After the Indiana-based folk-punks Harley Poe went on an indefinite hiatus in 2015, there seemed the very real possibility that we would never get to see the band live again or listening to new material written, recorded and released by them. Fortunately, no one had to wait too long for Joe Whiteford (guitarist/vocalist/songwriter) to compose and drop a stripped-down solo album, ‘Fallen Down,’ under the Harley Poe moniker. In recent months the band performed two reunion shows, and even more recently released a brand new full-band album, ‘Lost and Losing It,’ which was released February 14th, 2017, Valentine's Day.
While Harley Poe's signature sound remains the same, 'Lost and Losing It' is a different kind of album than the band's previous releases. Rather than the monsters, mayhem and sharp, twisted humor of Harley Poe's earlier horror-punk meets folk-punk songs, this latest album was a considerably more personal endeavor, clearly meant to exercise demons, seal some of the cracks in a broken heart, deal with the anxiety of life's more trying times, gain strength, and continue moving forward. This last is made pretty evident in the opening track's song title, "Persevere."
Some of the other standout songs on 'Lost and Losing It' include: "I Wanna Die," "We're All Human," "Demons," "I Can't Stand Myself," "So Small," and "It's Only Temporary." Yes, the tracks listed here amount to over half of the album, but it is truly one of those albums that is good all the way through, and especially these songs.
Recently I had the opportunity and pleasure of catching up with Harley Poe’s Joe Whiteford to discuss the new album and a few other related topics.
PUNK GLOBE: For a while, at or around the time you were releasing the last of the band’s ‘7 Inches from Hell’ vinyl series on HorrorHound Records, the future of Harley Poe was uncertain. You guys didn’t play shows for a while, and no album was planned until you released the stripped-down solo full-length ‘Fallen Down.’ Now, having played a few shows and having released what is arguably the band’s best album since ‘Wretched. Filthy. Ugly.’, is it safe to say that Harley Poe is officially back…at least for while?
HARLEY POE: Harley Poe needed to take a break. I was having a hard time with myself and my marriage, and I didn't want to play any more shows. I also was at a place where I wanted complete control of the music I was creating. My life was falling apart, so I just ended the band. Meanwhile, the 7 inches still were being released and I couldn't help writing 'Lost and Losing it.' I had to vent; the songs were just pouring out. So things were still happening behind the scenes since our last shows in October of 2015. Now the 7 inches are all finished and available; our two reunion shows were successful and I think everyone had a good time; and there are a great amount of built up feelings I can finally drop with the release of 'Lost and Losing It.' I feel closure for the moment and plan to take more time pursuing storytelling through sculpting and drawing. But as long as I'm going through this life, I will most likely always vent through my songwriting. So Harley Poe isn't going anywhere as long as people are listening. Though I make no promises on performing live at this time :)
PUNK GLOBE: ‘Lost and Losing It’ is less horror-themed and decidedly more serious and personal than previous efforts. But a lot of serious shit seems to have happened to you personally in the last year or two. Was this album more of a cathartic exercise? And how has your art helped you deal with issues that have arisen in your life and made the day-to-day seem difficult to endure?
HARLEY POE: Yeah, definitely no vampires or zombies in this album. Not much humor either. It was my therapy. I could be as honest as I wanted to be. I needed to get my feelings out. I wanted everyone to know what I was thinking, because I knew what was happening to me has happened to so many others. Heartbreak and death. Questioning my purpose in life. Wondering where God is. Some people are fine with paying strangers to listen to their issues. Others go crazy and self destruct. I had no control over my situation, but it has always been easy for me to let that frustration out through song, so naturally I release my demons through Harley Poe. This album is a collection of my therapy sessions. It's a different kind of horror.
PUNK GLOBE: The new batch of songs are, at times, pretty self-deprecating, marked by suffering, sprinkled with heavy questions about your personal place in existence and the meaning of it all, but with a noticeable strength, hope and desire to move forward throughout. In addition to coping yourself, was it part of your intention with this album to help others that are experiencing similar struggles?
