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CMW Interview: Harmonica

Hot on the heels of Harmonica's stellar set at SoundProof's Canadian Music Week showcase, we sat down with Monica Johansen from the band to talk about what's next for Canada's new favourite Norwegian pop-rockers.

SoundProof: For those who aren't familiar with Harmonica in North America, how would you describe your sound?

Monica Johansen: The music is a mixture of danceable rock and indie pop. Then you add some good-natured punk, spice it with synthetic synth sounds and wrap it in plastic-fantastic outfits, and voila! You've got Harmonica! We make music you can dance to!

SP: You have a dynamic stage presence. How has this translated in the way the audience responds?

MJ: Our concerts often lead to spontaneous dancing, both onstage and off. We want the audience to feel like they are a part of the concert, and we are often inviting them to join us with hand claps and sing-a-longs. We want our audience to have a good time and to have fun. People always seem to get very happy during our concerts, and happy people are nice people!

SP: The songs are catchy, fun and full of energy. How would you describe the personalities in the band?

MJ: Since I am the only songwriter in the band, the songs are a result of my inspiration from different artists and genres. I love those concerts when I am both listening to my favorite band and have the feeling of going out dancing at the same time. I want our audience to feel the same way too. But the songs somehow also reflect the band. We are three girls in the band; that means a lot of laughing, chattering and energy. We are all hard-working and ambitious people, but we are having a good time doing the hard work!

SP: Your music is very danceable, yet rocks at the same time. Do you find that Harmonica has crossover appeal with music genres?

MJ: The songs are a result of all the different artists and genres I listen to as a songwriter. I am very fond of indie rock, but I also like more commercial artists, like Justin Timberlake. One song can be inspired by hip hop, while another can be inspired by punk rock. I think you can hear that diversity in our songs. Some have put us in the new rave genre because of our way of mixing the feeling of going to a concert with the feeling of going out to a club at the same time, but you can call it whatever you want. We see that a lot of different people like our music, and in the end I think that the most important thing about a song is a good melody. And hopefully people find our melodies really good.

SP: Is breaking into North America important to the band?

MJ: Breaking into North America would be a dream for us. Many of our favorite artists are from here, and to be noticed outside Scandinavia would be amazing. But at this time I wouldn't call it important. Not yet! We are at the very beginning of our career and have done everything on our own so far, so to get noticed in North America would be a big bonus.

SP: Over the past few years, Scandinavia has produced a lot of intense garage-rock bands. Is the music scene more pop/melodic oriented now? How would you describe the scene in Norway and Scandinavia?

MJ: Yes, the Scandinavian music scene is definitely more pop-oriented than earlier. It has some really good pop-oriented bands these days, and Harmonica is one example. I think people are ready to lighten up a bit; they want catchy melodies and beats to dance to!

SP: Finally, where does Harmonica see themselves in five years?

MJ: We are working on our third album, experimenting with more electronic beats, but still have the melodic orientation. We are touring North America, Europe and are big in Japan! I have always wanted to go to Tokyo.

- SoundProof Magazine, CAN

Norway's Harmonica Score Highest Mark On ChartAttack CMW Report Cards
Tuesday March 13, 2007 @ 06:00 PM
By: ChartAttack.com Staff


Canadian Music Week has come to an end once again, and all of the results are in from ChartAttack's prestigious CMW report cards.

After three jam-packed nights of performances, our team of reviewers gave out 94 grades based on stage presence and overall musical talent. After careful analysis, Oslo, Norway indie-pop darlings Harmonica came out on top with an impressive 99 out of 100. Toronto thrash-rock band Cancer Bats were the top homegrown act with a 97.

Here are the highest ranked acts of CMW 2007:

1. Harmonica — 99
2. Cancer Bats — 97
3. Cadence Weapon — 96
4. (tie) Les Breastfeeders — 95
4. (tie) Apostle Of Hustle — 95
4. (tie) The Golden Dogs — 95
7. (tie) Joseph Arthur — 93
7. (tie) Frida Hyvonen — 93
7. (tie) Mother Mother — 93
8. Jade McNelis — 92
9. The Buttless Chaps — 91
To read all the report cards, check out our CMW 2007 page.

http://www.chartattack.com/damn/2007/03/1310.cfm - ChartAttack, CAN

Harmonica @ Sneaky Dee's
Saturday March 10, 2007 @ 12:00 PM
By: ChartAttack.com Staff

Band: Harmonica
Hometown: Oslo, Norway
Venue: Sneaky Dee's
Date: March 9, 2007
Reporter: Phil Villeneuve
Background/Composition Truly, truly, truly outrageous three-girl fronted indie pop band from Norway decorated mics with flowers and themselves with flashing necklaces, bracelets and matching gold outfits.

