The Harbert House Band is a band of the times.
Max Kaplan, 22, recently put the group together because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The band, which includes his roommates, is based at their home on Harbert, where all except one of the musicians are quarantined.
Most of them play in other bands. “All our gigs have been cancelled,” Kaplan says. “In an effort to generate some income we devised a plan to record a small EP and put it out on Bandcamp and make as much money as we can for it.”
The Harbert House Band, which includes Kaplan on guitar and vocals, Danny Banks, 27, on bass, Andrew McNeill, 24, on drums, and their friend Jad Tariq, 23, on lead guitar, basically is the lineup of the Max Kaplan Band. McNeill also is in Ghost Town Blues Band and Banks plays drums in the Nicole Atkins Band.
“The Harbert House Band” is “an all-encompassing name to give credit to everybody and split the money,” says Kaplan, who wrote and sang all the songs on the EP, Eponymous: The Harbert House Band.
The Harbert House Band will perform its second live stream show from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 4th on the Ruthie’s BBQ & Pizza Facebook page. That’s his dad and stepmom’s restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey.
As for the music, Kaplan says, “What we’re trying to do is take that old soul music that’s been coming out of Memphis for decades and put a little pop sensibility to it.”
They want to adapt it “for the modern listener. We want to touch on things that matter to us. The feelings everybody feels, like loneliness, sorrow, joy, fun.”
“Read Your Letter,” one of the songs on the EP, is about a man who gets a letter in the mail addressed to his loved one, but it’s not from anyone he knows. “He reads his partner’s secret letter. And it’s all the pain that comes from an experience like that.”
Kaplan’s “feel good song” is “Hey Baby Look,” which he describes as a “party blues song meant for having a good time. A quicker, shuffle beat.”
“Lonely Boy,” which will be featured on Kaplan’s upcoming Max Kaplan Band album, is “about being far from your original home, New York City, where your parents live. It’s about living away from the people that love you the most.”
Kaplan, who was born in New York City, grew up sitting in with blues bands at Ruthie’s BBQ & Pizza.
He stood out on stage. “I was always an eclectic kid when I was young. I had a big red ‘Jewfro.’ We’re Jewish. I’d always wear colorful clothes back then. I’ve tamed down some. I had these high top purple Converse.”
His dad, a chef as well as a guitar player, wanted Kaplan to learn to play the guitar, but Kaplan was more interested in “socializing, playing outside with other kids.”
Kaplan gave in when he was 10 years old. “He bought me a Stratocaster for my 10th birthday and the rest is history.”
Recounting his music influences, Kaplan says, “It started with Hendrix. After Hendrix, the Beatles. And from the Beatles I found the Rolling Stones. And from there I found the blues.”
He discovered the blues while listening to records in his dad’s vinyl collection. “I came across a song, ‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman’ by Freddie King. I was sitting in the living room. I heard that song and I said, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’ It wasn’t only do blues, but do rock at that point. ‘I have to be a musician.’”
When he was 17, Kaplan moved to Memphis to major in music at Rhodes College.
“When I got here, it was a huge culture shock. People don’t talk or move the same as they do in the North, for sure. I think what originally enticed me when I got here was the expansive music scene. I think when I got here I expected to see a lot of soul. I expected to see a lot of Stax and American Studio style soul music. And what I got was a lot of different things: rock, punk, rap, indie rock stuff, jazz. I think I was surprised about how deep and well-done each genre of music is in this town.
“After I graduated and started playing professionally, what surprised me the most was how welcoming this town is to professional musicians. How well they treat them.”
Originally, Kaplan was going to move back to New York City after he graduated to take a job as a booking agent. He then was offered a job in blues player Tony Holiday’s band in Memphis.
Kaplan recorded bass and background vocals and he co-wrote songs on Holiday’s Soul Service album, which was produced by Ori Naftaly, who Kaplan describes as “an incredible producer, songwriter.”
Now that Kaplan is in quarantine, the emphasis definitely is on music at Harbert House. “It definitely helps for all of us to be musicians. We’re all professionals.
So, what will happen to The Harbert House Band after the quarantine? “I don’t think it will necessarily be a thing of the past, but it is our quarantine project right now. I think I could definitely see us getting together and deciding to create another project ‘cause we do love each other very much.”
And, he says, “I see us recording Harbert House Band again under lighter circumstances.”
Kaplan and the other musicians don’t constantly play music at Harbert House though. “We’ve been watching Harry Potter. I’ve never seen it before.”
To stream the EP click here: harberthouseband.bandcamp.com