THE HARLEQUINS

THE HARLEQUINS

 Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
BandRockPsychedelic

"The Harlequins put a fresh spin on a classic regional sound that has universal appeal, and like Austins the Strange Boys and San Franciscos Ty Segall, remember that fun and fuzz belong close together" ~ VICE
"The Harlequins are one of the hardest-working bands in the Midwest"~ROR tapes

Band Press

What's That Sound? The Harlequins - "One With You" – Old Time Religion Radio Hour

Anyone in psychedelic music circles these days will tell you, there’s plenty of fuzz to go around. Surf riffs drenched in shaky distortion, wobbly keyboard licks and distorted vocal yelps are becoming commonplace, and personally I love it. But as has happened with past music trends from punk to grunge to you name it, standing out from the crowd while indulging in the genre du jour isn’t always easy.

These guys the Harlequins may have a shot at it, though. On their first full LP, “One With You”, the Cincinnati three-piece has crafted a solid garage-pop trip that grabs you quick and keeps you floating.

They can surely draw comparisons with other darlings of the neo-psych movement; namely the echo-drenched bombast of Thee Oh Sees and that melodic, catchy-but-strange aspect of Ty Segall’s numerous projects. Not content to rely on the genre’s box of tricks, however, the Harlequins use the now familiar genre tropes as tools rather than crutches.

The reverb is never turned so high that it drowns out guitarist/singer Michael Oliva’s superb vocal melody lines. Bassist Alex Stenard and Rob Stamler are solid and supportive but never obtrusive, always in the service of the song. Oliva’s guitar work is breathlessly efficient and exhilarating. The solos don’t drone on and on, no noodling here. Instead, the songs are structured with a balance of garage voracity and pop sensibility. Sure, verse-chorus-verse and all that, but never wasteful or repetitive, throwing changes in where you’d expect more of the same. Think along the lines of classic garage-psych songwriters like the Davies brothers and Randy California if they’d come up in the early grunge-era and you have a starting point for The Harlequins.

Listen, though. I’m a dope when it comes to the written word. I prefer to let the tunes speak for themselves. So take a listen below (along with their insane new video) as a taste, and if you like what you hear? Head over to Dizzybird Records and pick it up today, and hit the Harlequins up on their website for news and show dates, and bug your local record store to nab a few copies.

With so many releases saturating the modern psych scene today, an exciting first album like “One With You” stands out from the herd. Keep an ear on the Harlequins.

The Harlequins Premiere "ONE WITH YOU" – Performer Mag

THE HARLEQUINS – ONE WITHOUT YOU
The Harlequins are known for their energetic live performances and experimental light shows, incorporating elements of ‘50s and ‘60s rock & roll with garage, surf, punk and krautrock. The Harlequins have released five albums independently and have been a regular fixture at SXSW, Bunbury and Midpoint Music Festivals. In 2011 they were handpicked by the Black Lips for a feature on Noisey.com.

After touring behind 2013’s Sex Change EP The Harlequins signed to dizzybird records and spent 2015 writing and recording their label debut, One With You, out June 24.

One With You is a throwback to the psychedelic rock and pop of the 1960s, but The Harlequins’ show their Midwestern roots, effortlessly marrying the garage rock styles from the ‘80s-punk inspired East coast to the glam-garage revival of the West. Influences like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees bleed through the tape echo as The Harlequins weave a patchwork acid trip of a record. The album’s title track is a fuzzed-out, breakneck psych-punk track full of hazy vocals, wild reverb-soaked guitars, mindbending pitch shifts and raw talent, all propelled forward by a driving eighth-note floor-tom rhythm.

With "Hear Me Out", The Harlequins make a simple plea – The A.V. Club

While plenty of bands in the garage-punk world are content to stick to the traditional song structure of verse-chorus repeat, Cincinnati’s The Harlequins mine psych for all it’s worth. For the band’s upcoming record, One With You, the band attempts to tear that classic framework down from the inside, pulling apart riffs until they barely resemble their component parts. The A.V. Club is premiering “Hear Me Out” today, which sees the trio build a hooky melody, only to gleefully run the song off the rails and dance atop the wreckage.

Pre-orders for One With You are available now through Dizzybird Records.

The Harlequins "Fair Shake" – Exclaim!

The Harlequins have may been plying their trade for almost a decade, but the Cincinnati garage-rockers are ready to push things forward with the upcoming release of One with You, their label debut on Dizzybird Records. In advance of its June 24 release date, Exclaim! is bringing you the premiere of the LP's latest single "Fair Shake."

"Fair Shake" hears the band betraying their Midwestern roots in favour of fuzzed-out surf rock and psychedelia. Moments of reverb-washed guitar and pouty vocals, however, may find you recalling the madness-inducing humidity of summer in the city rather than the relaxation of surf and sand.

Take a listen to "Fair Shake" in the player below and keep your eyes peeled for One with You to officially arrive later this week.

Harlequins Members Support Gringo Star Tour – The Harlequins, September 21, 2013

Beginning immediately after their performance at Cincinnati's MidPoint Music Festival, The Harlequins will take a 2 1/2 month break from the Cincinnati music scene. But they won't be resting!

Lead singer and guitarist Michael Oliva and drummer Rob Stamler will be temporarily joining Atlanta based band Gringo Star to help them on a national tour promoting their new album Going Out to See which will be released October 22nd.

The 39 city tour will take them coast to coast from San Diego to Boston with stops in 24 states, Washington, DC, and Vancouver, BC, Canada!

Watch for The Harlequin's return to Cincinnati on December 14th when they will play with Gringo Star at MOTR as the tour winds to a finish.

The Harlequins’ SXSW Send Off at MOTR – Caitlin Behle, Each Note Secure, March 5, 2013

Say goodbye to The Harlequins this Thursday at their SXSW Send Off Show at MOTR. The show is free, but the band is accepting $5 donations toward their gas fund. Throw down some cash and you’ll receive a limited-edition screen print of the show poster. Stephen Paul Smoker will open.

The band recently announced they’ll be touring down to SXSW to play an official SXSW showcase with Micah P. Hinson and Gringo Star. The trio will leave for their 15-day tour with Aaron Modarressi, who will be recording their shows, and Jonathan Goolsby of WVQC’s Salina Underground, who will be covering the tour gonzo-style.

The band is currently trying to raise funds to cover the cost of insurance, gas, and renting a 15-passenger van, all of which adds up to over $1600.

You can donate to their tour fundraiser through their website, http://www.theharlequinsmusic.com/. The group opted to ditch the typical Kickstarter campaign in favor of receiving donations directly through PayPal. Frontman Mike Oliva explains, “If we didn’t meet our [fundraising] goal [through Kickstarter], we couldn’t afford to not get any donations at all. We needed whatever we could get.”

Show Review: Live @ Mayday in Northside – The Harlequins, Gringo Star, Shadowraptr – Jordan C. Small, Migrate Music News, March 6, 2012

The Harlequins stepped onto the stage to a mummer of applause. Again, I was standing towards the rear of the room, but I saw members of the audience passing back these rod-like things and as they were passed closer to me I reached out and grabbed a handful of what looked like 3-D glasses (which I later found were called “Tripster glasses”). They were very cool because it was like looking into a kaleidoscope; with all the lights and the video playing on the projector, this element added a whole new emanation to the situation. During their set, The Harlequins utilized the white-screen. They played brightly colored — flashing images to their music. With the band playing and the lights and video flashing, it felt almost as if I was in some crazy Hunter S. Thompson novel.