Grade: 99

Comment: Harmonica might just be the friendliest and most fun indie band on the planet. They're a burst of musical sunshine led by three blonde bombshells and two head-turning gentlemen who charmed the audience with their coy banter, jokes, thank yous and flirting. The room was in a frenzy by the end of the set.

Achievement of Rock 'n' Roll Expectations
80-100: Exceeds skill and knowledge expectations, i.e. rocked us so hard we peed our pants.
70-79: Achieves required skills and knowledge. Meets rock 'n' roll standard.
60-69: Demonstrates some skills. Approaches rock 'n' roll standard.
50-59: Demonstrates some required skills and knowledge in a limited way.
00-50: Has not demonstrated required skills or knowledge.

Learning Skills: E=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Sad Really

Oral And Visual Communication

Eye Contact: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Pronounciation: E The ultra-colourful lead singer announced after the opening number that "we are your new favourite band!" She wasn't lying. The crowd fell in love with the group's knack for playing with the audience (not so much for them), constantly inviting folks to dance, clap and love them. Their incredible energy rubbed off everywhere and didn't let up to the very last second of their performance. Imagine Debbie Harry times three, on valium, playing with a band she loved, and you can imagine how Harmonica awesome are.
Stage Presence: E
Stage Banter: E
Image: E
Appearance: E
Use Of Stage: E

Musical Analysis

Level Of Participation: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Problem Solving: E This was indie dance-pop at its greatest. Loud, easy to dance too, clever and fun. The girls aren't afraid to throw in "whoo hoos" whenever they feel like it. Hands were in the air, fingers were pointed. The songs about themselves reminded me of an indie cheerleading squad. Very DIY and into group harmonizing, even when Harmonica slowed things down, they were still sweet and poppy. There wasn't a moment of darkness in this stellar set.
Teamwork: E
Work Habits: E
Organization: E
Audience Participation: E
Sound: E
Composition: E
Songs: E

Other Skills And Areas Of Interest

Charisma: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Problem Solving: G The band confessed they had never been outside of Norway to play and it showed. They were extremely thankful and bursting to show off their fresh sound. With uniquely honest, energetic indie pop, there's no-one out there who sound like Harmonica.
Teamwork: E
Sexiness: E
Haircut: G
Indie Rock Footwear: E
Nods To Disposible Fashion: G
Cool Equipment: E
Level Of Inebriation: G
Actual Ability: E

- ChartAttack, CAN

CMW Live: Harmonica

Undoubtedly the best looking band on the CMW circuit, Norwegian pop-quintet Harmonica (featuring Monica Johansen on lead vocals and guitar, Karl Magnus Bjoroy on drums, Geir Pedersen on guitar, Nina Hammervoll on bass and vocals, and Ingeborg Selnes on synth, vocals, and percussion) served up a heavy dose of serious sexiness alongside their smouldering, high-energy power-pop performance. Ferociously powerful, yet at the same time incredibly cute, only a band fronted by three blonde Norwegian rocker chicks could pull off Harmonica's skilful balancing act of raw punk and sugar pop, and the tight crowd packed into Sneaky Dee's ate this up.

"Wow," the band's pleasantly surprised guitarist remarked at one point in response to the enthusiastic crowd. "Maybe we should move to Toronto?" More cheering and half a dozen indie boys immediately proclaimed their love, barely audible over the other catcalls and applause.

With plenty of hand-claps and doo-wop choruses, Harmonica was like a younger, more vibrant version of The Sounds. Simple chord progressions translated well despite Sneak's mildly shitty acoustics, but the band's synth-driven beats and buzzing mid-range sounds suggested their studio work contains several more layers of musical complexity beyond what was on display Friday night.

I left thinking Harmonica was added proof that SoundProof's showcase was one of the best of CMW.

http://www.soundproofmagazine.com/toronto/live/2007-03-12-CMW-Harmonica.htm - SoundProof Magazine, CAN

Sneaky Dee’s
Friday March 9

Three super-hot Norwegian rocker chicks (Monica Johansen on lead vocals/guitar, Nina Hammervoll on bass /vocals, and Ingeborg Selnes on synth/vocals/percussion) plus two slight Norwegian rocker dudes (Geir Pedersen and Karl Magnus Bjorøy on guitar and drums respectively) equalled one awesome set, just one of many during SoundProof Magazine’s fantastic Friday night showcase. Balancing a fine line between raw punk and sugar-coated candy pop, Harmonica were like a cuter, more modest, and more vibrant version of the Sounds.

I say “modest” because of their apparent surprise at the crowd’s enthusiasm.

“Wow,” said Johansen at one point, taken aback by a room full of love-struck and cheering indie boys, “maybe we should move to Toronto?” I hope so. The crowd ate this up, and dozens more immediately proclaimed their love from the floor.

Precocious and full of energy, Harmonica were just one of the many reasons why Norway rocks, and why SoundProof’s showcase was one of CMW’s best.

- James Sandham

http://www.spillmagazine.com/livereviews.html#harmonica - The spill magazine online, CAN

Norway's adorable Harmonica brought some powerfully fun shouty punk-pop stylings to Sneaky Dee's . Lead singer and guitarrist Monica Johansen yelped, shouted and belted her way through keyed-up, distorted riffage, rocking undiscovered hits with her gang of five, powered by the solid drumming of Karl Magnus Bjorøy .
- NOW Magazine, CAN


Promotion EP: "Miaow, miaow, BARK! (2006)
1. You gotta go!
2. Rocking girl
Both songs have had rotation on norwegian radio.
We also have a music video for "You gotta go!"



Harmonica (Oslo, Norway) consists of three women and two men that play danceable rock and great indie pop. Harmonica has a reputation for delivering an amazing live show with visual effects, energetic dance steps, playfulness and tons of energy. With a glamourous and energetic front figure, this is a band that is definitely worth seeing. With a mix of attitude and self irony, this band is a breath of fresh air in the norwegian music scene. Take a dash of pop and a pinch of rock’n’roll, add some good-natured punk, spice it with synthetic synth sounds and wrap it in plastic-fantastic outfits: Voilà! You’ve got Harmonica!

They’ve been invited to play with The Magic Numbers, they have played at the Norwegian Wood festival and competed in this year’s Zoom/urørt(up-and-coming) band contest. They also performed during the Øya
festival’s club nights (NO), for the last three years.

Harmonica’s rise has been further enriched by success in several demo tape competitions. In 2006 Harmonica won both the hearts and minds of the audience, and the jury, and played at the Norwegian Wood festival in Oslo.
Headliners of the festival were artists like Lou Reed, Roger Waters, Gnarls Barkley, Kent, Mew and Martha Wainwright. Many of the today’s big names in norwegian music started their careers at exactly this venue.

Harmonica participated in Scandinavia’s biggest and most important music event, by:Larm, in February this year. The band got a lot of attention both before and after the festival, both in norwegian newspapers and television. Harmonica was headed as one of the main acts at the festival. Both concerts at by:Larm resulted in packed clubs, and a 1000 people saw Harmonica during
the two concerts.

Harmonica has recently returned from Canadian Music Week(CMW) in Toronto. After three concerts, packed clubs and amazing reviews, the band was elected "the
best live act 2007", in competition with bands like The Pipettes, 22-Pistepirko and Under Byen. Over 600 bands from the whole world participated at the festival.

Harmonica was described like: "Harmonica might just be the friendliest and most fun indie band on the planet. They're a burst of musical sunshine led by three blonde bombshells and two head-turning gentlemen who charmed the audience with their coy banter, jokes, thank yous and flirting. The room was in a frenzy by
the end of the set. With uniquely honest, energetic indie pop, there's no-one out there who sound like Harmonica."

All of this witnesses a great talent, commitment, distinctiveness and ambitiousness.

Harmonica is on full speed ahead, and is considered to be one of Norway’s most exciting newcomers.
Their concerts often lead to spontaneous dancing, both onstage and off.

Harmonica is ready for another Canada tour in October 2007. The band has been invited to Pop Montreal, and the tour starts here, via Ottawa and ending in Toronto.

Harmonica is a party with umbrella drinks
-and you’re invited!