We met Katie Harkin (aka Harkin) ahead of her Outlines set. She's from Leeds, though she's never heard of it...
Interview: Jordan Foster
Apart from streamlining into a solo project, how is Harkin different to your previous band Sky Larkin?
Nestor and I started Sky Larkin in the basement of my student halls in my first few weeks of uni. I was 18 and he was 16 and I’d just left home for the first time. It captured the fractious but enthusiastic energy of that time and it grew along with us. I started working on the songs that turned into this project as a 27 year-old. By that point, I’d gotten to know myself well enough as both a songwriter and as a person to put together work under the banner of my own name. I kept my solo songs close to my chest for a long time, but now I'm like an only child that has just learnt to share.
Do you find it more nerve-racking performing alone, as opposed to in a full band?
The stakes are totally different. Solo, I only have myself to answer to if things go awry, but I can take a detour if I want. It’s freeing and daunting simultaneously; that’s the attraction I guess. It’s a strange pact that you have with a room of people when you play alone; you’re vastly outnumbered but you are also the one at the helm. Whereas performing with a group of people can feel like playing the same game of mental tetris. You all know how each part should fit, and the magic happens when you can suddenly make a square peg fit a round hole.
In previously plying your trade as live performer for Wild Beasts, you're clearly no stranger to mammoth worldwide tours - 28 countries in 18 months is some going. Which of these locations became a highlight and why?
The more I tour, the more moved I am by the journeys people make to come to the shows. I had a wonderful visit to Istanbul with Wild Beasts - the Hagia Sophia is the most beautiful structure I’ve ever been in - but it was speaking to the guys after the show who had travelled from Iran to see us play that has stayed with me most vividly.
Many British musicians are anxious regarding the future of touring abroad post-Brexit. Do you think the potential impending visa costs will make worldwide tours less sustainable?
When Brexit happened I didn’t go home for 5 months. I stitched together a mammoth itinerary that physically and mentally floored me a few times, but was the source of the most satisfying and creative performances of my life. I didn’t know what else to do but channel the uncertainty and anxiety into action because the future is more unpredictable than ever. In practical terms, who knows what the playing field will be like for us? But I know that, in these few months, I’ve already been incredibly galvanised by the resilience of the creative community. And I guess the bright side is our currency devaluation will hopefully make it easier for American bands to get the opportunity to come here! Come on over!
Here's something more straightforward - if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one record with you, what would it be?
Straightforward?! I’d be alarmed if I had a clear, orthodoxical answer for this. I guess whatever I’d take would only really be an object to remind me where I’m from as the sand would scratch it beyond use eventually … so I’ll chose ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO because my Dad sang the line 'hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race’ to me on the day I was born. Or so he claims.
I've noticed musicianship isn't your only trade; you've had bylines in music publications like VICE and the NME. How do you go about spilling your thoughts into words? Does it come naturally, or is there a particular approach/method you take when writing?
Long van rides are great for mulling things over! Anyone that’s spent more than five minutes in a vehicle with me knows that I have a bunch of crack-pot theories. I feel like my words are the reason I make songs. I love playing other people’s music too, but framing words is the impetus to work on my own.
There's a sizeable contingent of Leeds-born bands joining you at Outlines; can you recommend any of them in particular?
I feel like this is a trap to make me forget one and get disowned by the whole city! So, no; never heard of this ‘Leeds’. I’m playing before Cowtown and Hookworms, who seem strangely familiar though.
Finally, what can we expect from your Saturday evening set at Queens Social Club?
Bring extra cash because all my merch proceeds will be split between Sheffield charities ASSIST (for asylum seekers), The Snowdrop Project (for victims of human trafficking) and Ashiana Sheffield (for BAMER communities affected by violence and abuse).