Extended plays get a bad rap. They’re often misjudged because of their placement next to major debuts and sophomore curses, but with the right amount of ambition they can be timeless. CLASS ACTRESS‘ new project is just that. For Elizabeth Harper, Movies retells the story of a girl exploring the glamour and darkness of Los Angeles, but it also pins you to her own reality – signing to Casablanca Records, working closely with Giorgio Moroder, feeling disconnected because of heartbreak and family tragedy.
It sounds like a Derek Cianfrance script waiting to happen and yet it’s a narrative that inspired Harper to write a six-song EP that bites and leaves a discotheque kiss. It’s far removed from 2011’s Rapprocher and as Class Actress, she wouldn’t have it any other way. As Harper indicated in our brief conversation about Movies, the times have changed: “My music is the only place I am personal. What I learned from making this record was how to be a good actress and not just a good actress in real life.”
A number of publications have highlighted your attachment to Hollywood while writing Movies – in what ways was the area therapeutic for you?
Being in Los Angeles was everything. I needed to be living in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly bungalows to feel the ghosts of starlets… of famous actresses. I had to know what was behind the thick foliage, fountains, and gates.
Is it difficult to ultimately create a project that’s based on a specific concept?
No, not at all. The songs all come from an honest place. They are not mythological stories; they are always written from real life feelings and events.
Should pop music be challenged more? It seems like artists that embody those real life feelings tend to be more successful than those that give into what’s “trending”.
It’s better to create the trend than follow it. As an artist, you are the art so whatever reality you want to live in and project out in the world is your art. You can also transform; you just have to be yourself and when it’s your time, it’s your time. When you start forcing it etc… you just set yourself back.
As each song on the EP tells a story, what’s the narrative behind “High On Love”?
Sigh… “I can’t get you out my head and I can’t get you next to me” – that’s how I feel about someone right now. It’s just about that sticky sweet, chaotic feeling of desire that makes you feel alive because you know how good life can be with your object of desire. So when you’re not with them, suffering and missing them is the next best thing. They are the pharmakon. I keep trying to push people away who make me feel that way and tell myself that when I have a feeling, it’s only my reaction to the feeling that will make me suffer. But it seems like the more I push someone away, the deeper I fall into it.
I have said this before – shit goes bad when you go after love, but it gets much worse when you don’t. It’s all a gamble. So “High On Love” is about giving in and loving every minute of it. To experience that feeling is so rare, so you might as well enjoy it.
Which new song was the most cathartic one to write and record?
It’s a three-way tie. “More Than You” was the most cathartic to write as it was the last song I wrote for the EP. But “High On Love” and “Love My Darkness” were pure heat in the studio so getting that out felt good. I mean there’s a whip on “High On Love”.
In terms of creating the EP, what’s the biggest thing you took away from working with Giorgio Moroder and Evan Bogart?
They are both so talented and know their way around a hit. From Evan, I learned more about song structure, melody, playfulness, and really getting out of my own way. It’s not about me, it’s about the music. It’s always been about the music and the songwriting. Evan helped unlock me as a writer and I hope to work with him again and again. He is an incredible conduit of pop magic.
Now that you have finally collaborated with Giorgio, have you thought about what’s next? You’ve mentioned The Weeknd as a dream collaboration, and you two would be a perfect match, but what do you like most about his work?
I think he is an incredible songwriter, producer, singer, and performer. His lyrics are vulnerable and hard at the same time. He understands the conflict of intimacy and lust, and can deliver this conflict in a way that makes you feel that everything fucked up is just whats on the menu, and it’s good for you..
What do you think of his new single “Can’t Feel My Face”?
I think it’s the best new pop song ever written. It’s modern MJ; love writing about sex.
Given the amount of heart and hard work that was put into Movies, what’s one thing you hope others can take away from it?
I hope people can take away a sense of belonging. I hope they can look in the mirror and know they are good enough, no matter what. I want these records to give people a sense of freedom, joy, and empowerment. Like from going there and saying, “Fuck it, I am enough just the way I am. Let’s put the top up, pump these songs at full volume and sing along all the way to the beach”.