Sarah Harris

Sarah Harris

Lawnya Vawnya

Sarah Harris is a musician, composer, recording engineer, and passionate worker in music and arts administration. Sarah is a versatile musician contributing to various projects across genres from rock to folk to experimental/electronic as a musician, producer, engineer, and songwriter. Sarah has a deep interest in sound-based creation and research, with recent creative works focusing on soundscape composition, and auditory hallucinations in Newfoundland folklore, and writing on the analysis of the sound of Italian Giallo horror films.

In late 2010 Sarah led the St. John ’s-based band Property, becoming a staple at festivals across Eastern Canada. The most recent release Property, Think Electric!, blurred the lines between post-punk, pop, and rock, and demonstrated Sarah’s signature sound. Sarah has also composed music for three award-winning Canadian short films. Since 2022, she has been an active member of the Montreal bands Knitting and Amery.

Where are you based?

I’m currently based between Montreal and St. John’s.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I do a combination arts admin, programming, studio recording/mixing, film scoring, and live music gigs as a bassist and guitarist!

What are you listening to?

Up until now, I hadn’t really dug deep into the Brian Eno discography and after reading his published diary I’ve dug in pretty deep and like to put on his instrumental and ambient albums like 1989 Textures. I also connect deeply with British Folk Revival music like Fairport Convention, Richard and Linda Thompson, and Steeleye Span–my sister got me pretty into this stuff and it’s a gift that keeps giving. I always like to check out new Canadian releases like Cindy Lee’s Diamond Jubilee and local Montreal or St. John’s artists. I listen to a lot of my friends’ works-in-progress in the studio, and the music I’m working on. Sometimes we watch Backstreet Boys music videos in the studio for inspiration, and I’ll never say no to a classic pop or rock listen.

How do you discover new music?

I learn about new music in a bunch of different ways as I’m sure everyone does.  I definitely get lots of recommendations from friends, I’ll check out stuff people post on their Instagram, and I check out festival lineups. I follow a substack called Music Regular that’s put together by Andrew Patterson. I like checking out Dominiated, and I’ll often see what’s happening on Exclaim!. If I find an artist or a label I like, I’ll check out their Discogs or Bandcamp and see what else they have. I’m also lucky that I get to listen to a couple hundred artist applications to Lawnya Vawnya each year which is an amazing opportunity to learn about new DIY Canadian artists.

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I have a pretty decent collection of classic rock CDs from when I was a tween (AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin), but I unfortunately view CDs as junk now and it doesn’t help that I have no way of listening to them. It’s just not a physical format that feels good in the hands or something. I’m down for cassettes – I have a small collection of cassettes from friend’s bands or touring bands from over the years and would definitely snatch up the cassettes of bands and artists I like given the opportunity.  I’m definitely down for vinyl, I always look through all of the records at thrift stores to see if there are any goodies in there. I’ve had some success recently finding Modern Lovers, John Prine, Anna and Kate McGarrigle, and more. I also collect stereo test records from the 60s/70s or whenever. I love them as an item of material culture and the sound effects and language of advertising stereo audio is super fun. I’m also looking to complete my collection of the Environment series by Irving Teibel, any sound effects records, and hold onto synthesizer records like Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach, and Black Lucifer’s Black Mass. I recently picked up a record called A Sound Anthology of Occult Phenomena 1920-2017 Vol.2 by a label called Spectra Ex Machina. It’s like an anthology of recordings related to spiritualism and occult phenomena and has a recording of a séance with Elvis Presley. I like the idea of being able to put on a record and hear something for the first time, so finding stuff that resonates with you by chance in record stores or thrift stores is pretty exciting.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

I do most of my listening at home or at my studio. I’ve got a shared studio with some friends and we have a couple of setups for listening. We’ve got a mixing set up, and then a system in the other room which my studio-mate calls the “micro club” for testing mixes and listening to whatever.  I also have a small set up at home with a couple of 5” speakers for working from home or listening to music. I’m also down for over-ear headphones like the BBeyerdynamic 880s. I wear my earpods for podcasts. In the car I’ll put on 600AM in Montreal for some classic rock/pop jams, or 800AM in St. John’s for some old country and folk.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

I guess I only listen to pre-release music if I am sent private streaming links by friends sharing their music or agents pitching artists for Lawnya Vawnya.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

I mean I like it just fine on the computer because everything is bigger and easier to navigate. If the file is for audio-based work i’ll usually download and open it in Amadeus Pro. For programming work, I’ll stream it for sure. The frustrating stuff is either doing anything on my iPhone or when links take a long time to buffer in Google Drive… I’ve been using this app called Samply to share mixes and it’s super slick and quick. Would recommend it. I’ve used SoundCloud since I was a teenager and it is pretty annoying now—if you open it on your phone it wants you to get the app but then also make an account and accept the cookies.. like can I just press play? Bandcamp is good and minimal though.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I definitely don’t do a very good job of this but I use YouTube and youtube music for listening to music so if I like something I’ll usually give it a thumbs up on either of those places so it gets added to my “liked music” or whatever. Sometimes if it’s a link from a friend I have to look back at texts to find it… Usually reading the Wikipedia page for a new discovery helps me remember too. If I find an artist on Instagram and follow them I usually just forget… So maybe I need a better way for that avenue of discovery.

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Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

The main way I do this is through my programming work at Lawnya Vawnya, getting to share sweet independent music with audiences in St. John’s is a huge privilege and also lots of fun. It is also a super collaborative process which is fun because it’s a time where friends and other folks on the programming committee recommend acts, and we get to listen to music together and talk about it. Otherwise, I guess mainly just through casual conversation or if I come across something a friend might like I’ll send it their way.

Anything you want to “promote”?

Here is a recommendation blitz: I played on a few and mixed a song from my friend Amery’s album Continue as Amery, which comes out May 31; my studio mates just released an EP called ALT HOUSE by Regularfantasy’s Rendezvous full of dancefloor hits; a friend and collaborator Jake Nicoll just released his 11th album Lonely Mission | Jake Nicoll | Tiny Room Records (bandcamp.com); a band called Conditioner from St. John’s released a song recently called Seatbelt put out by the tape label Barely There; St. John’s based duo Cuerpos who are playing the fest this year released a banger this fall Juegas | CUERPOS (bandcamp.com), and have new music coming soon. And a band I play with, Knitting, has an album coming up in September that I played guitar on and overdub-engineered – it’s coming September 6th on Mint Records Some Kind of Heaven | Mint Records (mintrecs.com). Oh, and all of these artists are LV alumni!

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