HARLEY POE: Yessir. After releasing 'Fallen Down' I began to receive more personal mail from fans who were struggling with depression and breakups. Most people just want to connect; to know that someone else feels their hopelessness. With 'Lost and Losing It' I wanted the songs to be completely honest, because the more open I was with my situation, the more others could relate. It brings hope when you can connect with others. We all go through the same shit. We can all get through it.
PUNK GLOBE: You are a visual artist in addition to being a singer/songwriter, and you obviously did the cover art for ‘Lost and Losing It.’ Do you find one of the two mediums more rewarding, and is there anything that one does for you that the other does not?
HARLEY POE: I vent more through my songwriting. I revel in my anxiety, guilt, and depression through it, which I'm not sure is always healthy. But I have a sense of security in playing music. I've done it for so long and it seems that more fans know of me through Harley Poe. I'm not sure I can stop making music, but I don't care for it as much as my desire to tell stories through illustrating. I believe my focus and passion will become more evident in future endeavors not having as much to do with music, though I don't see myself ever putting down my guitar. I would love to focus more on illustrated stories like "Herschell" or "Lewis".
PUNK GLOBE: Anyone who is a fan of Harley Poe knows very well that you are a huge fan of horror. What is it about the genre and its subgenres that appeals to you? And, if there are any future Harley Poe albums, might you return, at least in part, to horror inspired songs?
HARLEY POE: Horror is punk. That's what I like. You get it or you don't. And yeah...no way I can just abandon my love for the genre. It's my personality. There will definitely be more songs from the dark side. But I am also seeing things from a different perspective these days. I enjoy writing positive songs and I'd like to try some different styles as well. We'll see.
PUNK GLOBE: What are a couple of your favorite songs from the new album?
HARLEY POE: Hmmm... I don't know. I know my favorite thing about the new album is definitely the additional vocals by Jamie Johnson. I think Harley Poe albums have different elements that set them apart from each other. Over the years there have been many members adding their unique influences to the songs, helping each album to have its own sound. The female vocals on this record, I think, help it stand out.
PUNK GLOBE: Is it true that you narrowly survived a tornado touching down in your hometown in Indiana?
HARLEY POE: Yes. Myself and about twenty others were taking shelter in the bathrooms when the building fell around us. My life started over that day.
PUNK GLOBE: I haven’t seen any label attached to the ‘Lost and Losing It’ release. Did you independently record and release this one?
HARLEY POE: Yessir. It's just easier. And then I have control of my own art.
PUNK GLOBE: Who are the players on the new album?
HARLEY POE: The one and only Gregg Manfredi returned to throw down some mad bass lines with his upright. Jamie Johnson sang all the female parts and played some keys. She is such a delight. I plan to have her on future releases. Her voice just adds so much. Matt Clark recorded, mixed, and played brush work on the album. I got to know him a little over the summer and found out he'd been through a lot of the same shit I was going through, and so we connected. He offered to record the album and then offered his very precise drumming skills. I was just so impressed with him. Schedules didn't always line up to record, so it was cool that he lived close and could record drums on his own time. And he also brought in his friend Steven Berghoff to play piano and organ, which helped bring the songs to life. Steven was also a joy to work with. I also had some friends shout some group vocals in a couple songs. Angel Ramos, who also survived the tornado with me, and some cool dudes (Renny and Taylor) from Mainstreet Skatepark here in town also yelled a bit. Everyone did such a wonderful job!
PUNK GLOBE: Other than the release of ‘Lost and Losing It,’ are there any events coming up for Harley Poe?
HARLEY POE: Probably not, but I have a phone full of melodies and song titles at the moment. I'm also talking about an acoustic tour with Homeless Gospel Choir, and maybe releasing something through Failure Records. Nothing in stone. One day at a time. I'm eager to see how well the new album does with the fans.
For those interested in Joseph's music, visual art, or both, his links are: