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The best kept secret in music

Press


THE HARLOTS Connoisseur Of Ruin (Curve/Universal)
Though the Harlots were once affiliated with Canadian cock rock enthusiast Robin Black, the Winnipeg quartet aren't as in-your-face as their former bandmate. Still, they're no less direct. Connoisseur Of Ruin is an energetic mix of Can-rock that features just enough experimentation to keep things interesting. It helps that each track is different from the last, while the LP maintains an easily digestible vibe throughout. "Separated Generation" brings to mind Happiness-era Our Lady Peace with its heartfelt chorus, while "Slaves" is reminiscent of newer Sloan. The Harlots even make pop-punk sound fresh on closer "It Falls Apart," which is as catchy as any Sum 41 single. If you need a straightforward rock album, Connoisseur Of Ruin provides a happy alternative to the current crop of radio rock. Shehzaad Jiwani - Chart/September 26th 2006


The Harlots go their own way with a defiant, self-reliant new disc

According to the Harlots, the album title ‘Connoisseur of ruin’ refers to a rock band’s perseverence despite the shit-kicking handed to it by the music industry.
After spending nearly 10 up-and-down years working in the industry and feeling big-wig pressure to do things they didn’t really want to do, Buck Garinger (vocals/guitar),Lane Garinger (vocals/guitar), Lee Charles Garinger (bass/vocals) and non-DNA affiliated Mark Sawatzky arrived at a decision to leave music-making solely to the band.
“We stuck to our instincts a bit more on this one,” Buck Garinger says, “There’s been a few times when people have manipulated us to do thing we didn’t want to do. This time it was just the four guys in the band. We didn’t allow for any outside influence. I guess you could say it’s a ‘no-compromise’ record.
“It really comes from an accumulation of experience,” he continues. “We’re just a more seasoned band. There’s no specific event that brought it on. You get beat up a bit from the music industry and you learn.”
Produced by respected ‘Peg producer Brandon Friesen, Connoisseur of ruin even manages to sound like a no-compromise album. It’s a straightforward rock ‘n roll jaunt that’s all over before you know it. The Harlots say they were able to capture the noise that they want to be making.
“It felt more honest,” Garinger says, “It’s more representative of what the band really is, and I think it represents our live sound better.”
The 10-song album is also a true reflection of what the band felt was its best work. Weeding out tunes that slowed down its punk-rock pace, the quartet went for quality over quantity. Though the album barely clears the half hour mark, it’s the record’s brevity that makes it great as opposed to just good,
“We had recorded four more songs that we decided to cut,” Buck says. “We decided we wanted to have 10 solid songs. It’s 39 minutes. It’s short and sweet and fast and fun.”
Another smart decision was allowing three Harlots to stretch their vocal wings instead of just one. The brothers Garinger all sing on the record, nixing the idea of ‘frontman’ and all the baggage that comes with it.
“There’s three songwriters in the band, myself and my brothers,” Garinger says. “In the past we’ve been told that the industry likes a frontman to fixate on. But we thought, ‘To hell with that.’ We have three decent vocalists, I think, and that’s what makes us stand apart.
“The Beatles had more than one singer. So did KISS. So did Abba,” he laughs. “It’s possible to thrive with more than one vocalist.”
- Uptown Magazine sept. 7th 06


Local veterans the Harlots drop any last hints of glam on their third album to become a lean rock 'n' roll outfit with a keen melodic sense some power-pop bands would kill for.

Opening track Magistrate is a prime slab of punky aggression that builds from a simple riff into a shout-along chorus featuring the swelling three-part harmonies of the Garinger brothers. They keep the energy high throughout the first half of the disc, with tense verses leading to soaring choruses.

The yin to the shiny yang of the music is found in the dark lyrics, which deal with conformity, consumerism, mortality, individualism and wretched emotion.

