Gus Harvey on Erykah Badu

Lauren Murada
December 3, 2020

This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.

Photo by Netti Hurley

Returning home can bring up a lot of emotions, so Gus Harvey channeled them into her music. Her latest EP, England, is an enchanting, hazy alt-pop journey, inspired by her return to the UK from Berlin.

The four tracks on the EP pair wistful lyrics with experimental electronic sounds - mixing street soul with grimy basslines. In an ode to her home, Gus collected reverb and echoes from abandoned UK buildings to mix into her tracks. “I was very curious and nostalgic for the old England that I could see and smell, also aware of being in this one last moment of suspension before little pockets of history just disappeared,” Gus told Broadway World.

The first single, “Albion,” shares the soul of the old Kray twin pub in Hackney of that name. “I had to record everything that was possible to record - the sound and sight: sadly not possible to capture the magic old pub smell,” Gus said.

For her Algorhythm, Gus discusses the impact Erykah Badu had on her future as a sound amalgamator.

When I was 18, I had a brief relationship with the techno DJ and producer Bruno Schmidt. We’re both extremely chaotic souls with fair doses of ADHD - me introverted, him extroverted - so it was destined for destruction, and also passed by in a flash because we were literally always out. I don’t know what he saw in me because I was demonstrably very timid, while he was this undeniable explosion of energy… he walked into a Leeds club by himself, already dancing, pushed down to the front and started having it and you couldn’t miss him; the vibe of the whole room changed. That’s a good quality for DJs.
Before Bruno, I didn’t know who Erykah Badu was. My background was fronting funk and jazz outfits, while my personal taste was hip hop, and at the time I was not remotely conscious of how those two worlds could fit together. He took me to see a live band Bonobo show with Andreya Triana fronting, and Fat Freddy’s Drop, who merged soul vocals with dub and reggae, and a lot of DJs I would never have known to like, who blended those old-school elements with garage and techno, so irreverently. I heard drum and bass tempos and rhythms played on traditional instruments, and all of music’s little subdivisions between segments just burst, like an orange getting crushed into juice. It became this one glorious, united, liquid thing. And then we would go home and share ancient jazz records by Bill Evans and Chet Baker, that we thought nobody else could possibly have ever heard of, until it was the next day. He had so much knowledge and was for some reason really compelled to infuse me with it. I guess we must have had some sense of the future and that we didn’t have long. I remember my flatmates being so confused at how closely we'd bonded when we definitely didn't even see a bed for months; he was just way deep in my mind, detonating it with music.
We both came from East Anglia, and skate parks; from a time when your chosen subculture was so definitive that it determined how you dressed and who your friends were, the idea that you could hybrid together whatever sounds came naturally to you and not be puritanical about genre was a huge breakthrough, from which everything about my own project germinated. I was a runaway and a proper oddball, who really didn’t fit anywhere, and I thought that meant I had no right to create music. It took a few years to grow my band and start writing stuff for myself, and by the time that happened we were long gone from each others’ daily lives, but that time to this day informs what I look for when beat-making or collaborating – the presence of live acoustic instruments, like double bass, alongside fat, unapologetic beats, and the irreverence for genre by which you steal things from everywhere and stick them in - selecting just for energy, above anything else. By the time my project was ready, Bruno had co-founded the Meadows in the Mountains festival in Bulgaria, and was booking its music, and so he was able to give The Gus Harvey Band our first ever show.

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