” Harvey says. “He has really supported me from early on and releasing the first single on something that could potentially be a really great creative collective in the future is exciting.” With single “London Stock” released through the label in November 2018, Harvey set the bar high with a thoughtful track about trying to grasp a sense of purpose after leaving home. Even after the release of the song, it’s still a feeling he struggles with.

“The uncertainty of it all still resonates with me strangely. All I know is that music helps, and I find a lot of meaning about everything and myself through writing. I still am reading a lot into quantum physics and the strange, quite inconceivable nature of subatomic matter (atoms going through walls, being in two places at once kinda thing). The philosophical questions are still there; 'what if our realities - structures, architecture, and physical brickworks - are constructed in mere observation?' But the song was a metaphorical depiction of new locations, brickwork, and structure breaking down in the mind and the overcoming of this. But Bristol’s great, I love it.”

These observations and musings Harvey expresses through his music, joined together with symbolic visuals, are what make him stand out as an artist. “’Frisson’ was a song about how people react to music differently and can hear something completely different to what you might be processing,” he details. “It was also about a question of whether people use musical frisson (goosebumps/serotonin release) as a barometer for what good music is. I think I came to the conclusion in the lyrics that 'we are all servants to the thing that made the blackbird sing’; in essence, there’s a lot we don’t know about the earth and our senses. Working with Maddy Weavers, I wanted the artwork to depict that uncanniness and unknowingness with the sinking hole and the birds trying to fly away from it. ‘Murphy’s Hand’ was a song about a friend who’s pretty backwards with technology and social media, and the tin cans are there to represent more social means of communication. ‘London Stock’’s artwork references Young’s slit experiments, alluding to the spooky interference of quantum physics, yet with the screens made up of London Stock brickwork referencing reality being not what it seems in a similar way macroscopically.”

Although all of Harvey’s songs seem to examine emotions from original angles, not all of them explore quantum physics. “I like to write words or concepts I find interesting down. I have a blackboard with lots of post-it notes stuck to it,” he says. “People take the piss when they come round saying I’m a crazy man. But it’s a great way of conceptualising ideas and coming up with lyrics on the spot and drawing connections between present and past ideas. Some songs are written in one, are blunt and about people or experiences, and some take time and are more about philosophy or big questions I have that require a fair bit of research.”

Once his interesting concepts and sounds have captured your imagination, expect something new in the near future. “More music in smaller increments and potentially a slightly bigger one at the end of the year…Maybe some exciting shows and definitely more motion picture cameos.” Maybe he’ll be back with answers to some of those big questions.

Listen to "London Stock"

"London Stock" music video:

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