HRZN - Interview
It was a beautiful Saturday in early June, and local brewery Ratio Beerworks was hosting a fundraising show to revive Dyingscene.com. I hadn't heard of any of the bands, but who doesn't love giving back to the community? I had no idea that before the afternoon was over, I would fall in love with a beer (Dear You, a citra French saison) and a band, HRZN.
As the crowd gathered for the first band, I saw a group of men surrounding a curvy woman with bright teal hair, hugging and dancing together. When they took the stage, the genuine synergy and friendship was unmistakable -- it was obvious that they weren't just bandmates, but real buddies. Their set was everything I look for in a band, energetic and fun with great stage presence. And when they played the opening bars to A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, literally all the Millennials in the crowd had this reaction:
I lost my heart to HRZN at that moment. I devoured their entire discography as I stalked their social media and interviews the following week. I begged Frannie to let me interview them. She consented, and I reached out to Morgan Elizabeth (lead singer) with some questions.
1. You all seemed really tight at the Ratio Beerworks show, both onstage and a group of
friends checking out other acts. Can you guys tell me how you came together as a band?
Julian and Morgan have been friends for nearly a decade, and they were the ones who started the band. The pandemic hit and it ended up landing them in Denver, which is where they decided to reach out on Craigslist, and that’s where they found Craig, then Brandon, and then later Patrick.
2. How do you maintain the balance between professionalism and buddies? I think that’s a
struggle for every musician or creative collaborator, but y’all seem to make it work.
Because all of us are friends, we’re almost always on the same wavelength. When we were
getting people together, we tried to make sure that everyone could work well together, and that from the beginning everyone could love to spend time together as well as be able to coordinate musically as well. I think all of us are just severely mentally unwell, also, so we all take care of each other.
3. At your show at Ratio Beerworks, you introduced your last song by saying it was “A little gay” and “inspired by fan fiction.” Can you tell me how the identities of queer, nerdy, and
punk intersect for HRZN both musically, and on a personal level? (If a particular person is ok being “out” and speaking as an individual on this question, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, you can use the “we as a band feel…” or “as one queer person with a band full of allies” type of answer to maintain a level of anonymity)
I think one of the things that makes us who we are is really embracing the things about us that are who we are at our core, and really showcasing that. On our most recent album, we talk about politics, identity, sexuality, and then just a whole lot of absolutely ridiculous things. One of our songs Branon just screams an expletive, on another Julian backmasked some other ridiculous thing. I (Morgan) also recognize that often times queer voices aren’t heard nearly enough in mainstream media, so I wanted to make sure that as a non-binary bisexual, that my voice could at least be heard within our band, and I’m lucky enough to have the absolute best friends and bandmates who encourage me.
4. Speaking of being nerdy, what “nerdy” media are each of you consuming right now/recently finished and what about that particular work brings you joy?
We’ve all recently been jumping into a hardcore video game binge, especially Brandon, Morgan, and Julian. Morgan also just spam watched Stranger Things, so maybe expect a horror-esque song for the fall. Patrick has been catching up on anime, and Craig has been spinning some new records from his collection that he hasn’t had a chance to get to yet.
5. You played a punk cover of 2001’s hit “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton in the middle of your set. What two other non-punk songs do you think is ripe for being a punk cover but no one’s done yet?
Patrick says “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, Julian says “Take on Me” by Aha, Craig says “All Star” by Smash Mouth, Morgan says literally anything by Taylor Swift, and Brandon says any Pitbull song.
6. One of the things that Mable Syndrome emphasizes is diversity and intersectionality. Brandon, as an Asian-American musician, what other Asian-American punk or pop-punk
artists (either local or national acts) do you feel should have wider recognition?
Honestly, unfortunately due to the lack of diversity within the scene, I honestly couldn’t tell you too many other Asian-American pop-punk artists. Just more of a reason to listen to us. *wink*
7. At least two of your songs on your new album feel like they are written about imposter
syndrome, or the idea that you’re imperfect while the other person is “better” than you. How do you, as individuals, address imposter syndrome or insecurity besides music? What strategies do you utilize to combat moments of low-self worth?
We all cope with insecurities and mental health challenges in different ways, but mostly just
anything that can help make you feel centered, or more in the moment. Some of us like to use physical exercise to help, some of us play games, or write, or meditate. We all have worked through our fair share of unhealthy coping mechanisms as well, but we all really help uplift each other and make things just quite a bit easier.
8. You all seem to have amazing stage presence. I saw Brandon playing his bass under the leg and Jason was doing some stick twirls at the Ratio Beerworks show, and doing a little digging on youtube, it seems like that is normal for HRZN live. How do you guys do pre-show prep that enhances your stage “antics” and what are some things that make it a little difficult to maintain that energy level through a set?
The biggest thing that we try and all do is drink a TON of water. Colorado’s elevation is insane, and none of us are local to here, so dehydration is a serious issue. Also stretching is mad important. I think drinking copious amounts of caffeine helps all of us, also, even though it’s awful for you, and I’m sure we’re going to regret it. We try and keep our energy high no matter if we’re playing for a few hundred people or just one, because we’re just happy to be up there and having a good time, so it doesn’t seem hard to keep the energy up. Usually if it gets tricky it’s because we’re all sick. I know a show we had a few months ago we all got the same really bad virus, and it took us all out and took everything to be able to still play.
9. You stated in an interview in Westword that Denver seems to be going through a pop punk Renaissance. Can you elaborate on why you think Denver, and not Chicago or Seattle or Atlanta, is seeing this resurgence?
I think that right now a ton of areas are doing just amazingly well for music. I think that the
pandemic really got everyone to refocus their energy and kind of work on their sound, so now that things are opening back up, everyone is able to showcase that. I’m not sure why the sound for this area is what it is, but I do know that the community here is one of the very best we’ve ever seen anywhere we’ve lived, so it stands to show that a music scene that everyone cares about each other and wants to help share and grow together is going to develop a certain sound together as well.
10. Lastly, was the hardest song on your new album to “get right” on your new album, and
Playing live has got to be ‘black widow’, just because it’s a little more like... contemporary or classic rock feeling, but recording is definitely ‘better’. It’s a really, really heavy subject that we tackled, and it was a song that meant a lot to us, especially Morgan, as she wrote it for one of her closest friends that lost their life to suicide. So it was really hard to make it feel like it was perfect or that it was ever good enough for what we were trying to say. I think that we all honestly still don’t feel 100% with it, but it’s more of an issue that in that sort of situation, there’s no way to ever make it feel perfect enough. We just kind of hope that it helps anyone who listens to it not feel so alone.