The bar was packed to the brim to see this amazing band. The Harlequins played an excellent show. I would describe their musical style as similar to Gringo Star in that they sound like a combination of shoegaze and indie-punk. They were really upbeat and their lyrics cater to a somewhat psychedelic feel. The way the vocals are distorted by reverb gave the lead singer a kind of low-fi quality. I especially enjoyed the resounding barks by the lead singer, almost like a cross between a bark and a yell. Those aspects mixed with everything else that I have brushed up on made it a very enjoyable show. I anticipate that I will see them again sometime this summer, being that they are a local band. Overall, the show was a very well put together and very fun. I’ll give The Harlequins an 8 out of 10; good work, guys.

The Harlequins - The Harlequins (reseña) – Pasaje Alternativo, 2/25/12

Hace algunos días tuve el chance de escuchar el nuevo disco de The Harlequins, ese trío que fácilmente me conquistó con su sencillo "Midwest Coast". Ahora vuelven a llamar la atención de mis oídos con temas como "No Not I" y "Backwards Forwards". Dos sencillos de este material que nos dejan claro que The Harlequins han decidido cambiar de línea y tal y como me lo contó Michael Oliva (su cantante y guitarrista), para ellos este disco fue como regresar a sus orígenes.

Y al parecer esos orígenes resultaron ser bastante psicodélicos y garage. Aún no estoy seguro si este segundo disco me guste más que el primero, pero de lo que estoy seguro es que estos chicos van por buen camino. Acá les dejo al audio de mi favorita: "Backwards Forwards".

Back to the Noise - The Harlequins return to their signature sound with new album – Cincinnati City Beat, C.A. MacConnell, February 28, 2012

Mike Oliva and I agree — Batman is cool, but The Joker is simply badass, with his dark sense of humor and creepy, wide smile. There’s something intriguing about his slick, sarcastic ways, and, hell, there’s no forgetting that horrific laugh.

Yeah, I’m jealous that Oliva — vocalist/guitarist for Cincinnati rockers The Harlequins — happened to be touring through Chicago when producers were shooting The Dark Knight there. He even stumbled onto the set, catching a few scenes. (Weirdly related, Oliva says he’s a fan of Belgian Surf Rock band, The Jokers. As he says, “They’re sick.”)

Call them dirty, catchy, grungy or sexy-dark. Call them Surf Rock or Psych Rock. Label The Harlequins’ music if you will, but they play solid, tight Rock & Roll songs, with a subtle nod to the delicate comic/tragic mix of Morrissey and The Smiths and hints of The Doors and The Pixies thrown in. Sometimes, they punch it out in the free spirit sweat of ’70s Rock. Other times, the tracks get edgier, grabbing onto Nirvana-ish grit. The result is dreamy, thick with reverb and served with a side of classic Punk and true garage spit.

The Harlequins consistently hammer out compelling live shows. A true mood setter, their music draws people in, making them move and take a second look. Listen close and it’ll even make you smirk. As Oliva puts it, “I try to have a sense of humor about it.”

A Buddy Holly fan from Massachusetts, Oliva started playing young, first on drums and then guitar, but the now 4-year-old Harlequins is his “first real band.” Armed with sensual, deep, echoing vocals and subtle lyrical wit, he may seem to be ambiguous and artistic, visually speaking — striped scarf, long black coat, stylish medium-length hair, thick sideburns, black boots. But he’s not the stereotypically aloof singer, laughing easily and often. He stands out in a crowd, but he comes across as a deep fellow who’s likeable and warm. A self-proclaimed class clown and insomniac, Oliva’s known to write volumes of songs at 4 a.m.

We meet at the artsy/organic Rohs Street Café. Across from me, recording engineer Aaron Modarressi, who worked on the The Harlequins new full-length, kicks back. On my right, drummer Rob Stamler. Alex Stanard (bass) is missing, but if he were around, I’m told we’d probably have a little talk about traveling and the band Parliament.

Currently working on two other albums, Modarressi is soundman at Rohs, Northside Tavern and other local haunts. He has Persian roots — sharp, dark features — and wears a thick, closely trimmed beard.

At first, his look appears serious, but he grins often and the hat on his head reads “Goosebumps,” referring to the creepy books. Modarressi is known for his work with the Cincinnati-based recording collective at The Marburg Hotel, where The Harlequins recorded it’s 2011 EP, Midwest Coast.

Lean and strikingly tall with thick brown hair, a chiseled jaw, high cheekbones and beard, Stamler towers over the rest of us. From Cincinnati, he started on keys at age 5, soon picking up trumpet and later switching to drums. Stamler is laidback with a voice that holds a deep, low tone. It’s evident that his band experience runs deep; when asked what bands he’s been in, he simply laughs.

“A ton,” someone says.

Now, some more concrete stats: In 2008, The Harlequins were nominated for “Best New Artist” at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. After releasing Baron Von Headless, their 2009 debut full-length, Cincy Groove Magazine named them “Artist of the Month.” In 2010, CityBeat gave them the vote for “Best Use of Reverb,” and their music was recognized as a “Favorite Catwalk Song” on Lifetime’s Models of the Runway. By the time their “small guy, working man EP” Midwest Coast came out, their “no gimmick” recording style and well-crafted, emotional songs helped the band earn extensive radio play and numerous interviews. Last year, Vice Magazine chose them to represent the city at its Uncapped showcase, which led to video features on the mag’s Noisey site.

Mostly recorded live, the band’s new self-titled album still holds The Harlequins’ signature resonant sound. The band held six sessions at artists’ haven The Mockbee, later finishing up in Modarressi’s attic.

Modarressi explains, “It’s got a lot of natural reverb on the guitar and off the drums ’cause it’s so huge in (The Mockbee), but then we added just a little bit extra. But other than that it’s a very natural album.”

Oliva says the album contains a handful of songs plucked from a collection he’s built up after particularly prolific writing bouts.

“I went through this phase for probably three years where I couldn’t sleep much,” he says. “I was writing like a maniac, and I wrote something like 400 songs and we used like 20 of them, and then we’d just rotate them around live. This record is a mix of older songs and some newer jams.”

In a low drone, Stamler adds, “It’s big, but so tight.”

It’s also dark.

“It’s heavier. A lot

Cincy rockers throw record release party – Sean Peters, University of Cincinnati News Recorder, February 28, 2012

It’s absurd that Myspace.com is still running. How many ex-girlfriends could I have avoided without that website?

Luckily, there are good things to be found on that old washout of a domain: Some vintage Harlequins tunes not easily found elsewhere.

If The Harlequins are an unfamiliar name, catch up with them on the social networking site — they’re a good enough reason to justify Myspace still lingering around.

While the opening track on their forthcoming self-titled LP is called “End For Us,” that shouldn’t imply the band is going to hang up their hats — Rock and Roll would lose too unique an ally. They’ve built up too much momentum.

There is a lot of music that has inspired The Harlequins, but not much that sounds like The Harlequins. Some influences can’t be ignored: Songwriting skills like Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys; the casual and raw power of The Ramones and nice hairdos like The Breeders.

Cincinnati boasts an intensely focused music scene, and The Harlequins deserve credit for keeping their shit together long enough to continue to matter.

From performing those bar shows that only a handful of people remember, to packing Fountain Square shoulder-to-shoulder with ecstatic fans, The Harlequins are enjoying a fruitful career as minstrels to the Queen City.

The Harlequins are amazingly adept at tolerating hecklers, too. Maybe their indifference is indicative of how amazingly rock ‘n’ roll they are. Watching them play our dearly departed Southgate House, Matt Ayers, drummer for The Guitars, stood in the front row, laying into them with inspired lewdness. No effect. Not a single tear. That speaks volumes about their potential, maybe.

