HARGO
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HARGO

San Diego, California, United States

San Diego, California, United States
Rock Alternative

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There’s a good reason that even the most seasoned pop-music fans have difficulty naming any American Sikh rock artists.

“That’s because there aren’t any!” said Oregon-born singer-songwriter Hargobind Hari Singh Khalsa, the leader and namesake of Hargo, one of San Diego’s most promising bands. (Apart from the obscure group Roving Sikhs, whose lyrics are sung in Hindi and Punjabi, Sikh rockers are almost unheard of, even in India.)

"Typically," Hargo explained, "the majority of Sikhs are of Indian descent from Punjab, which is where I went to school for a year when I was 16. The kind of music they would play or listen to is traditional Indian classical music, or Bhangra, or hip-hop. The white American Sikh kids, I don't think a lot of them are comfortable in that environment. When I was in school I needed an outlet, and hearing albums by (rapper) Tupac and (shock-rocker) Marilyn Manson had an impact on me."

Hargo, who was born and raised a Sikh, performs Saturday at the Belly Up with his three-man band (which, for the record, sounds nothing like either Tupac or Marilyn Manson). Sikhism is an Indian religion that promotes equality between men, women and all religions, eschews intoxicants and espouses honest, truthful living.

“A lot of times, people see me onstage and they are confused,” said Hargo, 27, whose long beard and turban make him stand out in any rock-music venue.

“They think: ‘Who is this weird character in front of me?’ When they find out I’m not (Hasidic reggae singer) Matisyahu, or a Hare Krishna, they are surprised.”

The real surprise, though, at least for anyone who hasn’t yet heard the still mostly under-the-radar Hargo, is the uniformly high quality of music he and his band deliver on their 12-song album, “Out of Mankind,” which came out in February. It was preceded by a 2010 EP, "The Faint Glow," and a 2007 album, "In Your Eyes."

The thoughtful songs Hargo expertly performs on "Out of Mankind," are clean, crisp and melodically rich. While the group's influences are alternately apparent and subtle — from Radiohead and Prince to The Beatles and Sly & The Famly Stone — they are able to build on their inspirations with freshness and vitality. The band is also adept at mixing and matching influences from different eras, be it Talking Heads or Beck.

"That was an inadvertent influence. I love Talking Heads," Hargo said, "but I never set out as a songwriter to do anything like that."

Hargo bassist John Jolley, 24, nodded in agreement.

"We all have our own influences," he said. "Some of us may love Talking Heads, but not listen to them. Radiohead is a bigger influence on us and they took their name from Talking Heads. It's all connected at end of day, if you want to play great music."

"Soul Survivor," one of the standout songs on Hargo's new album, has a recurring melodic segment that suggests Scott McKenzie's 1967 quasi-hippie anthem, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" -- a musical reference point that pre-dates Hargo's birth by 20 years. He smiled when the similarity was pointed out.

"I love that song, but wouldn’t have thought of that," Hargo, the son of two hippie parents, said. "('Survivor') is a special song for me and for us as a band. I don't typically write songs about my personal life. I don't like it when an artist goes: 'Me this' and 'I that,' maybe because it lacks a certain level of humility."

In Jolley, guitarist Sanjay Parekh, 28, and drummer Ron Kerner, 44 -- all San Diego natives -- Hargo has empathetic band mates who help make his songs their own. With more exposure, the group has the potential to make an impact across — and beyond — San Diego County.

That goal may be furthered by the band's manager, Gregg Gerson, a veteran drummer who has worked with everyone from David Bowie and Gloria Estefan to Billy Idol and (a decade ago) San Diego's Jason Mraz.

"It's exciting to see how fast Hargo has evolved as a band," said Gerson, who helped the band secure four performance slots earlier this year at the annual South By Southwest music marathon in Austin.

In turn, Hargo credits Gerson for helping the band's well-constructed music sound even more potent in a concert setting.

"Gregg is a brilliant arranger," Hargo said. "He helped us deconstruct our album and then reconstruct the songs for our live shows."

Just how effective that process has been could be seen and heard when Hargo opened a Belly Up show for surf-rock pioneer Dick Dale at the Belly Up. Although the two have little in common stylistically, Hargo earned an enthusiastic response from the audience for its polished, rock-solid performance.

