Larkin Poe – The Blood Harmony interview

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Larkin Poe Strike Gold With Blood Harmony

A few years ago, I discovered a pair of artists who captured the essence of everything that I love about rock music. Their YouTube channel, packed with entertaining covers of all my favourite classics from Black Sabbath to the Beatles, along with their original songs, kept my spirits up during the lockdown. So it was a real treat to finally get to speak with Larkin Poe after hearing their new album Blood Harmony.

I caught up with sisters Megan and Rebecca while they were enjoying some home time in Nashville. 

“I listened to the new album and I really love it, and it’s very bluesy and it’s kind of rockish.  Do you think it’s the album where you’ve explored the most on?” Annette 

“I feel like since we started our record label in 2017 (Tricky. Woo Records) such that we could have as much as we could, you know, attain unfettered creative freedom to be able to do the explorations that we wanted to do.  So I think that one of the hallmarks of Larkin Poe is the fact that we do try to live beneath a pretty broad umbrella.  We call ourselves Roots Rock and Roll, such that we’re able to do a bunch of different styles and represent the many angles of our musical, you know, appreciation and love cuz we grew up playing bluegrass.  We love the blues, we love old-style country, we love Rockabilly, we love rock and roll. I love Heavy Metal and stuff like that, that doesn’t make as much an appearance in, in what we do <laugh>, but to be able to, you know, let every little bit of who we are fly as a flag has been very important.  And I do think that we’ve done that as well with creating a pretty diverse album in Blood Harmony.” Rebecca 

“Well, that’s what I love about your music is you explore a lot.  And, I’m thinking of artists like Jack White and people like that,  you know, they’re punk, they’re rock, they’re countryish, they’re bluesy.  I mean, he worked with Loretta Lynn. I love that aspect of rock music or whatever you wanna call it, that you don’t just stick to one specific style, but you incorporate so many different, I’m gonna call it flavours in the music.” Annette 

“Yeah, and I think it’s so intriguing as well because, you know, when you do have bands like a Jack White or even like an Elvis Costello, and this is an artist who is creating music that is based in the roots of traditional American music because when you dig down deep enough, you hit that foundational level, which is the blues and all of, you know, the offshoots of American music have sprung from that same root. So, I think that it is possible to have a band or a sound that encompasses all those flavours, like you say, but they are coming from a similar source.

So it feels authentic.” Rebecca 

“And diversifying means you can have a very long, broad career.   You know, you can dabble in a lot of different genres.  You can go a lot of different directions and kind of keep people guessing.” Megan 

“I remember during lockdown, I watched a lot of your covers that you did, which were really, really cool. I mean, you covered almost everybody, artists that you wouldn’t expect, you know, like from Black Sabbath to The Beatles to Elton John, and you put your little spin on it with your slide guitar or your lap steel and all.” Annette 

“We’ve been doing that cover video series for a number of years now. And we originally started the series just as a learning tool because it’s always good to keep learning and being able to learn other people’s riffs and how other people sing and how other people write songs.  It can be really great to kind of push yourself forward as an artist or as a musician…And we did not expect it to take off like it did. I think people enjoy the decisions that we make of the songs that we choose. That’s a little bit surprising sometimes, but it all always kind of sounds like us somehow.  And it’s like a lot of these are songs that we just wish we had written. We wish that they were ours.  And it is kind of fun to put an element of ourselves into the songs that we love.” Megan 

“Can you name me a song that you’d wish you had written?” Annette 

“Bell Bottom Blues.” Rebecca 

“I was gonna say Bell Bottom Blues. That’s so funny. Of all the songs, I think I would’ve loved to have written Bell Bottom Blues, but really just point and click on any of our videos.  And I probably would’ve wished that we had written it.” Megan 

“So, Rebecca, you write all the lyrics?” Annette 

“The majority, yeah.” Rebecca 

“And Megan, do you kind of chip in sometimes with the lyrics or you’re mostly putting the riffs together?” Annette 

Blood Harmony, in particular, we did come together and collaborated a lot on the songs, a lot of the beginnings of ideas.  And the lyrics tend to come from Rebecca, but we do heavily edit together. So she’ll kind of have an idea and then, particularly in recording this album, we came together and just sat and played the songs and edited, rewrote and changed a lot of the songs from kind of just a nugget of an idea.” Megan 

“Okay. Cause sometimes lyrics are personal.” Annette 

“Right. So…, since she is the lead singer, I think it’s important for the lyrics to feel right in her mouth. Like it should be authentic.” Megan 

Watch the full interview below:

“So, there’s a lot of dark and disturbing topics that you deal with… and I don’t know how to phrase it… There was a line I loved which is super lyrical;

The cat’s in the bag. The bag’s in the river.

The river runs deep and the deep stays down

(The Deep Stays Down)

The way that you phrased that together, it’s really catchy and it’s stuck in my ear for a while.