There’s no excuse for lazy songwriting. The Harlequins are not lazy songwriters and, if they are lazy, they’re too talented to notice.

Their inspirations range from global turmoil, all the way to crazy stalker ladies who can’t take a hint. Their new song, “Heaven,” is even inspired by Milton’s “Paradise Lost”: “The mind is its own place/ In itself makes Hell of Heaven/ Heaven of Hell, if that’s the case.”

One of the unwritten rules to releasing a good record is that there needs to be a special party.

On Saturday, March 3, (at the Mayday bar in Northside) you’ll be able to see, hear, smell and heckle The Harlequins as they unveil their self-titled LP.

The show is free and sure to be a kicking soiree, seeing how the bands Shadowraptr and Gringo Star will kick the night off with their own thing.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, The Harlequins will add you as a “Top Friend” and make your Myspace dreams come true.

Ear candy: Songs We Like - Heaven by The Harlequins – Daniele Cusentino, Metromix Cincinnati, February 29, 2012

Well, the boys have done it again. Released more good music, this time recorded in Cincinnati’s own Mockbee on Central Parkway. The Harlequins have always had a Beatles vibe, which is so awesome, and you can totally hear that in this track. I hear some "I am the Walrus" influences. The fuzzy, distant vocals and chime-y guitars with that cymbal crashing, boy oh boy. I've listened to it five times in the past half hour. I love it. Celebrate the release of the band's album on March 3 at Mayday, and get a copy for yourself.

Vice version of the Noisey Uncapped Video Now Available – Vice

A mini-documentary on The Harlequins including footage from their July 14, 2011 performance for the Vice/vitaminwater/Uncapped show at MOTR in Cincinnati.

Vitaminwater version of the Noisey Uncapped Video Now Available – vitaminwater

A mini-documentary on The Harlequins including footage from their July 14, 2011 performance for the Vice/vitaminwater/Uncapped show at MOTR in Cincinnati.

MidPoint Music Festival Reviews – University of Cincinnati News Record, September 25, 2011

THE HARLEQUINS: Everyone pronounces their name differently, but The Harlequins have the supreme ability to consistently play a great show. Frontman Michael Oliva's songs are beautifully demented hybrid homage to the Beach Boys and The Ramones. His guitar tone drips with reverb and fills every pocket of quietness in the room.

The Harlequins Experience – Vice Records, September 16, 2011

This week Cincinnati’s retro garage rockers The Harlequins took us around town to visit the various hot spots responsible for the genre-free DIY renaissance that is happening there. We made a stop at Able Projects, a screen printing / graphic design / indoor skate spot / punk rock clubhouse that has so many amenities and eye-catching enhancements it seemed like it must have been plucked out of somebody’s life long plans for the greatest funhouse ever. Later that night we journeyed to the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where the trio got the crowd dancing at MOTR Pub with their blend of raucous rock with pop hooks.

Hailing from Cincinnati, one of the birthplaces of rock ‘n’ roll, means you have a pretty big legacy to live up to. Rock is in the bloodstream of this entire region. Once the home to King Records and its sister label Federal Records, responsible for discovering some guy named James Brown who pretty much taught the entire earth to dance in the twentieth century, Cincinnati and Ohio in general have done a great job of turning out high energy bands best experienced at loud volumes when you are among a large, writhing group of fellow revelers. Luckily, the Harlequins are another fine addition to this tradition. The band members all met each other at parties. Not at school, not at work, not from an ad. Parties. It makes sense that they make music appropriate for such situations.


With garage rock godfathers Rocket From the Tombs combing from a couple hours away and newer Cincinnati acts like the Greenhornes and the Heartless Bastards feeding the flames over the last few years, the Harlequins put a fresh spin on a classic regional sound that has universal appeal. Atop the ragged, whirlwind electricity of early rock, singer Michael Oliva drops in the occasional vocal flourish that recalls the Smiths and the Kinks. Like Austin’s the Strange Boys and San Francisco’s Ty Segall, the Harlequins remember that fun and fuzz belong close together, not just in the dictionary but just about anywhere you can manage to combine them.

The Harlequins, Review by Jeff Sweeney – SKYe Magazine, Issue 7, August 2011, Page 38

When I first listened to "Midwest Coast," the title track from Cincinnati-based trio The Harlequins' new EP of the same name, I was almost ready to dismiss them as another entry in the overcrowded lo-fi surf sweepstakes; the twangy Ventures-like guitars and reverb-y production takes you straight to the beach, with one striking exception. At times, lead singer Michael Oliva sounds uncannily like Julian Casablancas.

Best Coast meets the Strokes, if you will.

Upon repeated listening, though, I realized that The Harlequins shouldn't be discarded quite so easily. At some point every day, I found that song sneaking into my musical consciousness again and again. And the rest of the EP is solid evidence that these guys are more than a one-trick pony.

The band; singer Michael Oliva, bassist Alex Stenard, and drummer Rob Stamler, create a jangly, spacey brand of psychedelic sounding pop and never really overplay the "surf" card. They even won the "Best Use of Reverb" award in "Best of Cincinnati" in 2010; a category I never dreamed would have existed.

Their simplistic approach is also somewhat reminiscent of the Strokes, and that comparison stands. But these guys have more than enough fresh ideas to stand on their own, and the songs are well constructed and catchy throughout, save the nearly six minute closing "hidden track" which is basically just noisy noodling. Definitely a band worth watching.

Midwest Coast is the best coast. And it's nice to finally have a beach to call our own.

Ear candy: Songs We Like - Midwest Coast by The Harlequins – Daniele Cusentino, Metromix Cincinnati, July 6, 2011

It was hard to choose a track from this album. Mostly because they are all freakin’ great, but also because lead singer, Michael Oliva took the time to share the meaning behind each one. I must say, listening to the album has an extra special touch, thanks to that, and especially on this track, because I felt like he was summing up my exact feelings about many things. I couldn’t even begin to sum it all up in one paragraph, so I’ll do it with my favorite quote from Oliva: “I feel like I don’t want to hear bands from the coasts, who have sunshine, singing about pot and cats when there are more serious things going on. So ‘Midwest Coast’ turned into kind of a Wu Tang song for the middle class, hard-working folks in the Midwest -- it kind of reps the small guy.”

The Harlequins Vitamin Water / Vice Magazine Party (Review) – Adrienne Panveno, Indie Face, July 17, 2011

Nothing like the promise of free booze to bring the kids out on a hot Thursday night, and boy howdy, were they out! When my compatriot and I walked in the door of MOTR shortly before 10pm, we found ourselves 10 minutes shy of the end of open bar and it was complete pandemonium. Four deep at the bar. We elbowed our way to the front only to be told, “no more free drinks”. I ordered anyway, paid for two beers and we immediately took off for the back patio. Nearly missing being punched/kissed/thrown up on by a myriad of drunken hipsters within 10 feet, I was already stressed out and in need of a cigarette.

The patio was as packed as the bar, and it was at least twenty degrees hotter. As I scanned the crowd, I can safely and respectfully say that this event brought out just about every scenester in Cincinnati. It was kind of amazing. On a Thursday no less. We mingled and drank and became antsy as we were promised music. Aside from the Harlequins, two other bands were set to perform, Sacred Spirits and The Weakness, but I saw them neither playing nor setting up. But our anticipation was soon answered when the Harlequins finally went on shortly after eleven. It felt like the crowd had thinned once the free alcohol ran out, but upon reentering the building, it was a pleasant surprise to find quite the packed house still, and The Harlequins giving the crazed rock and roll fans exactly what they came out for.

