Harrison Fjord remains humble before a Thursday gig at Crescent Ballroom

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Ai Weiwei's depiction of his own Zodiac the Rooster on display at Phoenix Art Museum (Caleb Manning/DD)
Local band Harrison Fjord will perform at Crescent Ballroom on Oct. 8. The young band has become a staple in the downtown music scene within the past two years. (Courtesy of Freddie Paull)

When Harrison Fjord played their first show on SoZo Coffee’s humble stage as a nameless group of musicians, there was no plan to headline major venues, much less professionally record an EP.

“We weren’t really a band at that point,” said Mario Yniguez, vocalist and guitarist of the Phoenix band. “We were just going to put together some covers and some songs and just make something happen.”

Two years later, the 7-person band is becoming a staple in the downtown music scene. Harrison Fjord will not only be headlining a show at the Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, but they will also be performing at the
Apache Lake Music Festival in late October.

These are just two points to add on to an already impressive resume. In early August, Harrison Fjord sold out of nearly 70 copies of their breakout EP, “Puspa In Space,” during its First Friday release at Revolver Records.

Much of this success was thanks to a special show at the Rhythm Room about a year ago. It was their first professionally staged show outside of a coffee house — their first chance to get out of the condescending experiences that often accompanied smaller venues.

“With other shows, there was that disconnect,” said Matt Storto, drummer for Harrison Fjord. “It was very uncomfortable. It didn’t make for bad shows or anything, but it was definitely uncomfortable, so to have a group of individuals comes together for a like-minded cause, to make the best show possible, that was a much-needed breath of fresh air.”

It was at the Rhythm Room that Harrison Fjord would impress founders of local music blog Underground Alt Mandi Kimes and Freddie Paull, who are now two essential parts of their management team.

Related: METROnome: Phoenix blog showcases both indie musical talent and Arizona scenery

“Hearing something that I’ve never heard before, and just hearing it come out of such young people, was just so refreshing, so that’s one of the biggest things that drew me to them,” Paull said. “When I started talking to them, experiencing how of-the-world they already were, they had the maturity of people ten years older than them.”

Harrison Fjord now has a professional management team of three, including Jared & The Mill bassist Chuck Morriss III, who is the brother of Harrison Fjord’s Taylor Morriss and oversees the development of the group.

Alpin Hong was also a major part of the band’s advancement. In April, the award-winning classical pianist invited Harrison Fjord to perform with him at the Musical Instrument Museum, creating a pivotal moment in their career.

“That was what kick-started us into really taking ourselves seriously, because he also did a bunch of work with us, like challenging our ears and our musical ability to really go to the next level of our musicality,” Yniguez said.

This performance would only be topped by a show at The Rebel Lounge, which Storto calls one of the most “electrifying moments” that jump-started a “Fjord renaissance.”

“We knew that we were getting a good reaction out of them because we had 30 new likes on the page in such a small venue,” Paull said. “I mean, that’s a 200-person venue. The fact that 30 of those people would feel like they wanted to go online and go look at the band was a lot of gratification.”

Despite a rising success locally, as seen by increasing social media numbers and almost biweekly concerts in recent months, the band members pride themselves on being authentic and humble.

When questioned about their accomplishments, they spoke thoughtfully, yet colloquially. They joked about fist fights and drugs and other typical college topics, rather than falling into a pretentious, wise-man act. They spoke confidently about their abilities, but did not forget to be modest and grateful. When responding to questions about their success, they did not attempt to hide mistakes made in the process.

“These are my best friends, my brothers, but we still have awkward moments in rehearsal,” Yniguez said. “We still have miscommunication.”

This authenticity translates into their performances.

“We’ll have shenanigans, but nothing about who we are onstage is a dishonest thing,” Storto said. “We are very genuine onstage about who we are.”

This honest, intimate experience is what fans have to look forward to at their upcoming show at Crescent Ballroom on Oct. 8. The show will also mesh audio and visual elements and include performances of brand-new songs.

“Those songs are in the same vein as what are on the EP,” Storto said. “They’re still lots of fun and they’re a blast to perform. I can’t wait for people to listen to it.”

Looking beyond the upcoming show, Harrison Fjord’s future will include the release of numerous videos, including a live session to be filmed at the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona. The band also plans to record a full-length album by 2016, eventually going on tour.

Despite their long and continuous journey, Harrison Fjord still refuses to give up their strong identity as a band with no genre, which allows them to challenge themselves with a cappella, jazz fusion and more. Only labeling their band as “tastefully strange,” they continue to draw influences from an enormous variety of musicians, ranging from Pat Metheny to The White Stripes, and from local band Captain Squeegee to musical theater and Kanye West.

“The crux of our band is that there really isn’t a genre,” Yniguez said. “We really aren’t limited by our instrumentation. We’re not limited by the labels we put in our music. Really, we don’t want to be limited by anything at all.”

This has allowed Harrison Fjord to gain audiences ranging from young adults like themselves, to an elderly woman that praised their music at their MIM performance.

“(We) definitely never really set out to make music that everybody in the world would like,” Yniguez said. “I’m not saying that Harrison Fjord is that kind of thing, but we’ve become, I think, in the public eye, more universally likeable than we ever thought we would be.”

Though social media is bringing global audiences within reach, Storto said he still views their band as a surprising success sprouted from a modest project.

“I feel like we’re just a bunch of friends who just got bored with playing with crappy bands and just wanted to play our own music that we knew sounded good with us, and so for other people to enjoy that is just weird,” Storto said. “It’s so strange.”

For now, simply providing genuine music is still one of Harrison Fjord’s primary goals, Yniguez said.

“I believe that music is one of the most massive forces of emotional progression in human beings and communication,” Yniguez said. “To give that to people, to provide that for people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have had such a thing, that’s cool.”

Correction: October 7, 2015: A previous version of this article listed Alpin Hong as part of the band’s management team. He is actually a mentor to the band.

Contact the columnist at Emily.Liu@asu.edu