At one point during the Belly Up show, Hargo introduced a song by using a common four-letter word. His delivery was matter-of-fact, and if you weren't paying attention, you may have missed the word altogether. Still, it was still surprising to hear a Sikh utter a profanity, especially from a concert stage in a nightclub - Union Tribune - George Varga


Hargo
Out of Mankind
(Rhetorik)
Rating:

Don’t let the turban, ever-present shades and foreign name of American-Sikh Hargo Khalsa deter you from experiencing one of this country’s better young singer-songwriters. Already praised by Phil Spector, whose production credit on Khalsa’s 2007 “Crying for John Lennon” was the famed producer’s last, Hargo’s strong melodic sense and emotional vocals are more reminiscent of Tom Petty, Peter Case, ELO and, well sure, the Beatles. While not necessarily Spector-ish, the terrific production adds heft to these ringing tunes by layering guitar, subtle strings, vocal harmonies and electronic touches that push already quality tunes such as the cascading “Soul Survivor” and the expansive “In Reverse” to the next level. A real find.
- American Songwriter


American-Sikh singer-songwriter and indie rocker Hargo Khalsa’s provocative new albumOut Of Mankind is out now. We talked to Khalsa about his songwriting heroes and “Crying For John Lennon,” which was the last song to be produced by Phil Spector.

When did you first start writing songs? Were they good right away, or did that come later?

I started writing songs sometime between eight and nine years-old. I started with just being able to write pieces of songs, short ideas, sometimes just a verse or a chorus of a song that would never make it to completion. It seems like it wasn’t that long though until I actually started writing full songs, a development inspired, in part, by deal I made with my parents that if I could write a full song with verses, choruses, and a bridge, that they would someday take me to record it in a studio. So I got serious. My songs were, naturally, very simple at first. Three or four chords, at the most. But they always had hooks and interesting lyrics. I think I started out more as a poet than a songwriter; I was fascinated by lyrics. My melodic sense definitely matured rapidly over time, as well as my musical understanding (which came from listening to the Blues and reading The Beatles chord charts, and tons of experimentation).

Tell us about your song “Crying For John Lennon.”

John was my favorite Beatle. Almost everyone has one. But beyond my appreciation for him as a songwriter and musician, I always connected with his vision of Peace disintegrating social boundaries. Several years ago I was playing guitar in my parents little home studio set up in the garage and the words “I’m crying for John Lennon…” came into my head, out of nowhere. Sometimes I get a concept for a song, a title or a theme, and then the rest comes (sometimes the opposite) and this was one of those times. The song (“Crying for John Lennon”) wrote itself. I think, from start to finish, the song took maybe 2 hours. I wrote the verses and chorus and the bridge the following day. I realized that the song really isn’t about John Lennon. What it’s saying is that I’m crying for him because the vision of Peace that he stood for was fading in the world, that he would be sad to see what things had become. 9/11 was still fresh, we were at war, terror alerts were propagated everywhere in the media. It was a dark time, to me. That song was probably an expression of my own frustration and tenuous grip on the hope that things would get better.

How did your career after that?

After I wrote “Crying For John Lennon” some interesting things did start to happen. I found some band mates in San Diego, and we started playing shows at clubs in town, which was a departure from the coffee shop circuit I’d been playing for a few years. Mark Elsis, founder of john-lennon.com and an independent filmmaker, heard my demo of “Crying for John Lennon” online, got in touch with me, and we became friends. He was working on a documentary about people going to Strawberry Fields in Central Park to honor John on his birthday and memorial every year, and asked if he could use my song at the end of his film, which ended up happening.

You were the last artist to be produced by Phil Spector. How was that experience?

It was both amazing and very surprising. When I met Phil at the taping of his interview for Mark’s film, and he heard my song I was so nervous. He is one of the most recognized record producers of the 20th century, producing Let It Be, Imagine, All Things Must Pass, and so many other great records. After listening to it in his billiards room he said that he loved the song, that it was reminiscent of a demo John would have given him to produce back in the day, and that I “reminded him of a young John Lennon.”

The latter statement was, and is, the most arresting and humbling thing I’ve ever been told. Mark asked him if he’d be interested in producing the song for the film, and, after a few weeks of driving around listening to the demo in his Mercedes, he agreed. I was instructed to send all the tracks and session files I’d recorded to a studio in Sherman Oaks where he would begin working on the song in between pre-trial court dates and lawyer meetings.

About a month later, I was asked to come up to LA to record my vocals. I was to come ALONE, as Phil didn’t want anyone but us and the engineer in the studio. I arrived outside the gate at the studio and met Phil who was with his bodyguard. We went into the studio and I ended up chatting with him for about 45 minutes, just the two of us, while we waited for the engineer who was running late. We talked about Bowie and photographer Mick Rock (a mutual friend who had done Phil ‘Back to Mono’ boxed set).

