Mountain View graduate Ryan Barber has finally found a formula that works. After working for years to create the right sound, Barber has found chemistry with The Horde & The Harem.
The Seattle-based band, which will perform at The Horned Hand on Nov. 8, is gaining traction around the Northwest and at national festivals such as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
Barber comes from an ever-growing list of former Bend residents who have gone on to find musical success in big Pacific Northwest cities. But before he was singing catchy pop choruses while playing guitar and trumpet with TH&TH, Barber was a Bend teen gaining street-smarts in popular local outlets for live music.
“I lived in Bend from third grade on,” reminisced Barber during a recent phone interview with the Source. “In high school I was in a band called Spencer’s Field and we played Munch and Music.”
Barber moved to San Francisco after high school and formed his second band, Toy Soldiers. Eventually that group decided to try their luck up north in Seattle and according to Barber, hit the local scene hard. But six months into the endeavor, they disbanded, leaving Barber on his own with some studio time and no one to play with.
So Barber threw together some musicians from Seattle to form the first incarnation of TH&TH and recorded the Rodent Clatter EP. Despite the makeshift nature of that effort, its pop sensibilities landed him the resume needed to forge ahead and find permanent members for the group.
In 2010, Barber began recruiting a strong lineup of pop-savvy instrumentalists who were all stylistically on the same page. That venture yielded a band anchored in American folk and European Baroque music and with enough singing talent to make voices integral to their sound.
In fact, no Horde & Harem song is complete without a four-part harmony—a reality also indicative of compatible personalities. And according to Barber, a big part of that compatibility is a shared love of bikes. So much so that the music video for their song “Tears of Joy” features all of the members showing off their bikes and riding around on them.
“When we tour to SXSW, which we’ve done for two years, we take bikes with us,” said Barber. “The whole band is about commuting and we bike to practice. It would be really cool to tour on bikes.”
And even though they haven’t been together very long, Barber says they are having a great time.
“There’s moments of rowdiness,” said Barber. “We’re definitely a rock band with classic band shenanigans. But it’s a family—kinda dysfunctional, but in a loving way. We’re all very strong personalities.”
What that family has created with A Long Midwinter is an album with a heightened sense of fun that comes through even during some of the records more glum moments. The Americana-inspired “Small Urges” and the cloudy pop-rock track “The Fog” are songs that Barber says are good indications of how Seattle informs their music.
“It’s dark here for eight months of the year and it’s lush because there’s so much rain,” said Barber. “It’s a melancholy city and every once in a while that comes through in our music.”
Still, enthusiastic harmonies and spirited trumpets often overpower any of A Long Midwinter’s sad interludes. The result is an album with a bent toward all the gentle life-giving qualities of Seattle’s rain rather than one bogged down in its depressive aspects, signaling that Barber is finally on the right track with TH&TH.
While no one ever truly expects their high school band or even their college band to be the one they hang their hat on, the blueprint of Barber’s third attempt is working well enough that the singer has something exciting to write home about. Or in this case—bring home on tour.
Don't miss it!
Ascetic Junkies Last Show!
Bendites won’t want to miss the other acts playing Nov. 8 at the Hand as local favorites The Ascetic Junkies will be back in town for a special show. Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta have announced that this will be the final AJ’s show as a full band. The couple—who were married last summer, have decided to officially pare the band down to a twosome in order to better support their changing style of songwriting. Based out of Portland, Harmon and Giaritta have been touring around the country playing all kinds of rustic and vintage venues, often times relying on the kindness of acquaintances for a guest bed or couch to crash on. But for two more nights—Wednesday in Portland and Thursday in Bend-—the full Junkies lineup will bring their infectious jump-up-in-the-air brand of avant garde folk-rock to bear. Don’t miss it.
Photo taken by Tim Gunther.
The Horde & The Harem
Thursday, Nov. 8, 8 p.m.
The Horned Hand
507 NW Colorado Ave