The Harlots have long been local favourites for good reason. It's time the quartet's members take a leave of absence from their day jobs and hit the road to sell their wares. - The Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 9th 2006


Live / Melissa Martin

When The Harlots decided to take a break from the stage earlier this year, they didn't expect that fans would presume the worst.

"It sounds like a long time, but it was about eight months of inactivity," says bassist Charles Garinger. "To me it didn't seem like a very long time. And it was really funny, because people would come up and ask us if we were still a band."

Since rumours of The Harlots' demise have been greatly exaggerated, it's time to set the record straight. Yes, the veteran Winnipeg rockers are still a band. More than that, they're a band with a brand new record, Connoisseur of Ruin, which dropped on Tuesday.

What's even better is that it may be their best record yet. Not that the band's last outing, 2003's Crawl Spaces, wasn't worth the spin. But though it performed well locally, with the first single Alien landing heavy airplay on local rock station Power 97, Crawl Spaces never lived up to high hopes raised by the involvement of distributor Universal Music.

Guitarist-singer Brad Garinger says that external pressure to perform is part of the reason the album didn't meet expectations. Advised by others to cut some of their faster or more unusual songs to have a better shot at the big time, The Harlots wound up with an album that didn't demonstrate their diversity.

"Basically, we were trying to play ball with the record companies," says Brad. "I wouldn't say we got pushed around, but we got influenced in directions and second guessed ourselves all the time."

Not anymore. When it came time to record Connoisseur, the four Harlots (which also include guitarist-singer and youngest Garinger brother Buck, and drummer Mark Sawatzky) sat down with local producer Brandon Friesen with one clear message: they wanted to recapture the honest energy of their 1998 self-titled debut, and make an album that was entirely theirs.

"We're our worst critics, and also we know what people respond to when we play the songs. We know better than anyone else about what works for the Harlots," says Brad. "We know what our favourite songs are, and even if we're wrong, at least we did it truthfully."

The end result of all that truth is what Charles calls "a pissed-off album." While not all of the band's newfound edge stems from musical frustrations, some of Connoisseur's tunes do seem like oblique kiss-offs to the anal retentive elements of the music industry. The band's brisk, crunchy guitars and three-part harmonies haven't changed. But songs like the raw, aggressive first single Magistrate and the sweeping, cinematic Slaves do betray a certain restlessness.

"It's a little bit of like, f--- you, this is what we're going to do. Because of that, the songs are faster and we play them with more enthusiasm," says Buck. "So I think we captured the energy and the anger. There wasn't a specific thing that's making us angry, it's just an accumulation of things. Band-related, personal-related, world-related. Not that this is a super political record, but there's lots of crappy things to be upset about right now."

At least the new album isn't one of them. Released by indie label Curve Music (which also handles Holly McNarland and Wide Mouth Mason), Connoisseur is also being distributed by Universal. Magistrate has been getting strong support from Freq 107, and even Hot 103 has been spinning the tune, thanks to rave reviews from morning-show host Ace Burpee.

"Why shouldn't someone who normally listens to Rihanna or Justin Timberlake be exposed to The Harlots?" says Sawatzky of the pop station's support. "That might turn them on to rock and roll. And that might make them want to burn their Rihanna CDs."

The Harlots will be cashing in on that buzz at two CD release parties this weekend. The first gig, on Saturday, will be at the Zoo, with Tele and The Nods opening up. The second, an all-ages show, will be at the Park Theatre on Sunday with Domenica. After that, the band will be heading on a western jaunt to play in Calgary and Edmonton.

After eight months away from the stage, the quartet is ready to turn on the amps and play for the people (in keeping with Manitoba's new corporate identity, Charles promises to perform with "spirited energy"). Beyond that, they're not too worried about what happens next.

"I think we've already achieved success," says Sawatzky. "All four of us are really proud, and happy, and we can sleep really well when somebody says the name of this record. There's nowhere on this record that there's any doubts. For success, that's the most that you can have."
- The Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 7th 2006


You’d think it would be a bit of a gong show, being the only outsider in a literal band of brothers. But it appears odd-man-out status can have its privileges, too.