The actual vocal session was probably about 2 hours. Phil sat with his back to me, as I looked through the window in the isolation booth, and would relay his feedback and thoughts to the engineer (which I couldn’t hear) who would then tell me what Phil wanted. The first - American Songwriter


He didn't know it at the time, but when 22-year-old songwriter Hargo sent his music to fellow admirer of John Lennon's catalog, it set off a string of events that earned him production contributions from none other than Phil Spector.

It all started with a conversation with Mark Elsis, the director of Lennon documentary "Strawberry Fields: Keeping the Spirit of John Lennon Alive" and founder of John-Lennon.com. Hargo, whose given name is Hargobind Hari, had sent Elsis a demo version of his song "Crying for John Lennon"; the filmmaker decided to add the track to the ending credits of his film. In the midst of production, the director got a letter from Spector's estate expressing interest in contributing an interview to the film.

The crew was invited to the reclusive producer's California castle in February for a six-hour interview -- and Hargo was invited along. "At the end of filming, Mark says to Phil, 'Hey, you should hear this beautiful song that's at the end, I think you'd enjoy it,'" Hargo tells Billboard.com. "We listen to start to finish in his [billiard] room and Phil says, 'That's a wonderful song' and 'That's something John would've written.' I hardly knew how to respond to that. It was so awesome."

Hargo asked if the famed Beatles collaborator would produce a final version of the song for the movie and, a few weeks later, Spector agreed. It would be Spector's first production credit since engineering Starsailor's 2004 effort "Silence Is Easy" -- and his last before going to trial for murdering actress Lana Clarkson.

Hargo entered the studio with Spector (and producer Graham Ward) in March for "Crying for John Lennon"; he described Spector as "clearly focused," though he was "very shaken up about" the impending trial. However, Hargo was "beyond pleased" with what came out of the recording sessions. "After I heard the final version ... it was just surreal, like hearing my own song for the first time. It sounded unbelievable. The Wall of Sound [technique] was unmistakeable."


Listeners will have to wait for the movie's release to hear Spector's handiwork, as the song will not be available as a commercial single. The film was originally scheduled for an August release, though no new release date has been announced as the makers shop it to various film festivals. Curious fans can check out the demo version of the track via Hargo's Web site. The young artist is currently working on tracks for his third album. - Billboard Magazine


Phil Spector is continuing his producing work after court sessions during which is on trial for murder.

The legendary music producer is working with new solo artist Hargo, whom he met at his Alhambra mansion where actress Lana Clarkson was shot dead in February 2003.

Spector told Hargo “You remind me of a young John Lennon” and ditched scheduled production work with The Vines in order to work with the solo newbie.

Spector has been working with Hargo in the studio and evenings after his sessions in court, and a track entitled ‘Crying for John Lennon’ will feature in the upcoming Lennon documentary ‘Strawberry Fields’ Keeping the Spirit of John Lennon Alive’, which features an interview with Spector recorded in February of this year.

According to Spector, "It's a wonderful song. Actually it sounds like something John would have given me produce back in the day.”

Meanwhile, Spector’s trial continues today. Stay tuned to NME.COM for daily updates from the courtroom. - NME Magazine


The Singh Twins, two Liverpool based artists have recently received an Arts council England, North West grant to create a new multi arts project around one of their paintings which will become a lasting legacy to Liverpool’s 800th birthday in 2007 and offer a unique element to Liverpool European Capital of Culture Celebrations in 2008. The project brings together two of the regions most recognized Contemporary British artists; Liverpool’s premier post production and visual effect company Sparkle Media; a high flying American musician called Hargo and the well known Liverpool actor Mark McGann. Under the Twins direction they will create an animation and new song that highlights 800 years of the city’s history. Serving not only to showcase Liverpool achievement and creative talent but how the city continues to influence artist in the wider world.

Especially commissioned by The Singh Twins, the animation, together with the poem written for its narration and the new song are inspired by their painting ‘Liverpool 800: The Changing Face of Liverpool’ which is now permanently on display at Liverpool St George’s Hall Heritage Centre after its official unveiling to Prince Charles last year and is the first of two works commissioned from The Singh Twins to mark wider celebrations of Liverpool European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The project is currently under production with an expected completion date for May 2008. The animation, titled: ‘The Making of Liverpool’ has already received interest for screenings at various venues in Liverpool throughout 2008 and for film festivals in USA and Canada from September to November 2008. The project marks a new direction in The Singh Twin’s artistic career and fulfills a long-standing interest to develop their creativity and the issues explored in their paintings through what they describe as the much more widely accessible and all encompassing medium of moving film. Included in the details of history depicted through the animated sequences of the painting are references to the impact of Indian culture on Liverpool’s vibrant multicultural heritage and its contribution to Britain’s contemporary Art scene.

