Definitely having a different backstory, Danny Lopez and Rylan Whalen began writing songs together in Burlington but ending up making their band in Buenos Aries, Argentina. After two albums released in the last last five years, Harm and Ease are reestablishing themselves back where it all began.
“I met Danny in 2009 when we were attending Burlington Central High and we started playing music together a year later,” recalls Whalen. “But Danny’s family is Colombian and his family came to North America during the civil unrest there in the ’90s. He lived in Miami for a long time but moved to Canada when he was about 13 years old. They were living under refugee status but eventually, his family moved back to South America. I ended up visiting him a couple of times and realized the kind of musical connection we had. The music was just so good and we inspired each other, and honestly I couldn’t find anyone around Burlington I wanted to play with. After finishing high school, I knew what I wanted to do. A lot of people thought I was crazy or just didn’t understand but I believed in myself, I believed in Danny and most importantly, I believed in the music we made.”
While they were probably listening to more City and Colour when in Burlington, the new location broadened the duo’s musical horizon. They’d find local Buenos Aries musicians to create their band, Harm & Ease, and record two albums Wonderful Changes in 2017 and Black Magic Gold in 2018.
“If we stayed here, our story would definitely not be as interesting,” says Whalen. “I worked for a year and made enough money to be able to move down there. Danny had family in Argentina and the rock scene is biggest there in South America. Over the last five years we found some guys to make a band and then made a name for ourselves down there.
“Your experiences and environment obviously have an influence on the music you make,” adds Whalen. “We started off as more of an acoustic emo-pop duo and may have stayed that way. We could have sounded like other pop indie bands from Southern Onario but now we have some spice of South America. We’re more into a lot of classic rock and modern rock from bands like the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys or Cage the Elephant.”
The five years abroad could have been a course in finding himself for the now 24–year–old Whalen with the music of Harm & Ease having one foot in a more traditional rock world with a more dramatic modern art rock feel that at times conjures up a more funky Arctic Monkeys vibe. This sounds a lot less indie and more ready for a stage or at times even a Broadway stage. Regardless, Whalen and company knew Canadian stages were the end goal.
“It was always the goal to come back to Burlington and the issue was Danny’s Visa, which literally took many years, a lot of money and a lot of patience,” says Whalen. “We always wanted to go back to Canada, where we founded this band and we only figured that out a year ago. It didn’t take long to realize just how better the music scene and even the quality of life is here.
“It became a struggle in Argentina and I figure we did all that we could,” adds Whalen. “I was a Canadian singing in English and even though the rest of the band was Argentine, they wouldn’t accept us as Argentine. That with the economic state of the country, it just wasn’t good for my mental or physical health anymore. We felt it was definitely time for us to come back. We tried organizing all of the band to come but that was a little bit harder to do so we have the core of the band setting up in Canada and doing our next recording and we’ll see what happens from there. We all play different instruments so the line up might kind of moves around.”
So the current incarnation of Harm & Ease — featuring Rylan Whalen (vocals), Danny Lopez (guitar), John Goodblood (bass), and Ilan Amores (drums) — have now set up shop in Burlington for the last five months. Thing are going according to pland and they’ve already completed pre–production for their third album with Jack White bassist Dominic John Davis flying in to produce the band’s new album at Catherine North Studio in Hamilton. Tentatively set for release by 2020, in the interim, Harm & Ease headlines a new music night to re–introduce themselves to local audiences.
“We came here to start things up, get gigs and get a new album done so that’s all coming together,” says Whalen. “We reached out to Dominic on Instagram and just last week, he came into town and we laid down some tracks for the new album, Midnight Crisis. We think he did a great job and we’ve created an album that everyone will enjoy. It’s a culmination of our time there and our travel back here and we think it’ll be as theatrical and as rocking.
“For most people, it’s their first time even hearing of our band so naturally we consider ourselves a new band and we’re trying to spread the story of our band and the last five years,” adds Whalen. “With people knowing our story, it helps people better understand the band. We’re very confident in our playing and performing with each other because we’ve been doing it for years so while we’re a new band, we’re not really. On stage, we can be quite the spectacle and people don’t know what to make of us. We’re clearly not from here. We carry the spirit of rock from the bands that were in the ’60s or ’70s but each decade has had those kind of bands and I think we take a bit from each of those revolutionary rockers. We hope that when we rock, it’s new but still kind of familiar. We’re starting off fresh being back in Canada but we’ve got years of experience and we want to be just as powerful as we we’ve been all of these years, if not more powerful. I promise you it will be a rocking show.”
Harm & Ease plays Thursday September 5 at Club Absinthe with Athanase, Brighter Green, Jake Reimer and W3apons. Doors are at 7:30pm and $10 gets you in. Click on facebook.com/HarmAndEase