Her Royal Harness: Music for Moving the Masses

My favorite thing about Her Royal Harness is the existentialism in their craft.  Songwriter Helene Jaeger explains that the inspiration behind the project’s moniker is the notion of individuals...

My favorite thing about Her Royal Harness is the existentialism in their craft.  Songwriter Helene Jaeger explains that the inspiration behind the project’s moniker is the notion of individuals being forced to fit into pre-existing identities: “From the time you are born, people around you continually attempt to define who you are.  That’s one way of looking at the harness.”  She has also said that much of the inspiration behind the project itself is the pure power pop music can have over an entire culture and it’s ability to, both literally and figuratively, move the masses.  Her Royal Harness is a collaboration between Jaeger and London producer and instrumentalist Dylan Long, who met in an internet music forum (over a fight).  The duo’s first release garnered quite a bit of critical and major label attention, however, the band quickly became bored with their earliest sounds and wanted something new.  They took a year to write their follow-up, The Hunting Room, which is out June 24th on Manufacture Records.  The album rings of a variety of influences, from late ‘70s/early ‘80s Post-Punk and New Wave to Hip-Hop, Electronica, and Alt Rock of the mid-‘90s.  There’s also something very soulful and grand about it.  It’s often quite dark, but ultimately comes off as a playfully optimistic exercise.  I recently got a chance to chat with Helene Jaeger about just how and why this album came about and why it has something for pretty much all of our readers.

Her Royal Harness photo 1Izzy Cihak: I understand that your first encounter with Dylan Long ended up an argument, so I’m inclined to ask: What was the argument about?

Helene Jaeger: It was silly, really. You know the way people try to work each other out when they first meet, see what makes them tick? We were talking and The Doors came up. I felt that they were a bit of a joke because I’d only ever seen Oliver Stone’s film as a child. Dylan had loved them ever since he found “L.A. Woman” on cassette tape, lying in the street, when he was thirteen. He thought if I just got past all the rock clichés, I would love them. That film really damaged the reputation of one of the first great genre-synthesis bands … and a truly unique, forward-thinking individual.

IC: And how would you describe your current process of collaboration?

HJ: Agonizing! No, seriously – I write the songs, he makes them.

IC: How would you characterize The Hunting Room?  (I’ve been referring to your sound as “If Siouxsie were a dancing queen.”  Hopefully that’s not offensive.) What were its biggest influences and inspirations, whether they are musical or not?

HJ: I guess The Hunting Room could be described as pop psychoanalysis in that it reflects the things I was going through at the time when we made it. Losing my job and removing myself from the people I’d been around for a long time, who were actually very bad for me, definitely shaped things thematically. I love Siouxsie, so thanks for that part of the description, but if you’re referring to ABBA, I really don’t feel there’s anything Scandinavian about us at all … I was a bit of a loner as a kid, mainly grew up in books and films, dreaming of new places. They’re also way before my time. I was more a 90s pop kid, that and my Dad’s record collection (he’s a huge reggae and 60s rock and soul fan) definitely crept into my subconscious.

In general, I’ve always gravitated towards artists who have an uncompromising vision, old and new romanticists, and I love certain pop eras, early rock’n’roll and punk, music that expresses those intense moments that feel like they exist on some level above normal living. It seems like romanticism is unfashionable right now but, in our view, it’s one of the few things that’s able to provide some resistance to all the careerism in music today.

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IC: Do you have a favorite track from the album, or one which you feel like best represents your current musical mindset? I have a hard time narrowing it down, but I definitely think “Bear in a Trap” and “Colour Me” are my two favorites.

HJ: I think nearly every song on the album has been my favourite at some point, but I really love the purity of “I Can’t Believe.” It gets me every time when I play it. Sometimes I hate them all though.

IC: I know it’s totally lame to ask about this, but you have a really cool fashion sense (Our “style” editor agrees.)  What inspires that?  Do you have style icons, whether they be people, periods, or artistic movements?

HJ: Thank you. Well, it’s something we both think about and approach from different angles. We like to do everything ourselves and think that being an artist means it shouldn’t stop with the music. I’m a big fan of the aesthetic that came out of punk, Jamie Reid’s work for the Sex Pistols and Vivienne Westwood’s designs for the Sex shop, and the idea that fashion and style can be so directly subversive. I also tend to gravitate toward old religious art, like Byzantine icons – they have an otherworldly quality to them, a sense that there is more to existence than what you see around you at any given moment.

IC: What are you most excited for in the second half of 2013?  Any particularly significant plans or goals?

HJ: Play live as much as possible. We also have some more videos we’re making. Coming over to play in the US would be a dream.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.