EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Harper of Class Actress
Earlier this month, Elizabeth Harper of Class Actress chatted with The Owl Mag before playing a set at The Casbah in San Diego. We talked about her theatrical background, a new album to be released in 2011, and living for right now.
The Owl Mag: You went from LA to UC Berkeley to Brooklyn. What got you out to NY?
Harper: You know it was just this friend that I met who had a theatre company and he actually just made this documentary called Gasland that won at Sundance and is doing really well. His name is Josh Fox and he was like â€˜I want you to come out and be in my theatre company’ and I was a drama major so I was like â€˜Sure! I’ll come for the summer”. And it was like the proverbial one suitcase, come to NY, and then never leave.
The Owl Mag: What kind of theatre did you do?
Harper: At that point I’d done straight plays, comedy and improv, and then when I got to NY it was like avant-garde theatre and it was not for me. It was the kind of stuff we used to make fun of in my improv troupe. And suddenly I’m doing it in NYC for real. And I just didn’t get it. It was hilarious. But I love Josh. He’s an amazing guy and his theatre company is phenomenal. It’s like an award winning theatre company. It was a real privilege to be asked to do it. So obviously I was super thrilled. And it led me to the rest of my life.
The Owl Mag: Did you ever do any more improv?
Harper: I didn’t do any more improv after that. I had a really special group back at school. You get close with your people. It’s hard to start again. I find improv to be the most exciting thing that you can do for your brain. It will help you with every single thing that you do. It would be so weird to do that now because I’m really enjoying the Class Actress thing. I like the distance.
The Owl Mag: How did you choose the name Class Actress?
Harper: I liked the double ‘s’s and I’d been playing with the words. I never wanted to play under my own name and started doing it originally because I didn’t have time to think of a band name. I had picked up a guitar and they were like â€˜there’s your gig! Oh my god, what are you called?’ And I’m just a kid, I didn’t know what I was doing so then I thought of the name, Class Actress, because I’d been wanting to do this electronic music project for so long and I rolled out of bed, hung over, and you know those moments when it just hits you, and you’re like, â€˜that’s it’. And that’s how it happened.
The Owl Mag: Who is Class Actress?
Harper: Mark (Richardson) is now getting his Phd, but he is basically the other half of Class actress. He’s my producer. He produced the full length record. And Scott (Rosenthal) does all of the additional engineering and other tracks too. They both produce stuff together. Mark is in school this semester, so he’s not on this tour with us. So we’re just a duo tonight.
The Owl Mag: When did you decide you wanted to do electronic music?
Harper: I’d been wanting to do it for a long time and it was always the kind of music that I loved and I was always going dancing. Scott and I recorded “Let Me Take You Out” and then Mark and I did “Someone Real” and then I had all of these pop songs and I was like, “let’s do them.” And it just happened.
The Owl Mag: What are you listening to on tour?
Harper: We’ve been obsessively listening to Violator in the car. Neither of us had really listened to that record, so it’s become like on repeat. Like the second we crossed the CA border we’re like: Violator! It’s such a brilliant effing record. I’m blown away by it.
The Owl Mag: Did you ever see them?
Harper: Depeche mode? No. I never saw them. But I think about David Gahan. A lot.
The Owl Mag: Who would you like to go on tour with?
Harper: It would be really fun to be on tour with like, a band like the Scissor Sisters or something. You know? A band that’s just like so over the top. I would love that.
The Owl Mag: What are some of your recent concert experiences?
Harper: Our friends have this band, Das Racist, and I think they’re great. They’re a Brooklyn band. And I think mostly lately it’s just been friend’s bands from Brooklyn. Because I don’t get to see that many bands because I’m always playing.
The Owl Mag: What do you do when you have time off?
Harper: God, I get into mad trouble. I see my friends. I’m struggling with that thought of like where do I feel most at home. And I think being out in the world is better. Because that is the whole point of the job. I write all the songs when I’m home. But then when I have time I get to record. We’ve just finished the full length. But I have like ten more songs that I want to record in January on my month off when the first full length hasn’t even come out yet. I get pleasure out of making stuff, and just doing something with my excess energy. You need to in life. I try to just be really grateful all of the time. We’re on tour and I’m always trying to tell Scott like, let’s just enjoy ourselves, life is so short. Why not stay at a nice hotel, why not go to a hot spring, why not have a nice dinner? This is our life! This is it! It’s happening now! It’s not something off into the distant future. This is it, so let’s have fun. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s be alive. I’ve been in a car for like a month and a half so it’s really hard to like separate that reality from reality reality. I don’t even know that place anymore. And I know when I get home its going to be so amazing, but everyone’s on tour. It’s like everyone is just constantly circulating.
The Owl Mag: So you’ll get some time off in December and January?
Harper: Yeah and I’m terrified of it. You can’t run away from anything. It’s exactly where you left it.