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Indie Rock and Stuff

The Band Harriet Slept With All Your Mothers

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Mon, May 7, 2012 at 4:30 AM

click to enlarge EMILY KNECHT
  • Emily Knecht
"I knew it was a provocative title. But the song isn't as provocative as the title makes you think," says Alex Casnoff, singer-songwriter of Los Angeles indie rock quartet Harriet, referring to "I Slept With All Your Mothers." It's the first single off his band's debut EP Tell The Right Story.

Seated at an outdoor table on an unusually muggy afternoon at the Griffith Park Observatory, the 24-year-old Casnoff explains further. "'I slept with all your mothers' is that playground insult where you have a strong emotion about something and then you say something you really wish you didn't say." The song's titillating video, with a slightly sinister Casnoff and a nude female counterpart, received over 3 000 views on its first day when it premiered on AOL's Spinner.com, and yet the song nearly ended up being just another discarded idea.

"I wrote it on guitar and I wasn't even taking it seriously," he says. "I was just sort of, 'Ok this is fun, but I am not actually going to use this.' But when I played it on piano, it gave it a completely different vibe and it ended up working."

Casnoff is sick today and he's feeling out of sorts. Sipping a soda, he's wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt beneath a plaid long-sleeved button down, and two crystals are hanging from his neck. He's not sure what they symbolize.

Though born in New York, Casnoff was raised in Los Angeles. After a stint at NYU, he now lives at his parents' house in Hancock Park. "L.A. is a part of me," he says. "There's city, beach, hills and, a couple hours away, there's the snow. I love it here." Looking out over the skyline, he elaborates on the spot: "Some big decisions have been made here -- going to college, band decisions, girl decisions -- pretty much every time I've come up here at 10 pm and had my silent meeting with the world. It's insane and magical being in the city and then you can come up here."

His dad was in the original Broadway version of Grease, and his parents moved to Los Angeles for their careers. They exposed their son to music from an early age. "My parents got me this piano teacher, Billy Ferrick," he says. "When he was twelve, he played with Muddy Waters and became a heroin addict with him. I mean, I don't know how much is true -- but he'd show up to every lesson two hours late, smelling of booze and cigars, and I don't know what my parents were thinking. I was six years old and thinking, 'This guy's cool.' He made me fall in love with music and he taught me to love playing."

As a sideman playing keys, Casnoff spent time in bands including Discovery Zone, Papa and Dawes, but eventually he began to want to his own project. "I'm just starting to be ready for it," he says. "I didn't have the confidence before. I was waiting and watching in a lot of the bands I'd been in, learning how people do it and taking notes. I feel ready now. And I love singing. It's direct emotional contact."

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