Harmony Avenue

Harmony Avenue

When Toronto hardcore heroes Fucked Up released their 2011 rock opera David Comes to Life, it was accompanied by David’s Town, a faux compilation of fictional punk bands that purportedly existed within the double album’s early-’80s narrative setting. But in the wake of 2018’s thematic sequel Dose Your Dreams, guitarist Mike Haliechuk and drummer Jonah Falco took a different approach to extending David’s universe. Instead of coming up with another batch of make-believe groups, they formed a real one. If the resulting project, Jade Hairpins, takes its conceptual cues from Fucked Up, musically, its heart belongs less to the circle pit than the festival dance tent. As Falco tells Apple Music, “The biggest connection between Jade Hairpins to Fucked Up is that a lot of the names in these songs were generated by the story of Dose Your Dreams. My job initially was to take these people and make a narrative about them. But when this became a real band, I had to take that narrative and make it into something more universal.”
The title of Jade Hairpins’ debut, Harmony Avenue, is a sly nod to The Beatles’ Abbey Road in that “it’s this collection of vignettes that goes over the place stylistically,” says Falco. Navigating the record is not unlike drifting through a multilevel nightclub with different themes on each floor, spanning ’60s psych, ’70s glam and punk, ‘80s electro and Afropop, and ’90s acid house. But amid all this promiscuous genre-hopping, Falco—promoted here from drummer to singer/guitarist—establishes a consistent melodic through line with his playfully flamboyant vocals. “Originally, Jade Hairpins was going to be the Tom Tom Club to Fucked Up's Talking Heads,” he explains. “It was supposed to be this musical-umbrella omnicorp sort of thing, but it just so happened that my voice wound up on the majority of the songs—I became the singer and this became a band.” Here’s Falco's song-by-song roadmap through Harmony Avenue’s zigzagging course.
J Terrapin “That's a play on words: Jade Hairpin/J Terrapin. It could also be a shout-out to the Grateful Dead, depending on how connected you're feeling to Terrapin Station. It's weird that this is the lead-off track—it's the last song I did vocals for, and it was back when I still thought it didn't really matter what I sung about because this was just going to be the origin story of a person called Jade Hairpin. So the lyrics are purposely absurd. The first line in the song is: 'I was born in the seconds of an hour’s last breath'—like I did my homework right before school. We were trying to sound like Buzzcocks and Television Personalities. We can't shake those influences, ever.”
(Don’t Break My) Devotion “This one was supposed to be M's 'Pop Muzik' and Bocca Juniors' 'Raise (63 Steps to Heaven)'—a bit acid house, a bit like Stone Roses, but with this undeniably nerdy and absurd performative idea. The vocals are trying to be like smarmy '70s Bryan Ferry and '80s Ian Astbury. And believe it or not, this was one of the more genuine vocal takes that I did. There are unreleased takes where I read off the Wikipedia entry for DNA in the style of Shaun Ryder. But these first two songs set up the goalposts for the rest of the record: This is strange and this is melodic and this is small and precariously ambitious, and a bit funkier than we usually like to get.”
Father Coin “Musically, this was supposed to be more like Happy Mondays, but it ended up sort of like Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys, and the harmonies in the middle are supposed to be like [The Who's] 'Boris the Spider.' The lyrics for this one were written by Jeremy [Gaudet] from Kiwi jr. Capitalism and consumerism are a bit of a running theme throughout the record, and there's a continuing character of greed and money that has manifested itself as this person, Father Coin. He’s that person that's present in your life and drives you to eviscerate yourself, and takes things when you least expect them. You work so hard, and then at the end of the day, you open your wallet and there's this little card in there that says, 'Father Coin was here.' It's pretty on the nose.”
Yesterdang “'Yesterdang' is about a confused journey where a person is so full of self-doubt that they fold back in on themselves—they regret what they've done, but they remember what they did as though it's something to be nostalgic for. It's sort of about the hyper-reproduction of your personal image and legacy. The things you write are permanently published all of a sudden, even if you had this off-the-cuff thought—including this conversation! So you develop this rose-colored memory for yourself, when you might have not liked who you were when you said that. Everybody's wrapped in this infinity loop of difficult reflection.”