The thing about the Harlequins is that they are consistent – as in they consistently put on a good show. Cincinnati has a lot of great bands, but some perhaps spend too much time on the extracurriculars of rock and roll preventing them from giving a satisfactory performance on a regular basis. The Harlequins never disappoint. I have seen them play in some strange locations and over some rough sound systems, and they still manage to take it to town every single time. They figure out a way to use these variables to their advantage, and make it part of the show. The enthusiasm they have for their own music is contagious, and it is difficult to resist the groove.

Corporate sponsorship of shows in becoming unavoidable [the Vitamin Water branding was everywhere last night], but this time it was merely more than a small annoyance against the backdrop of a really great Summer party. Sure, it was packed and hot, and sure, there were quite a few people who had obviously been over served during the open bar portion of the night, but the music was loud and rocking, and people were in high spirits. The city of Cincinnati was well represented, and Vice Magazine chose the right band to do it.

Reseña: Midwest Coast EP – Pasaje Alternativo, 6/27/11

Ohio es la casa de uno de los proyectos que ha logrado llamar mi atención gracias a su original sonido y bien elaborada lírica. Les hablo de The Harlequins, una banda que ha pasado de ser aquella que nos presentaba solamente un divertido video de "Midwest Coast", a una banda que nos entrega un impecable EP del mismo nombre.

Sumergido en una onda surf pop combinada con matices pop, Midwest Coast es un material con bastante energía para compartir. Destacan temas como "Midwest Coast", "Nothing Important Happened Today" y "2010". Todos ellos, trabajados bajo una misma línea nostálgica que nuestros oídos agradecen. Una amplia dinámica entre canción y canción, hace que este material de estos chicos de Cincinnati sea algo muy fácil de escuchar.

EP Review : The Harlequins : Midwest Coast – My Old Kentucky Blog, June 23, 2011

Back in April, MOKB brought you the super-fun, super-slushy video Midwest Coast by Cincinnati’s The Harlequins. Now we’re stoked to announce this indie, psyche-pop trio are releasing their 6-song EP of the same title, this Friday, July 1st on Fountain Square (downtown Cincy) for the MPMF Indie Summer Series (w/ the Pomegranates).

Chock full of nostalgic reverb and noir-ish, punkabilly overtones, these good-time, surf-pop rockers with a baroque panache are a hard act to corral into any specific genre. Michael Oliva’s lounge-y, Morrisey-esque vocals evoke a hand-holding 1950’s stroll down memory lane, that is until he starts unrepentant yowling like Lux Interior. Midwest Coast veers from minor, melancholic chords that still possess a teasing whimsy about them, such as the tunes So Far So Good and Nothing Important Happened Today to raucous, dynamic rockers like Firehawk and Midwest Coast. There’s the dreamier, laid-back 2010, a perfect example of Oliva’s intelligent flair for storied songwriting ala a noise-pop Randy Newman, while the party-time You Ought To is a shimmering, snarling exercise in pure pop entertainment.

In my book, that’s some guaranteed summertime shindigs not to be missed.

Check The Harlequins – Midwest Coast EP – Seizure Chicken Blog, The Wizard, June 27, 2011

Cincy trio, The Harlequins, have put together a good vibes 6 song ep perfect for the summer. The EP has all the reverbed, garage jangle and melodic surf feel you could ask for. Now having played in bands before..and being a lunatic about music…lead singers do NOT need any ego boosting haha , but lead singer Michael Oliva’s vocals are what set this band apart. He is pretty rad and down to earth from digitally speaking with him so I think we are fine saying that. I tried to pin the vox down and, right or wrong, I hear shades of a happier/lighter version of Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen) more then anything else. We diggit!

The Harlequins have been tipped by none other then Black Lips to be part of Vice’s tre excellente Noisy project so they have a bright enough you gotta wear shades future to be sure. We dig the EP and we are really excited for the upcoming 15 song LP due this fall that promises not only have the melodic goodness of Midwest Coast, but showcase the band’s rawer, less toes in the sand feel of their live shows. It is being recorded in a” brewery/dungeon” for maximum awesomenosity.. so really how can you go wrong? Get on this coop!

Harlequins Romance New EP – Cincinnati City Beat, Brian Baker, June 29, 2011

Last year was not a particularly good period for The Harlequins, losing several friends to the scourge of heroin while dealing with the standard personal and professional travails that have plagued us all. You’d be hard-pressed to find the marks to prove it on the trio’s wild and wonderful new EP, Midwest Coast, which is being launched with a CD release show at this Friday’s latest MidPoint Indie Summer soiree on Fountain Square.

The follow-up to 2009’s well received Baron Von Headless, Midwest Coast is The Harlequins’ reverb-and-acid-washed mini-masterpiece, an epic cleverly disguised as half an album. The title track kicks off the EP, its introductory strains suggesting an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, but in a matter of seconds The Harlequins (vocalist/guitarist Mike Olive, bassist Alex Stenard, drummer Rob Stamler) jump the rails by imagining Robert Pollard influenced by the Beach Boys and writing for The Smiths. “Midwest Coast” shimmers with cliche-free Surf wizardry and sly lyrical humor and perfectly tees up the rest of the disc, from the scuffed Pavement-fronted-by-Morrissey majesty of “2010” to the GBV/Pernice Brothers shootout of “Nothing Important Happened Today.”

Midwest Coast might echo around in your skull cavern with such frequency that you could require a church-sanctioned exorcist to get The Harlequins out of your head, although it’s a fairly safe bet you won’t actually want that to happen.

Midwest Coast Album Review – Nao Live (Atlanta) - June 29, 2011

The Harlequins are a three person band from Cincinnati. The group consists of Michael Oliva on guitar and vocals, Alex Sternard on bass, and Rob Stamler on drums. The group were nominated for “Best New Artist” in 2008 by the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and won “Best Use of Reverb” in 2010 from the Cincinnati City Beat. They released their first full length “Baron Von Headless” in 2010. The Harlequins are celebrating their new release, “Midwest Coast”, with a release party on July 1st at Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Nao Live got an early sneak peak of the album.

The opening lyrics, “The Midwest is the best coast”, set the tone for the rest of the album. It’s fun and playful, yet serious and fiercely proud of its Midwestern rock lineage. These ideas are manifested through the groups no frills, no gimmicks, songwriting.

The biggest strength of “Midwest Coast” is that it is an album in its truest sense, flowing from song to song. Five of the six songs hover around or under three minutes long. The album totals just 26 minutes (a secret song clocks in at under 6 minutes). The Harlequins say what they need to say and leave it at that. The compact, coherence of the album provides a strong foundation to the “day in the life”/”life in a summer” feel. Yet a real maturity and craftsmanship is shown throughout. The album runs the gamut of emotions – from civic pride (“Midwest Coast”), to wondering where time went (“2010”), and of course, relationships that could have been (sprinkled throughout every song). Love is a consistent theme. “Nothing Important Happened Today” wonders it’d be like if a current partner left, but the next song “Firehawk Lover” is about needing a partner to bring out a person’s best. In fact, some of the albums strongest moments come from these contrasts. The album drives forward, yet makes time for contemplative moments like the end of “2010” or “So Far So Good”, creating a highly nuanced rock record.

The upbeat, tight feel of the album combined with the twinges of nostalgia give “Midwest Coast” all the qualities of a great summer record. Highly recommended.