 What’s your process like? Do words just come to you?” Annette 

“I love that you picked that line, those couple of lines out specifically.  I do hope that folks will listen and understand that we are speaking with the use of metaphor.  We’re not necessarily talking about the drowning of cats <laugh>. But also, I think as a writer, I do love alliteration and I really like and especially connect with writers like Chris Whitley, who is a great Houston-based blues artist, or Tom Waits, and these are writers that use a lot of strong imagery and language of expression where you’re building pictures.   And yeah, you’re using very chewy words that have a lot of you know, just a lot of sparkle to them.  So, I do like to write songs from, you know, personal perspective about relationships or loving and losing or the human experience.  But I think always trying to put those themes through a lens that makes it more saturated and more colourful always feels like a lot of fun.  And I think a lot of that, the colour and fun also comes from having lyrics that do have the alliteration and there’s internal rhymes within lines, or there’s just like chunky words, you know what I mean?  So, I do, I can get very obsessive about my lyrics and I’ll just be sitting here in silence.  And I usually, where I’m sitting right now is where I write the majority of my songs and it’s just trying to get lines to, I don’t know, stand on their own but then work in context.  And so I put a lot of love in my lyrics.” Rebecca 

“Okay. Well, it shows because people don’t realize how hard it is to write good songs. I always refer to Tom Petty as one of my favourite songwriters.   His lyrics seem simplistic;

she’s a good girl, she loves her mama, or whatever, you know, so simple. But then he’s telling you such a deep and rich, multilayered story, right?” Annette 

“Yeah. Big aspirations to be able to write with that much negative space. Because I do think that Petty is easily one of the pinnacle writers of all time with his ability and not just, you know, within a single song.  But then you zoom out and you look at his entire discography.  And his ability to pull the rabbit out of the hat umpteen million times is just remarkable.

I feel grateful to have been alive at the same time as him.”Rebecca 

“Yeah. Excuse my singing, by the way.” <laugh>.Annette 

“No, it’s great. That’s great. Never apologize for singing.” Megan 

Georgia Off My Mind” is that about being homesick?” Annette 

“You know, we find in retrospect throughout many albums at this point, we do have a proclivity about writing about home. We have a proclivity towards a little bit of homesickness. And I really do think it’s just based on the fact that for the last 15 years, we spent a majority of our adult lives away from home.  We’re on the road on tour, you know, all the time and we love it. We love the fast-paced, hither/tither, you know, itchy feet, never standing still.  But then, I do think in being gone, there is always that bittersweet sense of missing home. So it seems to show up quite often in songwriting.  And we wrote Tennessee, Keep Georgia off my mind about that transition, you know, now seven years ago when we left Northern Georgia and moved back to Tennessee.  And I think that so many people can relate to that tipping moment, right? Where you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, and you’re sort of in that state of moving to a new chapter.  And it’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s a little bittersweet. It’s, you know, introspective and we wrote Georgia off My Mind while also being so, so terribly clever with piggybacking almost entirely off of the classic Georgia On My Mind off our one and only Mr. Ray Charles.

“Well, I liked also the fact that, as you said, since you’re a fan of all music and you do a lot of covers, and now here’s this reference to Ray Charles.  Also the one about the bad spell (one of my favourites) has really fuzzy guitar on it. I really like that one; Bad Spell. I think you said it was sort of a response to I Put a Spell on You by screaming Jay Hawkins.  It kinda gave me a little bit of a Black Keys vibe”. Annette 

“I love that you picked up on the fuzzy guitar because I think that’s gotta be the most badass guitar tone on the record. I really cranked up the Fuzz pedal on that one.” Megan

“I love the Black Keys, and in the same vein, Jack White, artists that I think, have done their best to really move with reverence and giving kudos to the past. The artists that have come before that, you know, have laid the foundation for the music that they both make and that so many of us in this field, and I do respect, you know, the conscientiousness and the self-awareness with which they make blues music.” Rebecca 

“Well, when y’all appeared on my newsfeed a couple of years ago with all the covers, and you pay homage to a lot of great artists that came before you, but you still have your own sound and your own flavour and your own twist cause you’re authentic and you’re also, you’re curious and your music keeps changing…I find this album a little heavier or a little more personal.

Or, as you’re growing older, so to speak, finding more of your voice. I mean, you always had your own voice, but I guess you’re in your thirties now?  You change, right? You sort of look at things differently. Maybe you feel more confident, you’ve put in your time, you’ve paid your dues, so to speak.” Annette 

“You’re so kind to say all that. And I do think this is our most grounded album today. Every album that we make, we learn a little bit more about ourselves. And I do feel very confident with this album. I think of any of the projects that we have worked on together, I think both Megan and I were able to come together in a really new way to create this music. It’s by far the most collaborative album that we’ve made together as sisters. In a way that I think really sets the music free.  So I’m super grateful that we’ve been able to reach this point, you know, in our relationship as sisters and music makers and songwriters to have created an album that does feel very representative of who we are and where we are at this point in time. And that’s refreshing.” Rebecca   

“Okay, there’s another line that I really liked in Bolt Cutters.” Annette 

“Yeah, you can take me out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of me.  Which I feel is such an important type of energy for women to remember. You know, I think that culturally there is so much pressure placed on women to be you know, very polite and kind and manage our emotions appropriately. And all that’s good and fun. And I do think that there’s a lot of strength that I think women are able to carry based on some of the societal pressures that are placed on us.  But the reminder that just because the pressure is there doesn’t mean that we need to respond. So to definitely carry your fight and when you need to stand up and open your mouth when you need to not do something, when you need to say NO, say it, just let it out.

Let it out. Full force, volume on 11.” Rebecca 

“Cause you’re in a really male-dominated kind of industry as well and your style of music as well. So I think we need voices like this. Like I’m a fan of Margo Price and artists like that, that sing about things that are maybe uncomfortable but in your face.” Annette 

“I agree. And I think it definitely requires women to raise up the women that they believe in and support.  Rebecca 

Blood Harmony is a deep and delicious exploration of dark moods, raw emotion, wit and humour with a storytelling style that slaps you hard and leaves you wanting more. Larkin Poe go deep into their southern roots with clever and edgy lyrics paired with bold and vigorous riffs.  From the upbeat tongue-twisting “Kick The Blues” to the hard-hitting “Bad Spell” with the super fuzzy tone. My top three tracks are the hauntingly seductive The Deep Stays Down, the supercharged Strike Gold and the powerful Bolt Cutters.

Annette Aghazarian 

November 8, 2022

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