- Artinliverpool.com


(LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND)- American musician HARGO has taken his musical talent across the pond and has written a song titled “Just the Sky” which celebrates 800 years of Liverpool and commemorates Liverpool being 2008’s Capital of Culture.

Hargo was approached by Liverpool artists The Singh Twins, in the fall of 2007 at a film festival in Los Angeles, and they discussed the idea of him composing a song that could be featured in their Arts Council England commissioned film, The Making of Liverpool. The song, entitled “Just the Sky”, which was recorded at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool (Coldplay’s Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head) along with four additional songs, is also the first single from his forthcoming EP Ritual Habitual.

“I’d never thought about writing a song inspired by a series of historical events, much less about someplace I’d never been,” Hargo says. “But having researched Liverpool’s history and being a huge fan of The Beatles, I found a way to make the story poetic. The city certainly has plenty of stories to tell and I’m honored to be associated with it, especially now that it is the Capital of Culture.”

Hargo is currently in Liverpool to attend the Liverpool Sound City Music Conference. He will be sitting in the Songwriter’s Panel, alongside Award Winning Songwriter and Coldplay Producer Rick Nowels, on 30th May at 3:00 p.m. at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel and performing live at the Metropolitan at 9:45 p.m. on the 30th of May.

The 23 year-old musician—born and raised in the U.S., currently resides in beautiful San Diego, CA. He plans to go back into the studio in July, once again at Parr Street in Liverpool, to record an EP titled Ritual Habitual. Hargo’s sound is an electrifying fusion of past meets present- Beatles meets Beck and Cat Stevens meets Coldplay.

Hargo has also worked with Legendary Beatles’ Music Producer, Phil Spector. Hargo’s “Crying for John Lennon” was recorded and produced by Spector in Los Angeles, CA, in the weeks leading up to the producer’s infamous trial. With another trial set in September, Hargo may be the last artist to have worked with the music legend.
- Press Release


(LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND)- Friday, May 30, 2008, musician HARGO will perform live at the Metropolitan during the Liverpool Sound City Music Conference. Taking place at the Hard Days Night Hotel and world famous Cavern Club, high level music industry veterans and newcomers will argue and debate the latest music trends and issues. It will feature bands and industry professionals from around the world, showcasing some of the hottest bands and artists in the UK and abroad.

Hargo will be performing, sitting on the Songwriter’s panel, and promoting the animated movie, Liverpool 800, which celebrates the 800th anniversary of Liverpool this year. Hargo was asked to write and record a song for the film, which he titled “Just the Sky” and recorded at Parr Street Studios (Coldplay’s Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head) in Liverpool.

The 23 year-old musician—born and raised in the U.S., currently resides in beautiful San Diego, CA. He plans to go back into the studio in July, once again at Parr Street in Liverpool, to record an EP titled Ritual Habitual. Hargo’s sound is an electrifying fusion of past meets present- Beatles meets Beck and Cat Stevens meets Coldplay.

Hargo has also worked with Legendary Beatles’ Music Producer, Phil Spector. Hargo’s “Crying for John Lennon” was recorded and produced by Spector in Los Angeles, CA, in the weeks leading up to the producer’s infamous trial. With another trial set in September, Hargo may be the last artist to have worked with the music legend.
- Press Release


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Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

HARGO brings haunting melodies anchored by a driving beat, distorted guitars, and a wide vocal range evocatively accentuating the thought-provoking lyrics. HARGO is a unique blend of personalities and cultures drawn from a diverse range of musical styles and influences, displaying music that is much more than just melody and lyrics.

Fronted by Hargobind Hari Khalsa, who since an early age has been redefining the face of the 21st century American songwriter. Khalsa’s song, "Crying For John Lennon," which Phil Spector praised as "something John would have written", was included in the 2009 documentary Strawberry Fields and was produced by Phil Spector and marked Spector's last production.

The full band was formed in 2010 and in February 2012 they released their debut album Out of Mankind While touring extensively in 2011 and 2012, Out of Mankind was receiving accolades in the the press and by indie taste makers. HARGO’s most recent success includes winning Ford Motors/Don Was contest Gimme the Gig II. HARGO was chosen out of 3000 bands to perform in front of Don Was, and were eventually chose by Was as winners of the competition. HARGO went on to record “Regeneration X” with Don Was in May of 2012. Shortly after Gimme The Gig, the band returned to the studio to record six new songs for an upcoming release.