Links to Audio Interviews and News Video – Compiled by The Harlequins

Copy these links to check out recent audio and video media coverage, or go to www.theharlequinsmusic.com/media.html.

Excerpts from an Interview on WVQC Radio's 'Queen City Awesome' February 24, 2010
http://www.theharlequinsmusic.com/music/wvqc-interview.mp3


The Harlequins song "Untitled" was featured in a video by Habitat Skateboards in October, 2009 here:
http://www.habitatskateboards.com/exhibit/field-log
(Check the archive for "Wa Wa Weekend.")

Link to a WCPO Channel 9 news story featuring The Harlequins, September 24, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdOmUZ43w5s

Excerpts from WOXY Local Lixx Episode 39 featuring The Harlequins. Aired August 6, 2009
http://www.theharlequinsmusic.com/music/locallixx-20090806.mp3

Excerpts from CityBeat Podcast 19 featuring The Harlequins. Aired July 30, 2009
http://www.theharlequinsmusic.com/music/citybeat19.mp3

Excerpts from an Interview of The Harlequins on Class X Radio, aired July 28, 2009
http://www.theharlequinsmusic.com/music/class-x-interview.mp3

Harlequins Mentioned Three Times in WQCV's "2010 - The Year in Awesome" 1/1/11 – Queen City Awesome Radio show on Radio Free Queen City, 95.7FM Cincinnati, OH.

The Harlequins received three mentions in the 2010 Year in Awesome review by WVQC Radio.

Part 1: Awesome Live Shows! (in chronological order)
2/18 - The Daredevil Christpher Wright and the Harlequins with the Sleeping Sea at CS13 - CS13 has always been a study in juxtapositions. This night was no exception, with the quiet, acoustic, harmonizing touring band the Daredevil Christoper Wright playing before the local, psychadelic surf punk rock and roll of the Harlequins. But it worked out great. Highlights include the Harlequins’ vocals being distorted because the PA couldn’t get them loud enough to be heard over the roar of the instruments (but in an awesome way) and a blasting car stereo flitering through the walls just at the end of a DCW multi-part harmony acoustic song. (Note: this was also the first time I’d ever heard the Harlequins, and they totally won me over.)

4/30 - Quasi with Let’s Wrestle and the Harlequins at Southgate House - This was actually like one pretty good and two awesome shows in one. The night started with local boys The Harelequins, who I love.

Favorite Local Album of 2010: The Harlequins - Baron von Headless. I wasn’t expecting to love them, but I do. The album is great and the live shows are too.

Favorite Albums of 2009 – Kendall Bruns / Almost Four Stars

The Harlequins – Baron von Headless
Cincinnati has a lion’s share of great bands and I’ve included three local releases on this list but these aren’t consolation prizes—these bands are the real deal. Bad Veins and The Pomegranates are already well onto their way of crossing over to larger public consciousness and I hope The Harlequins aren’t far behind. This, their debut album, does a fine job of capturing some of the energy that makes them one of my favorite Cincinnati bands to see live over and over again.

Best of Cincinnati Staff Picks: Best Use of Reverb – Citybeat March 29, 2010

Best Use of Reverb:
The Harlequins. Nine out of 10 times, reverb can ruin a guitar solo. If you hate it, wait until you hear this trio, which has a sound so big Fountain Square can barely contain them. Sweet crooning over reverb-drenched Rock makes you blackout and wake up in a paisley wonderland. These guys play music that you’ll wish was it’s own genre so you could hear even more of it.

http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-20251-staff-picks.html

The Harlequins Featured on SoundCheck #1 – University of Cincinnati UCAST Channel 51

The University of Cincinnati featured The Harlequins on Episode 1 of their new campus TV show, "SoundCheck." See the full 30 minute video at http://vimeo.com/8956220

Posted January 24, 2010

The Harlequins Selected for MidPoint 2010 – MidPoint Music Festival

The Harlequins write highly focused, soulful rock 'n' roll with an underlying movement of energy. Their songs often hook you in immediately, but at times can detour into completely unexpected psychedlia. It's pulled off without a hitch, as they never leave you wanting the goods for long.

This Cincinnati band puts on one of the most energetic and entertaining shows you'll see. Soaring vocals. Twisting drums. Pounding rhythms. Think Syd Barrett crashing concert by The Jam, with pop fireworks and a healthy dose of mayhem to keep you on your toes.

Their 2009 release, Baron Von Headless, generated a fair amount of attention on local radio and TV, which led to touring and a spot at this year's South by Southwest festival. We expect only more good things to come.

Going 'Headless' with debut CD – By Rich Shivener, Cincinnati CityBeat, July 29, 2009

Mike Oliva is smiling as he recalls a surreal evening in Atlanta. The Harlequins played there July 2 — and, to their surprise, the club was sold out. The loving crowd even showered the band with comments like “Move to Atlanta!” and “What the f*** are you doing in Cincinnati?”

“After the show we went to the coffee shop where a lot of the other people in the bands that night work at … they opened it up at 4 or 5 in the morning and we had a David Bowie dance party,” says the guitarist/singer, sitting at Highland Coffee House in Clifton with drummer Rob Stamler and bassist Alex Stenard.

“I think I had a better time that night than these guys,” he adds, grinning at the two. They erupt with laughter. “Random hook-ups are fun.”

He smiles. “Seriously, man, the ratio of hot chicks …”

Oliva and his band will head back south with the release of The Harlequins’ debut, Baron Von Headless, a fitting title for a collection of spectral Pop songs peppered with dissonance (and airs of In Utero and Syd Barrett, Oliva might say).

“I felt like it was a good title for the times,” Oliva says, adding that it first came to him as a song title. “When I thought about using it for an album title, all of the sudden the shit with the economy started happening. And then Bernie Madoff stole all that money. I really don’t think anyone truly knows what they’re doing anymore.”

Neither does Oliva. After all, the 23-year-old is a self-described absent-minded leader and a singer-songwriter in love with subtext.

“I don’t like bands that sing about real shit that’s so straightforward it’s boring,” he says. “I’m a big fan of Buddy Holly and all that stuff he did. Like that song ‘Oh, Boy!’ I’m pretty sure that was him trying to come out of the closet in the ’50s, but no one else picked up on it. ‘All my love, all my kissin’/ You don’t know what you been missin’/ Oh, boy!’ I love that kind of stuff.”

Oliva checks in online a day after our sitdown and shares an e-mail he sent someone.

“Bob Dylan also ruined music and artistry,” he writes. “He made everyone think they can be deep and prolific and instead of entertain people, he made people think they could enlighten people.

“It needs to go back to entertainment, euphemisms, etc. ... the ’30s and ’40s were f****** terrible in America, but it has some of the most beautiful music and lyrically isn’t dark or prolific at all ... same with the ’50s. People need to start singing about serious shit, in an (ambiguous), artistic and not serious way. F*** those Emo assholes who think they are the only ones with feelings.”


At 20, Oliva had a solo album ready, but his tuneage took a sexy turn, he says, when Stenard came along. “I think I still have 200 CDs (or original music) laying around in my room,” he says. The No. 1 Harlequins Fan — Stamler — joined about two years ago.

“I was in a band at the time and I wasn’t happy with it,” he shrugs. “It was like a ... I’m embarrassed.”

“The singer had a devil lock,” Stenard adds. “If they tell you to wear black before the show ... that’s when you should say ‘I gotta get out of here.’ ”

The trio magnified its psychedelic edge by recording Headless in a rundown Camp Washington church. The setting was a blessing for songs such as “I Kill Moon” and “Living in Sunshine.”

