Spotlight: Ben Harper & Relentless7
Anyone who's followed Ben Harper's career knows the songwriter/guitarist follows his muse wherever it takes him. So it comes as little surprise that he's shifted gears in 2009 with a whole new band, dubbed Relentless7, and a thunderclap of a new album, White Lies for Dark Times (Virgin), due in early May.
Relentless7 is a fourpiece with ties to Austin. Guitarist Jason Mozersky, formerly of San Antonio's Wan Santo Condo, first met Harper in the late 1990s working as a shuttle-van driver for a Texas venue. He asked a captive Harper, "Can I play you my demo?" Harper obliged and in his own words "was blown away," and a continuing friendship developed between the two. Mozersky introduced Harper to drummer Jordan Richardson and bassist Jesse Ingalls from L.A.'s Oliver Future, a band founded in Austin, during sessions for 2006's Both Sides of the Gun.
"I'm having the musical time of my life," Harper asserts, claiming that he's leaving his other band, the Innocent Criminals, behind for now. "I've got to move forward with this band. It's not an experiment; it's not a side project. It's a full-fledged band that's going to be making records for a while.
"As much as I don't consider it a band breakup, I've got to be clear and honest with those guys that they're brothers to me and I'm doing something else."
A South by Southwest veteran in a variety of guises, Harper sounds like an advertisement for the Festival. "I'll make any excuse to play music in Austin," he laughs. "South by Southwest is a great place to debut a new band. I'm going to be there for three days. I love just walking around town and hearing things. I'm always interested in seeing what Gomez is up to. I've never not been surprised by great music at South by Southwest."