Case in point? The Harlots drummer Mark Sawatzky, whose has little trouble making his voice heard, even though he’s the only member of the homegrown foursome who doesn’t contribute vocals and the only one who isn’t related to his bandmates.

“I think Mark does occasionally feel like the odd-man-out,”says singer/guitarist Buck Garinger, whose been performing with brothers Lane and Lee since they were kids. “But at the same time, Mark has somehow taken on a leadership role whenever the three brothers are busy squabbling. He’s the voice of reason who tells the brothers to shut up.”

Recognizable faces on the local music scene, The Harlots began life as the Ballroom Zombies, a glam-rock outfit fronted by Robin Black (who formed a new band after moving to Toronto).

It was after Black split the scene that Buck was recruited as a replacement singer, although on their latest disc (the just-released “Connoisseur of Ruin”), all three share vocal duties. The family ties may lead to the aforementioned squabbling but they also come in handy when some sort of musical shorthand is necessary, Buck explains.

“We work together very well musically and we have such a history of playing together all through the years, we could have been the heavy metal Hanson,” says Buck, whose first taste of the spotlight came courtesy of The Barf Bags, a band he helped form back in elementary school.

So just what is a connoisseur of ruin, anyway? Buck says it’s an apt metaphor for the band, which has tasted success and failure in equal measures.

“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together, had a lot of glorious moments and lots where we weren’t having much fun,”says Buck. “But we kept coming back to it. We never gave up on the dream. We are the connoisseurs of ruin because it’s like we somehow enjoyed getting beat up by the music industry. I guess another appropriate title would have been ‘Suckers for Punishment’.”

But to hear Buck tell it, The Harlots wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Having those struggles gives you some fire to work with,”he says. “If you had no strife in your life, then lyrically you’d sound pretty boring.”

By David Schmeichel - Winnipeg Sun / Saturday, September 9th, 2006


The Harlots say this album is their best yet and they’re damn right. I’d go so far as to say that Magistrate, Slaves, the title track and Separated Generation are some of the best the Garinger bros. and Mark Sawatzky have ever written, Alien be damned. In fact, I haven’t been able to get this 10 song melodic rocker out of my CD player for a couple of weeks now, even though GWAR just released a new disc. Connoisseur of Ruin is just that good. The Harlots have crafted a sublime slice of music that recalls the best of Jawbreaker and other dark rock bands, using emotional delivery, layered melodies and vocal harmonies to make each hook a wrenching passage that draws you deeper into the song. A great album start to finish, and hopefully one that’ll help this long-serving band break out into the big leagues.

- Uptown Magazine / Nov 2nd 2006


Discography

1999 - The Harlots - Independent - Full length Cd
2003 - Crawl Spaces - Gift Shop/Universal - Full length Cd.
Singles: Alien (Charted for several weeks on Winnipeg's Power97). Video saw light rotation on Much Music.
"Afraid of Mice" (featured video on "the Wedge", Much Music).
"The Crawl Spaces" ( Regular rotation on Much Music and Much Loud)
2006 - Connoisseur of Ruin - Trust Fund/Curve Music/ Universal - Full lenght cd.
First single - "Magistrate" Added to rotation on Winnipeg's Frek 107, Hot 103, and Yorkton's CFGW Fox fm.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

More often than not, five little syllables is all it takes.

Renegades Of Funk is a classic hip-hop track, originally recorded by urban music pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and resurrected rather brilliantly by the four fierce men of Rage Against The Machine.

Satellite Of Love is a classic Lou Reed song, originally recorded in the heroin daze of the early ’70s and resurrected almost lovingly by the fulsome foursome known as U2.

The Harlots don’t claim to be a classic anything, but that hasn’t stopped this straight-up Canadian band from taking a page from the vintage rock ’n’ roll playbook and using five little syllables to resurrect their own true selves.

