Yes, Officer — the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and versatile artist of all sorts Jeremy Harnum — just may be the cathartic sonic pathway you need to delve down as the dog days of the pandemic wind on.
Autobiography of a Naysayer, Harnum’s third studio album under the Yes, Officer moniker, was released in 2020 to critical acclaim, earning a 2020 MusicNL nomination for Loud Artist of the Year.
Harnum – flanked by Nick Meadus and Dan George upon a return to the stage in the hopefully not too distant future – caught up with The Herald for our latest in our album deep dive series to break down the introspective yet worldly slice of alt-metal that demands your attention.
Naysayer really came together over the span of a couple of days. From the moment that I started this riff, I knew it was going to the piece that tied the album together.
The song is a retrospective look inward and faces the experiences I’ve had over the last three years since coming out as a gay man. Trying to find an identity in today’s day and age is difficult and I don’t really know where I fit in.
Living vicariously through others and their experiences is something I find myself doing. I end up creating stories and ideal situations in my head that never really pan out.
This causes me to sit with negativity a little too long and writing this song and this album is a way to honour this. It’s not something I like doing, but it’s something that I am working with and trying to fix.
PLAY IN TRAFFIC
This song happened by complete accident one afternoon when I was working on another song. In my pursuit of finishing Identity Parade, this riff came shining through. I wanted something to be in your face and sharp as a knife. The lyrics are contrasted at the two parts of my personality that I find counteract each other.
I am very reserved by nature, but in aspects like my music and art, I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone and battle with things that I normally don’t deal with on a daily basis. My art is an expression of my struggle and sometimes I feel like I’m playing in traffic, just barely avoiding a car crash. In the end, all of these parts of me make me who I am and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Authors was written during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement that happened worldwide in June 2020 with the death of George Floyd.
I felt like I was not doing enough, I felt complacent and complicit. This song came together to speak about the injustices that face people of colour worldwide and how impossibly unfair it is for others to be judged and discriminated against based on their skin colour or ethnicity.
The song is casting a firm look inward at my own privilege living as a white man and identifying the ways in which I gain an advantage because of my race. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and write something that challenges those advantages, brings them to the forefront and begins to dismantle them.
The tragic events of the summer led me to donate the proceeds of all Bandcamp sales of this album to various black, queer and trans-led organizations that were furthering the movement toward racial justice and equality. It was one small way to begin helping out. From here, the unlearning and relearning continue.
This was the first song that I wrote for the album starting in March. The song was centered around the heavy riff in the chorus. I put the drumbeat down and then played with the direction, trying to lead myself to that riff in an organic way that didn’t seem forced.
The chorus is a bit of an explosion compared to the intro and it feels like a cathartic release of the built-up tension.
Lyrically, I wanted to bring forward the idea that even with all of the right steps, sometimes things just don’t work out and in the end, you don’t know who you are.
Even with this song, I struggled with the lyrics for the heavy part. Nothing sits right, nothing sounds right, nothing feels right, nothing is right. I was complaining that I couldn’t find the right words to finish the song. Funny enough, it tied the loose ends together. It was the first song I started and the last song I finished.
AT MY EXPENSE
At My Expense is my most pointed song to date. It’s pointed at a very specific person, or at least the idea of that very specific person that floated around in my head. I felt very deeply about our time together, but in retrospect, it never would have worked. Constantly avoiding the situation has only caused me more grief and this is the way that I wanted to deal with it. Write something that’s so cliché and on the nose that it’s impossible to get mixed signals, which is counter to everything that happened in that relationship.
This is one of my favourite songs on the album and encapsulates that whole time in my life so perfectly. It’s not you, it’s everything you did and everything you gave me, like a pit in my stomach and a head full of lead.
I wanted to change things up and throw in something that was a little off-kilter. This song is a slow burner. It’s a verbalization of my mental health around this time trying to come to terms with its breaking point. The song builds with some basic percussion and an echo-y guitar line.
The introduction of the drums towards the end give it some more body until it climbs into a distorted wall of noise, like an air-raid siren giving way to an impending explosion. The end of the album needed to go out with a bang, so I decided to just scream my head off for the last line. This song needed to close the album. I liked the quickness of the ending because the song gave up just as it was getting to the good part. Sort of a theme that gets brought up throughout the album, really.