Post No Bill “This song is actually a bigger collaboration. We wrote it with Moshe [Rozenberg] from Absolutely Free and Trevor [Blumas] from Doomsquad, and [Fucked Up guitarist] Ben [Cook] was in the studio as well—he’s the grittier voice in the chorus. The main vocal is me trying to do George Michael, Bernard from New Order, and perhaps the impersation that Ferris Bueller does when he makes the prank call in to Principal Rooney. And the pitched-down vocals are Mike literally doing Yello. Musically, it's picking up on this electric Tony Allen/'80s calypso/Talking Heads/Huey Lewis parking-lot-banger vibe. Post No Bill is a character who becomes a victim of Father Coin. He’s a kind of nonentity that successfully broke away from all the trappings and displeasure of greed, but he’s still being visited by the specter of that kind of lasting greed, and he’s so naive and humble that he invites it out for coffee and tries to have a calm conversation with it.”
Broadstairs Beach “Broadstairs Beach is a seaside town in the southeast of England, where people go on vacation. Our guitar player Jack Goldstein moved down to Margate [nearby] a few years ago from London, and I went out to visit him and we had this magical day that ended at Broadstairs Beach eating the best chips I've ever had with some really cold beer and ice cream. So I decided to write a song about that night, and it's a sort of troubadoury thing. But the implication—and it's pretty vague, I must admit—is I wanted to take a place that people consider a tacky holiday destination and give it that magic that I experienced. And in some ways, I'm suggesting a vague idea of 'no one is illegal' or 'there's no place where you will not be welcome'—I don't have as difficult a time as the person who's migrated to another country, and I wanted to calmly and respectfully acknowledge that, and in a way, I've done that hidden away in a song about a night of eating potatoes and ice cream.”
Dolly Dream “'Dolly Dream' is the song that's the most tethered to the Fucked Up story. Dolly Dream is a sort of muse for the David character that somehow activates his understanding of love, this perfect person to attain and become whole with. The lyrics were written by Ben and he did the first pass of this song, and I resung it on the record. It's about a journey, this sort of longing emotion to get somewhere and find something, and you can find that either in solitude or you can find it with your friends, and it's important to remember that you create that journey and those meanings for yourself. One of the lines in the song is 'free to dream of Dolly,' and to me that is about creating a space for you to make a destination for yourself. There are a lot of preconceived destinations for people, whether it's status, wealth, body image, control, aggression, whatever it is. But you're free to dream. So this is about the journey to find meaning with yourself.”
Mary Magazine “I don't know anything about the character of Mary Magazine, other than that she is an arch capitalist. So this is that money theme again. I'm a professional musician, which, in my father's words, means I've taken the vow of poverty. I have a totally funny relationship with money in the sense that I am very poor at maintaining it, I'm not sure how to manage it, I often covet it, but have no idea what to do with it, and I'm perfectly happy to let myself get to the point where I might have absolutely nothing. Money is a complicated thing, and I've used this Mary Magazine idea as a conduit for that. The first line of the song is 'murderess wonderful and terrific,' and that basically sums it up.”
Truth Like a Mirage “Well, as you can imagine, after singing eight songs about characters from a story that I didn't write and trying to impart as much of my personal feeling and as much of my genuine emotion, and also taking new chances on being an actual singer in an actual band that isn't just screaming at somebody, I may have been suffering from a bit of impostor syndrome. So this song is very personal. It's about that exact moment of self-reflection where you think, ‘Up to this point in my life, I presume that I haven't done anything wrong—I haven't gotten in trouble, nobody's died on my watch, and there are more people that tolerate me than hate me.’ But I just wanted to express that I'm not perfect. Even at this point in my life where I feel like I've done a lot, I've still got a lot to learn and a long way to go.”
Motherman “Mike wrote the lyrics and sings the choruses on this one. This was the first Jade Hairpins song. It's got the Roland 303 acid-house bass, it's got the Peter Hook acoustic bass, it's got this sort of Leamington Spa, DX7 strings, it's got the This Heat-style jangly guitar, and then it's got this low-end vocal and this really heartfelt vocal happening. Motherman is this genderless time-traveling benevolent figure from Planet Dose Your Dreams. The lyrics are about gay rights, and not having to layer mask upon mask and meaning upon meaning to be able to just exist as you are. There's something very uplifting and positive in this song, in that it's about just being without all those dividing lines and things like that. It's about gender, it's about sex, and hopefully it's about lightness and light.”

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