“It seriously looked like some crazy artist/serial killer’s residence,” says Oliva, mesmerized by Soap Floats Recording’s equipment, religious artifacts and the old hippie “Rich” who builds drums in the basement. “There was so much shit scattered everywhere."

Rave worthy? “You could have some crazy parties there,” the singer/songwriter says, noting that the band might host a big shindig there in the near future.

Meet the band: The Harlequins – By Allison Cayse, Special to Metromix, July 28, 2009

Michael Oliva went from solo artist to bandleader – now the threesome is going places.

Back in 2006, Michael Oliva was getting burned out being a solo artist. He was tired of playing open mic nights at coffee houses and performing for people who would rather watch the football game on the bar TV than him.

A few months later, a friend of a friend introduced him to bass player Alex Stenard, and the two “just clicked.” After trying one drummer, Robert Stammler completed the lineup and the three are about to self-release their debut album, Baron von Headless, with a show Friday at Southgate House.

The band wanted keep the album “real and raw, like the old pros did it,” Oliva said, noting that they recorded it mostly in only two days in an abandoned 19th-Century church in Camp Washington, which added its own unique effects.

Who is Baron von Headless?
I write a lot, at like 4 in morning because I’m an insomniac, and sometimes you over think things when you try to come up with ideas at that hour. It was originally was supposed to be a song title. I just came up with it one night. I was trying to write off of it and I just couldn’t get the lyrics. But I really identified with it. I kind of—to me, I was viewing myself as Baron von Headless, which is basically an absentminded leader going in no direction but moving any way. It was kind of more an introspective thought. But then I abandoned it for a few months, and when we were trying to come up with titles for the record, that just stuck out to me. Then I started thinking about it again, and it kind of was weird. Because when I came up with it—and none of this had happened yet—but when it was time to use it as a record title, all the stupid stuff with the economy started happening. And all these prominent business leaders and all these things—it was like Enron again, you know with that one Bernie Madoff, or whatever his name is, and all that s— was happening. It’s like nobody really knows what they are doing, it seems like. It’s like all these leaders are just kind of… You know, I’m not really political. I don’t really like to do that. I like to just entertain because I think that’s what it’s all about. But it’s cryptic and vague enough that it didn’t have to be political and could still be about anything. That’s kind of where it came from.

Given the name of your band, what’s your feeling on clowns?
I was kind of always a jackass, the class clown. [laughs] So it fits. Our old drummer actually came up with that. It was from a book, but I hadn’t read it at the time. And I liked it because it was ambiguous and could be about a bunch of different things. ‘Cause I’m a Batman fan too, and there is the Harley Quinn thing out of that, you know, the Joker’s girlfriend. Also in the old Italian theater, the harlequin is the comic relief, like the fool. And you know, sometimes you relate to that. But in the book, I think the Harlequins were the strict, focused devoted protectors…. they were on a mission.

What book was it?
It was called The Traveler; it was from The Fourth Realm Trilogy. It was by a guy named John Twelve Hawks—but he’s not Native American. It’s a fake name and nobody really knows who he is. He lives off the grid. It’s just like [laughs] one of those paranoid-government-Illuminati-DaVinci Code-type of things. It was interesting. But yeah, that’s where we got that from. But The Harlequins—it could be many things.

You seem to have interests in comic books, science fiction, and conspiracy theories. Would you consider yourselves nerds or geeks?
I’m kind of nerdy, I guess. But I never really read comic books, I just like Batman because it was more serious, I guess. There was nothing really special about him [Batman], except his will. You know on second thought, I kind of like the Joker better because [laughs] I just like that mentality—not the killing and stuff, but his view. He was like the iconoclast and the nihilist with a dark sense of humor.

Artist of the Month - October - The Harlequins – Cincy Groove Magazine, October 1, 2009

The Harlequins are a new three piece Rock n Roll band who believe in carefully crafting together concise pop songs at the core, but underneath you'll find layers of all of their combined influences and styles. Heavily influenced by the baroque pop of Brian Wilson and The Beatles, the psychedelic styling's of Syd Barrett, and the No Wave and Grunge scene, The Harlequins tap into these influences and with their own unique style of Indie Pop, create something new.

"Michael Oliva went from solo artist to bandleader – now the threesome is going places" -Metromix

"With a solid, swoony rhythm section -- which helps create the crest and fall of this band's simple yet effective soundscapes -- and a vocal crooner who crafts swaying, mesmerizing melodies, The Harlequins have become one of the more intriguing new bands in Cincinnati's Indie scene. There is an unforced shimmer to the band's unique glide." -Mike Breen, City Beat

"After a close to the wire beer run, I was back to check out The Harlequins, a new entry to the glorious Cincinnati garage rock scene that's fermenting, like NOW! These guys combine the nervous energy of early Television with the surly dirtbag rock vibe of the Reigning Sound. They KILLED IT for sure, and the suprisingly large crowd that was still hanging out at 2 AM were fruggin' and swimmin' with reckless abandon. It was a fabulous time." ~ Random Old Records Blog

http://theharlequinsmusic.com

Quotes from Various Sources – cincygroove.com, randomoldrecords.blogspot.com, eachnotesecure.com, brokenmic.com, citybeat.com, myl

"Kicking off the evening were The Harlequins, a trio of gentleman from TRACER's own backyard, who play music straight out of the '60's. Lead by singer/guitarist Michael Oliva, who is one part John Lennon and one part Brian Wilson with a twist of strange originality, The Harlequins are one band it's hard to not encounter when out and about in Cincinnati. The Harlequins possess a work ethic that leads them to playing shows anywhere and everywhere, saturating the local scene with a throwback sound that's kept from sounding derivative or formulaic thanks to Oliva's penchant for inperceptible breaks and bridges. Playing a mix of new tracks and songs off their debut at Mayday, the band relied on intricate guitar playing, reverb-ed, spaced out vocals, and what might be the band's strongest point, Rob Stamler's flawless and energetic drumming."
~Amber Valentine, Tracer Magazine

"I had been meaning to check out the Harlequins, who played next, for more than a year now. I’ve been reading ever-increasing positive reviews and accolades for the group and for whatever reason I’ve just never got around to checking them out until very recently. I listened to their latest release, Baron Von Headless, a few days before the Saturday night’s show and, based on the dense, lush sound of some of their tunes, was surprised to see that the live setup only consisted of three members. Turns out that lead singer Michael Oliva doesn’t just use his voice to yelp out a few words, he croons through a reverb-soaked microphone, turning his voice into another indispensible element of the songs.

