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Sensual Harassment – it’s a good band name. Not only that, but Sensual Harassment are a band making music that is every bit as striking as their name. We had a chat with one half of the Brooklyn disco synth-pop duo (Todd Thomas) to find out what inspired the cinematic sound of their debut EP, the DIY method of working that has given them full creative control, and some of the favourite bands, both old and new.
Tell us, who are Sensual Harassment and what do you do?
Humanoids refer to us as Todd Thomas and Mike Sherburn. Basically, we are just two guys making music for ourselves and hopefully other people will enjoy it. We're both multi-instrumentalists, so it’s just whoever's got the best demo of a song we just start working on it. It’s really helpful to have two songwriters just writing constantly - it's fun to try and outdo each other because we both win in the end. The concept for the band was to take our obsession with synths, dance music and pop songs and turn it into a challenge to see if we could make new music in a classic style the way our heroes did. We get a lot of satisfaction just making songs by ourselves, so when other people respond and like what we're doing it’s just a huge bonus.
Who came up with the band name?
I think the name was just a pun we were throwing around many years ago. On one hand it’s kind of funny, on the other, it's very serious. Kind of how we feel about our music in general - its pop music but it’s no joke to us. Sensual Harassment is also a name that always gets attention in one way or another, so we've stuck with it.
How did you guys meet and when did you decide to start making music together?
Mike and I met through a friend. We are both from North Carolina originally so we had a ton of things in common right away and understand each other a lot better because of those points of reference. Add that to the fact we were both inspired by so many of the same things, the writing partnership was just really strong from the very beginning - we were speaking each other's language. Mike was looking for a serious band and I was looking for somebody really serious. A friend set it up so that I flew down to North Carolina to meet Mike. We had beers, talked shop and the next week he was up in NYC with me working on music right away. The fact he was crazy enough to do that let me know this was a guy I needed to stick with.
Your EP, Escape From Alpha Draconis, is amazing and out now. What kind of environment or situation is your music best suited to? When is the ideal time to press play on your EP?
For us, the music we make has to have some drama. It’s gonna make you wanna drive faster, dance harder, drink more, fall in love, whatever - it just has to move you in some way. We write songs all the time and people will hear them and say, “That sounds like a movie soundtrack” or “I can see that being in a film” - that's a huge compliment for us. I'm not even sure we're writing like that on purpose, but sometimes it just comes out that way. If you put our tunes on while you're walking through a busy city or driving alone in the country at night, you will hopefully start to appreciate it a little more.
The video for your track ‘Disco Heart’ received a lot of attention. What was your involvement in the video? Do you have plans for some more arresting videos in the future?
'Disco Heart' was a concept video we did with our friend (and in our opinion video genius) Joel Fernando. We produced the video ourselves and worked on a shoestring budget and ended up making something we were very proud of and got a decent amount of attention for. Joel is just a really out there artist with a striking visual sense that really matched the aesthetic we were going for. Once we got Karley Sciortino (Slutever) signed on, everything just fell into place. It was more successful than we could have imagined. As soon as we're back from touring in March we'll be cranking out more videos very soon. So far we've chosen to continue putting out our own records (giving away our music for free: www.sensualharassment.com) and doing our own publicity, so we enjoy the freedom of not having to hear "no" from anyone when it comes to our music of videos. We're anxious to get back to making videos and try to push some limits again and have some more fun.
You’ve played alongside some really cool bands (Friends, Blondes, Future Islands). You clearly have your finger on the pulse – are there any new acts you’re into at the moment that we should be listening to?
We definitely like Xosar. Amazing techno coming from the Netherlands. We're opening up for a band called Soft Moon in New Orleans. They're just starting to catch on, but they're a really tight band. And our friends Dead Leaf Echo are a really up and coming shoe gaze band out of Brooklyn doing some cool stuff. Hopefully, you'll be hearing more from all of those bands in 2013.
Do you have any live shows coming up? Will you come and visit us in London any time soon?
We'll be touring the States for a few weeks in March, heading down to Austin, Texas for SXSW. We've been toying with the idea of doing a UK tour for a while, but haven't been able to make time for it yet. But hey, anyone that wants to help us with shows over there, we wanna hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Finally, who are your idols and why?
From a musical standpoint, you can hear stuff like New Order, Blondie, The Cars and Daft Punk all over our music. For us, there is just a real art and a perfectionism that should go into a pop song and those bands especially were just incredible at that. Any time you can make something that is timelessly treasured like that, it’s a huge deal. I think sometimes people take for granted that a 'fun' song you might bob your head to can actually be a work of art, and for us, those bands did it as well as anyone. Outside of music, we always appreciate people who were outsiders and took matters into their own hands. Even guys like Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park come to mind. True artists that came from nothing and built an empire based off their art. Sometimes you have to just do what you love and hopefully the world will come around to your way of thinking. I think the same goes for our music.
Sensual Harrasment’s Escape From Alpha Draconis EP is available to download for free now.
Written for IDOL