Introducing....Harpers Ferry

Ben Harvey, Christopher Rayner and Pia Varma form folk-rock trio Harpers Ferry. With one current single out at the moment (and more music in the works) Pia takes lead vocals on the catchy What To Believe.

The pace behind the acoustic guitar led melody works well alongside Pia's smooth vocal and Chris and Ben provide a very strong harmony with their backing vocals. With an Americana orientated sound, the track is full of lyrics like "is this real or is this in my head" challenging listeners to question what they hear.The overall track comes together really well, my only negative point is that the electric guitar accompaniment at the end of the track can feel a little overpowering compared to the rest of the production choices.

What To Believe is certainly a very good starting point for the trio. They are a talented group and are definitely worth keeping an eye on!




I recently caught up with the trio to ask them some questions....

What first drew you all to country music?
Ben - It's probably my fault. I'm the big country music fan of the group but mainly sort of traditional country and the bluegrass side of things primarily. I got Chris playing pedal steel licks on his new Telecaster and stuff like that - he's a great guitar player - so I got him doing those things and luckily the guys really like it! Pia's now tipping me off about the best country songs out there so I started it all but these guys are well into it as well. 
How would you describe your music to new listeners?
Ben - We call it sort of generically folk-rock mixed with a sort of Americana feel. 
Pia - We also have this sort of affinity to all things late 60s early 70s. I guess just a lot of bands right now like the Dawes and Mandolin Orange that take so many different styles. I guess folk-rock would probably be the best way.
You don't have much music out at the moment, what can listeners expect from a full album?
Ben - A full album would be sort of alluding to what we've just said, like a gumbo of different styles and songs. We all contribute to the song-writing so we've all got a different way of going about accomplishing that. That kind of Crosby, Stills and Nash element to an album where you've got the three distinct song-writing styles. So quite a mixture but all under that banner of folk-country-blues-Americana.
Pia - We've tried to be very 'of our time' lyrically so most of our songs are about things that we're going through and our peers are going through. We all kind of have 9-5 jobs, we go on Facebook and all the rest of it, so it's just we like to talk about current events and current issues.
All three of you are different nationalities, do you feel as though that gives you an advantage compared to other groups?
Pia - It's something I think that a lot of people have clung on to when they remember us. We were recently interviewed by Claire Carter on BBC Gloucestershire, we've been written up about by a few local papers and they always tend to bring up the fact that Chris is a Kiwi, I'm an American and Ben is a Brit and I think people are quite intrigued by that story. I think most bands, they grew up together, live in the same place.
Ben - We've never thought of it but it has kind of become a thing for us now that we are a multi-cultural band! 
Who has the most annoying habits?
Chris - Me! [laughs]
Pia - Well Chris is always late.
Ben - I can't bare being late for anything. 
Pia - Ben is always ridiculously early, like two hours early! [laughs] I don't know what's more annoying! And I'm really clumsy so...
Ben - Ah yeah, don't leave your guitar standing too near Pia...
Pia - I don't know which of those is the most annoying.
If you could only take one non-essential item on tour what would you pick?
Pia - Hair straighteners [laughs] 
Chris - I'd probably take my iPad but then we use it for set lists...
Ben - That's quite essential!  
Pia - Hair straighteners are quite essential aren't they? [laughs]
Chris - I might take a book.
Ben - A bottle of Jim Beam [laughs] 
How do you feel country music is received in different countries?
Ben - Over here it's quite difficult because in America it feels like country music is almost their pop music, it's their mainstream source of music. Over here it's a bit pastiche sometimes, it's a bit sort of ridiculed, especially the poppier end of the country spectrum. There is sort of an underground culture where a lot of the older country is quite well received over here. So there's sort of two sides to the story really I think. 
Pia - There's a band The Shires now that are so popular and I think there is this weird kind of growing UK country music scene. It's sort of a very fast growing market actually.
Ben - It's burgeoning from a few years ago where it was probably a bit more like I've alluded to but yeah I suppose The Shires and bands like that are making it more 
acceptable over here.
Pia - We've got about three bands that we do a lot of gigs with and stuff and they're all quite up-and-coming and constantly on local radio and all of them say that they have country routes and they describe themselves as folk-rock and also country rock. I guess country music started in the UK, in Britain, years and years...like originally. 
Ben - The roots are still here. All the routes of country music when you think of it in terms of mountain music, Appalachian music and the real folky end of the country spectrum with bluegrass and stuff like that, that all has it's roots here anyway. So from that perspective then people really can sort of latch on to it. 
What are your favourite parts about being musicians?
Chris - Lack of responsibility I think would sit pretty highly as a starting point.
Ben - Chris is lucky to be able to play music full-time. He teaches guitar during the day and then plays. Pia and I are sort of office workers by day, musicians by night. The best thing about it is that camaraderie you get, it's sort of the anecdote to the working day for us. Some bands who are full time maybe don't get that same feeling but for us it's just escapism. 
And what's your least favourite part?
All - Setting up!
Ben - Pia helps, she goes and buys the brings whilst we're setting up [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Ben - We get quite a lot of advice, my dad's a guitar player as well, we meet a lot of musicians and people associated with music on the road and everywhere we go so we all get lots of different bits of advice. Some of it you realise it actually probably wasn't worth listening to and some of it you realise you should listen to that.
Pia - Don't give up your day job! [laughs]
Ben - That sort of thing! Basically the key thing is to enjoy it and do it as often as you can.
Pia - Also, a piece of advice my dad always gave me is focus on the details, like learn the chords, learn the scales, learn your craft and then....
Ben - The rest will follow!
Chris - But also, we've been given a lot of advice off...every single one of them would call themselves in their own way a leading person in the music industry...and they all disagree with each other! Essentially you kind of just make your own picture by picking out little bits that you like of everyone's advice and going I'm just going to kind of muddle my way in that direction and somewhere along the way there is some sort of semblance of success in there.
Pia - As much as you have a picture of what you want you have to also be able to go with the flow a bit and let opportunities happen.
Ben - And create your own life. 
Are there any new tour plans in the works?
Ben - Yeah Pia, you've got an angle on that haven't you?
Pia - Yeah, we're doing a bunch of gigs coming up, just us, which we'll be announcing soon, at some really cool local venues. Then, I believe like spring time, we're planning a six or seven date tour with some of the bands I was talking about earlier, it would be like an Americana-country kind of night which we would then take to various locations, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, maybe London, there's a few venues. We're planning that and then this summer we've got a few festivals...we don't want to say the name yet because it's just in the early stages of finalising dates and stuff. 
Can we expect to see you at C2C?
Ben - Ah that'd be good! [laughs] Maybe not in 2016 but hopefully some point.
Pia - But we'd love to go and watch. Andrew Coombs, one of our favourite up-and-coming artists is playing this year so it'd be awesome to see him. We saw Mandolin Orange in Bristol at The Tunnels which was amazing. There are a lot of country music artists from the States who are now coming over to the UK a lot.  
Thanks to Ben, Pia and Chris for their time! You can find more details about the band on their website here.

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