Class Actress burst into 2010 with The Journal of Ardency EP, a pulsing homage to vintage '80s electro-pop that vaulted the Brooklynites into an indie darling spotlight they've had little trouble hanging onto. "They" is a bit of a relative term. Short of writing off any member of the collective, there's little doubt that the star of this show is indeed one actress — Elizabeth Harper. A drama student turned singer-songwriter turned electric frontwoman, Harper's been through a transformation that's equal parts radical and musically sensible. With all that's changed, she's clung to her most common, promising and proven theme: At the end of the day, she belongs on that stage.
What started the jump to the electronic side of things from your older material?
Elizabeth Harper: I’ve been writing songs for a long time that were incredibly encased in poetry and riddle, and I've always found such joy and pleasure in finding the perfect way to tell a story. It was much more literal back then. Then suddenly one day, I just thought of all these really great songs — my favorite pop songs. Those are people writing from their id, ya know? ‘I need, I want’ sort of stuff. And so I wondered, how would that work? How would that come out of my mouth? It’s really been more meaningful in a lot of ways.
The great irony of your band name is that you really did study drama in school. How often, even if subconsciously, do you find yourself falling back on your acting studies as part of this project?
EH: It fits in somewhere. I don’t know exactly where, I guess. In a way, Class Actress is somewhat of a play on the idea of an actress or at least the parts of an actress that are a real person. Getting real with the part of you that’s insecure. That’s not necessarily who I am, but it’s a bit of a play on that.
So is Class Actress a character of sorts for you?
EH: It’s definitely not a character — but I feel like I really can’t answer that question fully without pulling up the curtain.
Is that ‘curtain’ between you and the audience part of the thrill of it all?
EH: Absolutely. And that’s why I never really wanted to play under my own name. I never wanted to be a songwriter with my name on it. I really just wanted a name for my band — and I rolled out of bed one morning and said ‘Class Actress, that has a nice ring to it,’ with the s'es and whatnot. And it really encapsulates my life up to the this point. So I’m taking this idea of the actress and the whole nature of how it’s just a wild job. Actresses are just so insane and so luminous. I find it endlessly fascinating.
Are you still on track for a new full-length this summer? What are some of the differences in the sound with this one?
EH: Ya, it's being mastered now. It’s a lot more straight ahead pop music, more like [closing track of Journal of Ardency EP] “Someone Real.” I guess all the leftover bits of Morrissey have been removed from my system (laughs).
Did any of the public reception of the EP last year play into the way you approached this new record?
EH: I was really grateful that people liked it, because it’s such a cross-section, I thought. I guess it all went really well together as a package, and everyone had something that they really loved. And there are tracks on the new record that are completely reminiscent of [tracks from the last]. It’s emotionally intense. There’s gonna be a lot more jams on it that you’re going to be able to get down to.
How do songs typically come to you these days?
EH: It just kind of starts one day where something pops into my head, and I’m like ‘Woah, that’s a good hook,’ or something happens or I’m feeling a certain way and it all comes to a head into something where I’m like ‘Wait a second, this is a perfect chorus for a song.’ And then it goes from there, and sometimes it’ll take months where I’m just getting a little bit at a time. I used to throw it all out at once, but now I don’t really work that way so much anymore. The art of songwriting has clarified itself a little bit more lately. I’m not just waiting for inspiration to come hit me anymore, ya know? I’m not sitting around waiting for someone to break my heart. I can consistently think of things all the time, collect them, and then go back and write.
As great as this band sounds on record, you guys are meant to be experienced live. What do you enjoy so much about being on stage?
EH: It’s the fans. The audience is amazing. Truly, I feel like we have the greatest fans on the planet, and I just like to be with them. We share an energy together, and it’s an awesome experience. Sometimes they jump on stage, sing along...sometimes I feel like all these people are just like me. We can sing the song together and experience this moment together, and suddenly you feel like you’re not alone.
Put together a dream tour: Who else would be on the bill?
EH: Maybe Depeche Mode. I don’t know. Do they tour (laughs)? That’d be great.
So without giving away your secrets...do you have a default dance move?
EH: Doesn’t everyone have a default dance move (laughs)? Everyone has their moves on the dance floor, and I think I’ve had mine since I started dancing. So I never try to have a specific move, I just have my moves. But there’s one move that I really really like. There’s nothing like the kind of slow, sultry dragging of the feet, ya know (laughs)? Then again, maybe I’m totally oblivious. Maybe it’s the Elaine (laughs). Ya, let’s say it the Elaine.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.