Forgive yourself if you hear echoes of other bands in Harper’s Jar debut album, Thank You Ancestor Finger.
On “When You’re Without Me,” Devin Ware stretches his vocals over the distortion in a way reminiscent of Kurt Cobain. “Buzzfeedamerica” is the kind of antisocial screed Sub Pop could’ve been released 20 years ago. The same fitful self-loathing that made Drive Like Jehu kings of the proto-internet mid-Atlantic runs through “Dandy Golden Blue.”
“This first album was not necessarily us trying to find our own sound, but finding a sound through a lot of our influences,” says drummer Kyle Kennedy. “This was a real roots record for us.”
Ware and Kennedy met almost a decade ago as teens in Iowa. They moved to Minneapolis and formed Harper’s Jar, living in Paperhouse, the DIY house venue that also played home to members of Partition.
Ware, Kennedy, and bassist Alex Dunn became the de facto house band there, playing three nights a week and over 100 gigs. After Paperhouse was condemned in summer 2019, Harper’s Jar headlined the venue’s farewell show, leaving the basement a thrashed altar to their band’s adolescence.
“Paperhouse and the first two years of Harper’s Jar are directly correlated,” Kennedy says. “We wrote probably 40 or 50 songs during that period.”
The 10 songs that made it onto Ancestor Finger were recorded with another one of Ware and Kennedy’s idols: Jordan Bleau of now-defunct local favorites Frankie Teardrop. Ware’s goal was to create a series of vignettes—songs that fell logically in line with one another but never repeated the same style. Big-energy shitkicker “Yakuza Moon” is balanced on the backside with the tender strumalong “She’s All Over Me.” The shambolic 14-minute symphony “Edie Sedgwick” caps off the album.
Though sophomore album To Be with the Birds is written and ready to be recorded, when that happens is anyone’s guess. Harper’s Jar has been enjoying the calm of quarantine, re-evaluating just what Harper’s Jar is now that they’ve exorcised their influences.
“The Harper’s Jar sound, we found it on this record,” Ware says of Birds. “It’s a much heavier record. And I think it sounds like right now, which is something I’ve always been working toward.”