The guitar licks were catchy and punchy and each song was distinctive and grabbing; the band obviously has a knack for molding their fuzzy goodness into memorable tunes. Their psychedelic sound has been compared with the bong water-filtered music of 70’s garage rock, and the Harlequins took an accordingly laid-back attitude while playing for the crowd. Even a busted kick drum pedal midway through the second song wasn’t enough to derail their positive vibes; they all just grinned, shrugged, and kept pounding out riffs and blasting positive vibes into the steadily growing audience until a member of one of the other bands passed up a generously loaned replacement."
~John 'Each Note Secure'

"The Harlequins just keep getting better and better every time I see them. Sometimes they remind me of a trio of kids let loose in a sandbox full of classic albums, jacked up on caffeine and those ubiquitous Cincinnati smiles. On this night they delivered a set based on classic rock n' roll, but with enough balls to slip in some devilish twists and turns. I kept hearing flashes of mid '90s-style Pavement slacker rock and early '80s post-punk psychedelia, tempered with pure shake 'em down Midwestern groove. I pity the lame-o UC students who stumbled into the joint around 1 AM looking for a quick hook-up who got confronted with the Harlequins in full flight. I bet you were just as confused by the people shaking head and ass as we were by you. It happened more than a few times, and the dedicated folks sweating in their winter clothes couldn't have cared less. Sorry, dudes."
~Random Old Records Blog

"Favorite Catwalk Song: Hot Damn by the Harlequins, a Cincinnati Band"
~Alison Gingerich (A model appearing on Lifetime's "Models of the Runway")
Source: http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/models-of-the-runway/models-of-the-runway-models/alison-gingerich

"The thing about bands in Cincinnati, or in general these days, is they either have crazy high energy, or they have great song writing...The Harlequins have both!"
~Jordin Goff

[Our favorite quote yet] "The Harlequins play drug-drenched psychedelic soul rock that sounds like Television walking in Memphis."
~Random Old Records Blog

"After a close to the wire beer run, I was back to check out The Harlequins, a new entry to the glorious Cincinnati garage rock scene that's fermenting, like NOW! These guys combine the nervous energy of early Television with the surly dirtbag rock vibe of the Reigning Sound. They KILLED IT for sure, and the suprisingly large crowd that was still hanging out at 2 AM were fruggin' and swimmin' with reckless abandon. It was a fabulous time."
~Random Old Records Blog


[About the MidPoint Music Festival Indie Summer show on Fountain Square] "Besides The Wrens, The Harlequins were the only other band on the lineup that I had seen before. I had recently seen them at Southgate House two weeks earlier for their CD release show, but I was still anticipating their set. They didn’t disappoint, unsurprisingly, and the crowd seemed to dig the band’s unique blend of psychedelic pop, surf, and experimental rock."
~Caitlin 'Each Note Secure'

"The Harlequins CD Release was the best we've had in years,"
~Southgate House Staff!

"Three of my favorite discoveries of the year in the local music scene include State Song, THE HARLEQUINS, & Mallory. The address that The Harlequin

Rainy Day Cuts Launch Short (Only The Harlequins were able to perform before the storm hit.) – By Sean Peters, University of Cincinnati News Record, September 23, 2009

The second annual Launch Music Festival on the University of Cincinnati campus was cut short due to rain.

Put on by Bearcast, it was originally slated to feature The Harlequins, Enlou and The Seedy Seeds. Only The Harlequins were able to perform before the storm hit — it’s as if the clouds were kept from collapsing by The Harlequins’ excellent performance of psychedelic garage rock.

“We’ll be playing the Inner Peace Holistic Center,” said the band’s front man, Michael Oliva, “So come by if you want to get a massage … or a Jello shot.” Their set begins at 9:00p.m..

Oliva describes their music as “a little psychedelic, a little dirty and a little catchy.”
While Enlou and The Seedy Seeds were unable to play Launch, you can catch them both at the Midpoint Music Festival.

Enlou will be playing at Know Theater Friday, Sept. 25, at 8:00p.m.. The Seedy Seeds will play the Contemporary Arts Center Thursday, Sept. 24, at 8:00p.m..

While nothing is finalized, Bearcast is interested in rescheduling the Launch Music Festival. Maybe they’ll call it the “Re-Launch Music Festival”.

Spotlight: Cincinnati's Harlequins – By Christopher Animalhead, peoplewithanimalheads.blogspot.com, July 26, 2007

For those who have yet to read my article on the "Cincinnati Sound," check it out again. Because in every music scene, as the years go by, there are musicians who get older and stop playing and younger musicians who pick up their guitars and start something entirely new.

If you look at the British rock scene, something similar has happened. All the Oasis bands gave way to the Arctic Monkeys/Fratellis/ect. sound. It's based more on vocals, chock full of lyrics, and a lot of dynamic melodies. Dare I say: Beatlesque.

So when I relate those types of changes to Cincinnati's music scene, I mark newcomers Harlequins as the creators of a new local style. Much like other newcomers Bad Veins, both bands share a unique vocal style similar to the new British sound. But where the Harlequins differ drastically is in songwriting. The songs are incredibly direct, distinct and VERY well-written. There is no emo here.

This Saturday the band performs its first Girls and Boys DJ event at the Decibel Lounge (formerly Alchemize).
I recently asked Harlequins' front man/guitarist/singer Michael Oliva about the band's origins and how they stumbled upon their niche:

PWAH: Are all you guys from Cincy originally? If not, where? I'm getting the feeling that a new element is forming in the Cincinnati Sound these days from younger musicians. It's more of an 80s synth sound, mixed with a 90s British sound, mixed with an Interpol sound.

MO: Well I was born in Boston and moved to Cinci when I was six. I went to Boston about once a year growing up, and I've always kind of favored the blunt, brutally honest vibe of the east coast, which might come out in our music. I'm pretty sure our drummer Todd (Spice) has lived here all his life, but I know Alex (Stenard) our bass player has lived all over the place.

PWAH: What influences helped you come up with the music you guys are making now? What sound are you actually going for?

MO: Soul Coughing, Talking Heads, The Beatles, The Pixies, Frank Sinatra, & The Dissociatives. Sometimes we are compared to The Strokes (who's first two albums I loved). But honestly, the low barritone I do is more an homage to Frank and the Rat Pack style of singing. I love crooners, rather than the Lou Reed barritone that The Strokes are known for. Our sound is basically pop rock in it's truest form. We really take the time to write pop songs, but GOOD pop songs. Pop ain't a bad thing. We want to remind people that. Call us, "lounge fly, pop, grunge" I guess. Haha.

PWAH: What are some bands you guys enjoy in Cincinnati and/or the Midwest? The most unknown the better.

MO: To be honest I'm not super familiar with a lot of the Cinci bands. Basically because I live in my own head and don't get out much. I think a lot of musicians when they first start out kind of take that cynical, "There's no good bands in my town and we want to be the first" approach. I think it's neccessary to have that mindset to write creative, original music (only at first). But once we started playing around a lot I've begun to realize the talent Cinci has. I enjoy the Heartless Bastards a lot. Also, there was a really cool band we met the other week at The Madfrog when we played a show together. Their called Psylum. Good stuff.

PWAH: When you think of Cincinnati rock, what bands do you think of or what type of rock do you think of?

MO: When I think of the Cinci music scene I don't really think of one band or one definite sound. The cool thing about it, that I've seen, is how different all the bands are. You've got indie bands like Heartless Bastards and Cari Clara. You've got psychedelic bands like Buffalo Killers, and then a lot of good blues and bluegrass/jam bands like The Rumpky Mountain Boys. I think it's a very groovy eclectic scene, and so far I haven't seen another band like us which is also rad. In my opinion we're still babies on the scene, and we'll learn to change our own diapers soon enough, but for now, we're just enjoying being a part of a big, eclectic music scene.

PWAH: Any upcoming shows, or recordings you are leading up toward?

MO: Right now we're getting ready to play Girls & Boys nite at Alchemize. It should be an interesting show, our bass player is in a wedding at Cali and it will just be me and Todd. We'll probably do an acoustic set and rape the vocals with reverb, echo and the bunnymen style, and just have a ball. Then August 10th we'll be playing at the madfrog and so far thats the last show we have booked until after August. I'll be in Chicago from mid-late August for my sisters wedding. Its the summer of love, eh?

Meet the band: The Harlequins – By Allison Cayse, Special to Metromix, July 28, 2009

Michael Oliva went from solo artist to bandleader – now the threesome is going places.

Back in 2006, Michael Oliva was getting burned out being a solo artist. He was tired of playing open mic nights at coffee houses and performing for people who would rather watch the football game on the bar TV than him.