Connoisseur Of Ruin, the third album by the Winnipeg quartet, brings the hard-working Harlots back into a happy place where music is made for the sake of making music and the sheer love of playing it resonates with every chord.

Maybe “happy” isn’t the best word, as The Harlots would rather be fierce than fulsome and their brand-new album is fraught with themes of disappointment, adversity and regret.

But it’s impossible to listen to the Winnipeg band’s latest creation and not be struck by the sense of exuberance that can only infect a record made exactly the way a band wanted it to be made, with no interference from above, below or beyond.

The Harlots, assuming you’ve never heard of the guys, have been around since 1998 and are one of the premiere live acts in the gorgeous expanse of wide-open space Canadians call the Prairies.

Two earlier albums, The Harlots (1998) and Crawl Spaces (2003) tried to capture the essence of a close-knit band comprised of three songwriting brothers — Buck, Lane Bradley and Lee Charles Garinger — and one non-familial drummer, Mark Sawatzky, who may as well be a sibling despite his dissonant DNA.

But only Connoisseur Of Ruin presents the band in the studio as it sounds on stage, with three different voices behind the microphone presenting a unified vocal front.

In the past, the band succumbed to pressures to present Buck, the youngest Garinger, as the lead singer. While he is indeed the band’s most prolific songwriter, he just didn’t feel right singing songs by Charles and Brad and trying to convey his brothers’ emotions.

“Earlier experiences have taught us to be true to ourselves and uncompromising,” says singer-guitarist Brad. Buck also sings and plays guitar, while Charles plays bass against Sawatzky’s kit-pounding.

The three Garinger brothers started playing together as teens in tiny Kelvington, Sask., a town better known for producing hockey players — Wendel Clark and Joey Kocur come from the hamlet — than rock ’n’ roll.

The Garingers wound up in small-town Saskatchewan following the death of their globe-trotting father, a civil engineer who worked in exotic kingdoms such Nepal, in the Himalayas and Swaziland, near the southern tip of Africa.

One by one, the brothers migrated to larger Winnipeg, a veritable metropolis of 700,000, to work as hairdressers by day and play rock ’n’ roll at night.

The Harlots were actually born out of the ashes of an earlier band, the much more glammy Ballroom Zombies, which featured Brad, Charles, Mark and a flamboyant vocalist from tiny Pinawa, Man. by the name of Robin Black.

When Black moved to Toronto and the Zombies broke up in ’98, the Garingers enlisted little brother Buck to join the fledgling Harlots. Despite a couple of hiccups, bumps and bruises— most notably an ill-advised 2001 name change to Raised By Ghost, which reflected the Garinger brothers’ fatherless teenage years — the quartet has managed to survive a tumultuous time in rock ’n’ roll.

This isn’t hyperbole: Boy bands, the moral panic over downloading and now Canadian Idol all come and gone over the past eight years. OK, so maybe that last statement was just wishful thinking, but you get the point.

In 2005, The Harlots began recording what became Connoisseur Of Ruin with producer Brandon Friesen, a Winnipeg knob-twiddler well-regarded for his treatment of guitar sounds.

The Harlots and Friesen made the album on their own, with no record-label people looming in the background. The result is melodic but unforced — and easily digestible, too, at 39 economical minutes, just like an old vinyl album.

“This is probably the most honest CD we’ve ever put out,” says Sawatzky, whose use of “probably,” in this case, is superfluous. Connoisseur Of Ruin is clearly the best album the band has ever made.

But The Harlots are a little less dark than their latest title, five syllables notwithstanding. Connoiseur Of Ruin, as it turns out, has nothing to do with nihilism. It’s actually a not-so-oblique reference to the way rock bands persevere despite getting smacked upside the head with disappointment.

They could have called it Gluttons For Punishment and conveyed the same meaning.

But then they wouldn’t have appeared on the same page as classics like U2, Lou Reed, Rage Against Th