Ken Harrison, suffering from the beginnings of flu, is sitting at a table an hour before performance at Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre. As one-half of the husband-and-wife duo Wild Strawberries, Ken handles the lyrics, rhythms and production, while his partner Roberta Carter Harrison takes the vocals and aids in developing melodies.
The Wild Strawberries' latest disc, Quiver, takes their trademark intellectual pop and fuses it with a dark rock-electronica-jazz soundscape.
"We took quite a while to get [Quiver] done," Ken says of the nearly three-year project. "The music world shifted incredibly during the [making of the] album. You try to keep your bearings; but we made the kind of record we wanted to make."
The darker sound of Quiver, Ken says, is related to his emotions surrounding his mother's continuing struggle with Alzheimer's. "The album is a little more depressing. Though I tried to make sure the record was not just about me."
Indeed, Quiver's coolly playful lyrics are inspired by such concepts like cheap Chilean wine ("Concha Y Toro"), crustaceans ("Mirror Mirror") and trying to turn the trampoline into a phallic symbol (the driving first single, "Trampoline").
At the closing for the interview, Roberta makes a surprise appearance. She had just come from backstage after tending to their 12-week-old daughter, Georgia. Wearing a Jamiroquai-inspired floppy hat, she arrives to give Ken some medicine for his flu symptoms.
Ken gets up with Roberta to leave for their warm-up performance, and closes our interview with the Strawberries' mantra for success: "At the end of the day, we want to make enough income to live. Everything else is gravy."
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.