A few months later, a friend of a friend introduced him to bass player Alex Stenard, and the two “just clicked.” After trying one drummer, Robert Stammler completed the lineup and the three are about to self-release their debut album, Baron von Headless, with a show Friday at Southgate House.

The band wanted keep the album “real and raw, like the old pros did it,” Oliva said, noting that they recorded it mostly in only two days in an abandoned 19th-Century church in Camp Washington, which added its own unique effects.

Who is Baron von Headless?
I write a lot, at like 4 in morning because I’m an insomniac, and sometimes you over think things when you try to come up with ideas at that hour. It was originally was supposed to be a song title. I just came up with it one night. I was trying to write off of it and I just couldn’t get the lyrics. But I really identified with it. I kind of—to me, I was viewing myself as Baron von Headless, which is basically an absentminded leader going in no direction but moving any way. It was kind of more an introspective thought. But then I abandoned it for a few months, and when we were trying to come up with titles for the record, that just stuck out to me. Then I started thinking about it again, and it kind of was weird. Because when I came up with it—and none of this had happened yet—but when it was time to use it as a record title, all the stupid stuff with the economy started happening. And all these prominent business leaders and all these things—it was like Enron again, you know with that one Bernie Madoff, or whatever his name is, and all that s— was happening. It’s like nobody really knows what they are doing, it seems like. It’s like all these leaders are just kind of… You know, I’m not really political. I don’t really like to do that. I like to just entertain because I think that’s what it’s all about. But it’s cryptic and vague enough that it didn’t have to be political and could still be about anything. That’s kind of where it came from.

Given the name of your band, what’s your feeling on clowns?
I was kind of always a jackass, the class clown. [laughs] So it fits. Our old drummer actually came up with that. It was from a book, but I hadn’t read it at the time. And I liked it because it was ambiguous and could be about a bunch of different things. ‘Cause I’m a Batman fan too, and there is the Harley Quinn thing out of that, you know, the Joker’s girlfriend. Also in the old Italian theater, the harlequin is the comic relief, like the fool. And you know, sometimes you relate to that. But in the book, I think the Harlequins were the strict, focused devoted protectors…. they were on a mission.

What book was it?
It was called The Traveler; it was from The Fourth Realm Trilogy. It was by a guy named John Twelve Hawks—but he’s not Native American. It’s a fake name and nobody really knows who he is. He lives off the grid. It’s just like [laughs] one of those paranoid-government-Illuminati-DaVinci Code-type of things. It was interesting. But yeah, that’s where we got that from. But The Harlequins—it could be many things.

You seem to have interests in comic books, science fiction, and conspiracy theories. Would you consider yourselves nerds or geeks?
I’m kind of nerdy, I guess. But I never really read comic books, I just like Batman because it was more serious, I guess. There was nothing really special about him [Batman], except his will. You know on second thought, I kind of like the Joker better because [laughs] I just like that mentality—not the killing and stuff, but his view. He was like the iconoclast and the nihilist with a dark sense of humor.

The Harlequins s/t CS – Zac Camanga

THE HARLEQUINS hail from Cincinnati, Ohio with their fuzzy psych-pop. This cassette from Random Old Records & Tapes is their second full-length album to date and their third release overall as a band.

The Harlequins leave us with a hefty batch of fuzzy, blown-out psych-pop, serving up an album that’s thirteen tracks long and just shy of the fifty minute mark. They operate as a trio, but you’d probably never know that listening to the cassette. These tracks offer bold, crooning vocals whose melodies stand out heavily against the wall of psych fury in an introduction like “End For Us,” which eventually becomes a pattern on the cassette. The trio offers us a mixed grab-bag of these sharp and energetic psych-pop burners, with each track varying in size and shape as the tape unfolds.

The six-minute monstrosity titled “Burned” will win you over with its swaying guitars, wonky bass lines and tom-heavy rhythms. Eventually the track begins to trial off into furious psychedelia as it’s broken down into a clangorous black hole, suddenly coming to a pulsing finish as it all levels out. Later, “Abandon Ship” offers a creeky, strung out intro driven by a throbbing bass. It carefully morphs into a fiery pop-punk stomper with galloping drums and a wall of feverish guitars, making a rowdy backdrop for the soaring vocals. The track keeps growing for a gaping finish, rounding it all out with excellent progression and a crushing finale.

The thing to remember about this cassette is that around each corner you never know what you’re going to encounter – just about every track offers a challenging psych-out at some point, each a beast of its own kind. A solid cassette indeed, if you’re looking for consistency, this band will not disappoint. Hear these cuts from the cassette below, then grab one directly from Random Old Records!

With "Hear Me Out" The Harlequins make a simple plea – The A.V. Club

While plenty of bands in the garage-punk world are content to stick to the traditional song structure of verse-chorus repeat, Cincinnati’s The Harlequins mine psych for all it’s worth. For the band’s upcoming record, One With You, the band attempts to tear that classic framework down from the inside, pulling apart riffs until they barely resemble their component parts. The A.V. Club is premiering “Hear Me Out” today, which sees the trio build a hooky melody, only to gleefully run the song off the rails and dance atop the wreckage.

The Harlequins "Fair Shake" – Exclaim!

The Harlequins have may been plying their trade for almost a decade, but the Cincinnati garage-rockers are ready to push things forward with the upcoming release of One with You, their label debut on Dizzybird Records. In advance of its June 24 release date, Exclaim! is bringing you the premiere of the LP's latest single "Fair Shake."

"Fair Shake" hears the band betraying their Midwestern roots in favour of fuzzed-out surf rock and psychedelia. Moments of reverb-washed guitar and pouty vocals, however, may find you recalling the madness-inducing humidity of summer in the city rather than the relaxation of surf and sand.

Take a listen to "Fair Shake" in the player below and keep your eyes peeled for One with You to officially arrive later this week.

The Harlequins premiere psychedelic garage single "One with You" – Performer Magazine

The Harlequins are known for their energetic live performances and experimental light shows, incorporating elements of ‘50s and ‘60s rock & roll with garage, surf, punk and krautrock. The Harlequins have released five albums independently and have been a regular fixture at SXSW, Bunbury and Midpoint Music Festivals. In 2011 they were handpicked by the Black Lips for a feature on Noisey.com.

After touring behind 2013’s Sex Change EP The Harlequins signed to dizzybird records and spent 2015 writing and recording their label debut, One With You, out June 24.

One With You is a throwback to the psychedelic rock and pop of the 1960s, but The Harlequins’ show their Midwestern roots, effortlessly marrying the garage rock styles from the ‘80s-punk inspired East coast to the glam-garage revival of the West. Influences like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees bleed through the tape echo as The Harlequins weave a patchwork acid trip of a record. The album’s title track is a fuzzed-out, breakneck psych-punk track full of hazy vocals, wild reverb-soaked guitars, mindbending pitch shifts and raw talent, all propelled forward by a driving eighth-note floor-tom rhythm.

The Harlequins "Step Inside" (Pinkness Exclusive) – Punknews.org

Today, Punknews is excited to debut the new video by The Harlequins!

"Step Inside" starts off with a '60s San Fran garage rock jangle. But, just as the tune sets itself in the era of peace and love, the trip goes wicked and the song becomes very, very dark. Likewise, the video starts out with gentle, bright colors and happy faces before both of those things melt into grotesque caricatures of themselves. To paraphrase a famous man, "stay away from the brown acid!"

You can order the band's new album One With You right here. Meanwhile, check out the freaky video below.