The Harvesters’ Chris Springer thinks improvisational rock is replacing grunge


By Steve Newton

The resurgence in recent years of rootsy, improvisational music—as exemplified by jam-happy recording acts like Blues Traveler, Phish, and Widespread Panic—has been a balm to anyone whose appreciation of instrumental ability has been tested by the nonmusical grate of rap or the mind-numbing drone of disco. Nowadays, talent itself is making a comeback, and you only have to look as far as local bands such as Two Trains, the Spirit Merchants, She Stole My Beer, and the Harvesters to see that.

“Right now, all the way down the West Coast there’s a greater interest in that [improvisational] style of music,” says Harvesters guitarist-vocalist Chris Springer, whose band returned from a tour of California last week. “I think the grunge thing is being replaced by that.”

Springer is somewhat of an improv-rock expert, as he was cofounder of Crazy Fingers, the Vancouver band that helped repopularize exploratory music on the local club scene for seven years before renaming itself the Harvesters.

“We wanted to get a new start,” says Springer of the name change. “ ‘Crazy Fingers’ is a tune by the Grateful Dead, and we wanted to lessen the association as much as possible.”

Springer says his band occasionally gets compared to the Dead, which is more than likely due to the Harvesters’ loose, freely flowing approach than to any distinct similarity between his group and Garcia’s. Santana and the Allman Brothers also come to mind during a run-through of the Harvesters’ debut CD, The Edge of Suitability, though never to the detriment of the tunes.

Along with main songwriters Springer and keyboardist-vocalist Greg Ducommun, the Harvesters lineup includes vocalist Apple Jensen, guitarist Brannoch Moon, keyboardist-vocalist Doug Fujisawa, bassist-vocalist Rob Post, and drummer Pat Haavisto. According to Springer, it’s been tough for the band to make ends meet with seven mouths to feed, but he has no real complaints.

“We get along,” says the 28-year-old rocker, who is hoping that a new video—shot locally by director Bruce Warren’s Blue Zone Productions—will help take the band’s music to the masses. The mystical, circus sideshow–oriented clip was filmed at the New York Theatre and includes appearances by Kokoro Dance, the huge tiger from Jane Jones’s exotic dance show, and an army of colourful extras.

“That was the funnest thing I’ve done in a long time,” says Springer of the video shoot for Ducommun’s “Juice Blues”. “It was a three-day event. The first day we set up and the second day we shot everything—we started from about seven in the morning and went till about four in the morning the next day. Then the third day was teardown.”

The Harvesters have been making some inroads on the airwaves—a perpetual struggle for independently distributed acts—as well as on the video front.

“CFOX was playing ‘Juice Blues’ and ‘Something to Die For’,” says Springer, “and there was a station in Victoria called Q-something that was playing those two songs also. So we were getting some airplay for a while.”

As well as small victories in TV and radio, the Harvesters made headway on the management side of things when they inked a deal with Vancouver’s Phantom Enterprises, which put them in the hands of local music-biz stalwarts Donna Robertson and Bob Burrows.

“Originally, I was the one doing it all,” says Springer of the management chores, “and I have to say I don’t like it; it’s a lot of phone work and trying to get gigs. We just did the tour across Canada through [Phantom] and the American leg, too, so they’re very helpful.”

A Music West gig at the Commodore next Thursday (May 12)—on a bill with Australia’s Things of Stone and Wood and locals People Playing Music and She Stole My Beer—should help expose the Harvesters to some heavyweights in the music industry. As far as the elusive record deal goes, the band hasn’t seen any serious major-label interest yet. “We’re definitely trying, but it’s tough,” says Springer, whose main ambition is to make a living with the band.

“That’s basically what I want to do for my life,” he says, “so to achieve that would be success.”

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