Roberta Carter-Harrison is the lead singer and one-half of the Wild Strawberries, a Canadian band based in Toronto. The other half is husband Ken Harrison, lyricist and instrumentalist of the Strawberries.
The Wild Strawberries are thriving on radio — their singles "Life-Sized Marilyn Munroe," "Bet You think I'm Lonely," and "Heroine" have all had great runs at pop radio stations across Canada. Radio has embraced their self-described "alternative pop" sound, although they blended in so well that you could say they became part of the lite-rock noise and needed to break free.
With their top 10 video and single hit, the atmospheric and rocking "I Don't Want to Think About It," the Strawberries have found their new sound that stands out among the pop crowd.
I spoke with Carter-Harrison by phone at work — she works part-time at a nursing home as a registered physical therapist, she says because it "helps pay the bills." In fact, husband Harrison also put aside a lucrative career in medicine as a general practitioner for the Strawberries music.
The creation of the Strawberries music begins with Harrison "holing up in [our in-house] studio to write and spew out rhythms," Carter-Harrison says.
The group dynamics of the Strawberries is unique in that Carter-Harrison does the singing while Harrison does the writing and instrumentation (with additional back-up).
Does it bother her that she's left out of part of the creative process?
"It used to, but I began to live with it," she says.
Their latest album, Heroine, is mixed stylistically with the influence of trip-hop, rock and piano-pop. Still, Heroine is familiar Strawberries, full of radio-friendly hooks and lyrics that Carter-Harrison says they "try to keep from being greeting card-esque." Just listen to a verse or two from "I Don't Want to Think About it" for instance:
I'm not really bitter
Then again, I'm not amused
I just want to kick you till you cry
Doesn't sound like any Hallmark card I've ever read.
Heroine marks the first time the band has ever allowed a photo of themselves on the album cover. Carter-Harrison appears on the strange cover, in a retro 50's style, vacuuming as a domestic goddess.
What's up with that?
"[At the photo shoot], we first started doing a few riffs on the word 'heroine', we work like superhero boots and stuff, but when we saw a vacuum in the corner, we ended up just using it and improvising," she says.
So no deep meanings?
"No deep meanings," laughs Carter-Harrison.
Inquiring minds want to know: what was this vacuum-toting diva like in high school?
"I was a brat," she says. "But I was an A-student. I did nothing extra-curricular beside hanging out with Ken. I was totally infatuated!"
The couple have been married for eight years and were together seven years before that.
The Strawberries went on the road in August to open for Alanis Morissette in Montreal. They're planning to hit Winnipeg at an all-ages gig sometime in November.
About Robert J. Ballantyne
Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.