Originally released in 2005, “Pie,” the second LP from current Nashville resident and singer-songwriter Billy Harvey effortlessly established his penchant for mixing avant pop-rock inclinations and acoustic ruminations without sacrificing emotional depth for accessibility. Lacking artifice of any measure, these 12 tracks are a portrait of change, of understanding, a glimpse into the rhythmic gradations between ache and affection. But there is also some history to be considered when looking at how this record came into being and how it influenced Harvey’s musical direction -- and that history begins somewhere in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
Situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, just a 40 minute drive north of Chicago , is the town of Evanston , Illinois , and here in a town of 75,000 people, the trajectory of singer-songwriter Billy Harvey first began its complicated climb. After a few childhood relocations, Harvey wound up in Chicago , attending high school and looking toward the West Coast with an undefined longing. There was music out that way – music that he could make, and music that he wanted to explore. When he graduated, he moved to San Francisco with hopes of starting a band.
While living out of a VW van, those hopes were realized when he joined pop-rock band Flame as a guitarist and with whom he would go on to record and release 2 records in their tenure together. He was never the vocalist for Flame, but he was always writing songs away from the band which featured his own distinct rhythmic voice. After Flame disbanded, he took these songs and began performing them alone at venues around the Bay Area. But far from the musical utopia he had hoped it would be, it became somewhat claustrophobic and creatively stifling. He realized that a change was needed and eventually settled in Austin, Texas, a place where his brand of complicated singer-songwriter stylings, warped pop impulses and classic rock instincts felt as welcome as they were innately essential to his own musical course.
He released his debut solo EP, “More Happy Than Sad,” in 2002 and followed that up with 8 albums over the next 16 years. This extensive rhythmic history has found him weaving a tangled and unpredictable mesh of inspirations and experiences into his music, finding comfort and ache and revelry in varying genres and musical perspectives. With 2005’s “Pie,” however, he discovered a vehicle for both the conflicting and synchronous impulses racing through his body, and it reveals a melodic equilibrium which continues to guide Harvey ’s music even now. And with a vinyl reissue coming soon via Palo Santo Records, the album will provide a thrilling and compelling entryway into Harvey ’s alchemic activities.
In the lead up to “Pie”’s reissue, he has released a demo version of album-cut “Piggyback Ride,” and it finds him bounding and pinging from one influence to the next in a mesmerizing whir of tones and mutated pop theatrics. The track recalls the musical elasticity of Violent Femmes and Eels, a rough-hewn rhythmic experiment that compels spontaneous bodily movement. But there’s a weight to its giddy reverberations and a lack of pretense that, even in this demo form, feels well thought out and capable of continual surprise. Harvey feels chameleonic, a ghostly spirit passing through these sounds, collecting stray bits and rearranging them as he sees fit. It’s wobbly and thumping and rattles around in your head for days.