“I want Colors to make you happy when you're down.”
In just a few short years, Toronto-based producer Harrison has turned Soundcloud dreams into champagne reality. With a brand new EP on Last Gang Records and a full-length on the horizon, his URL prowess is translating into IRL achievements. By all accounts, the melodic, buoyant music found on Colors should be pretty self-explanatory for Harrison—the 19-year-old beatmaker has lots to be happy about. But even in Harrison’s most saccharine instrumentals, there’s a foundation of feels. Behind palpitating synths and emotive progressions, you'll find a steady undercurrent of longing. When you listen to Colors, Harrison hopes you’ll take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. We talked to Harrison about Colors, his mysterious once-anonymous side-project, and the road to his forthcoming debut LP.
“You'd never think a game soundtrack would make you feel emo, but oh it does, yo.”
On his first Last Gang release, Harrison advances a collaborative partnership with Maddee, a singer/songwriter who happens to be the younger sister of one of his friends. Maddee’s celestial topline plays an ideal counterpart to Harrison’s affecting dance music, and with appearances on three out of five tracks, it’s hard to imagine the EP without her input. “Usually, the track has been sent to her before hand,” Harrison says of their recording process. “We'll drink some tea and watch some funny thing on the Internet, then get to work.”
Harrison’s bombastic, dizzying production work isn’t just born out of chamomile and YouTube fail compilations. He draws major influence from video game soundtracks, citing Kirby’s Dream Land 3 for Super Nintendo as a personal favourite. “It’s so gorgeous,” he says. “You'd never think a game soundtrack would make you feel emo, but oh it does, yo.” Produced by Jun Ishikawa, the bubbly, frenetic background beats of Kirby’s Dream Land 3 are sweet and whimsical—it’s easy to see why it’s a touchstone for the wistful producer. As a bit of a side-hustle, Harrison is taking his love for video game soundtracks to the next level, and providing the music and sound effects for an indie game that’s currently in development.
As he continues to amass an impressive following online, Harrison stresses the importance of his local community. “I love Canada so much, holy cow,” he beams. “It feels nice knowing that I can break my leg and not be worried about going into debt.” Toronto’s hip-hop scene is thriving, but Harrison doesn’t feel excluded by genre. “In Toronto, the music community is in pockets. It's like, rap first, then everything else is just sort of there. I love the rap coming out of Toronto, though. I just heard Jazz Cartier's new mixtape, and I had to take a fire extinguisher to my laptop.” That’s not to say Harrison is a loner without a squad on Toronto’s electronic music front. He’s found a friend and confidant in sad electro-tycoon Ryan Hemsworth, and also references Deebs, his mentor Seamus Hamilton, and Josh from Prince Innocence as his “flave” Toronto producers.
“It's basically just me trying to embrace being alone, I guess.”
It’s impossible to talk about Harrison’s come-up without touching on Soundcloud. Calling someone a “Soundcloud producer”—meaning someone who has found prominence on the music network—is reductive, but there’s no denying that racking up impressive stats on the streaming platform helped Harrison turn a Soundcloud account into a promising musical career. With over 23 thousand followers and over a million plays, Harrison accepts that it’s a big part of his story. “Sus-cloud is a funny place,” he jokes. “Everyone is super nice on it, though, so I've really embraced the fact that I'm a Soundcloud producer. Fuck Myspace, dude,” he says, laughing. “Use it as somewhere to start, and go from there. I'm working with really cool people because of Soundcloud, so I can't complain.”
Harrison’s Soundcloud mastery and his emotional tendencies collide via Missing Hito, a mysterious formerly anonymous side-project that began about a year ago. “The girl I was dating before moved to a different city for a while, so I made that side project to be closer to her in a sense. To let her know I was always there.” Harrison has since parted ways with Missing Hito’s muse, resulting in a period of extended sadness for the producer. He revealed that he was the one behind the account via Twitter, but added that he won’t continue to create music under the moniker. “I've been staring at that account for weeks contemplating deleting it or not, but I don't know. Hito means person in Japanese.”
The end of Missing Hito marks a shift in musical sensibility for Harrison. He tells us that the vibrant, cheerful sounds of Colors will be replaced with something a little more severe on his debut LP, which he’s currently remixing. “I jumped into making the album with ideas of house music and funk, but then all this stuff started to happen in my personal life, and I'm doing my best to draw inspiration from that.” Musically, the new material is darker than the EP, with Harrison incorporating live instrumentation, including piano, guitar, and even real drums. “It's basically just me trying to embrace being alone, I guess.”
Despite recent romantic troubles, Harrison is staying supremely positive when it comes to his music. He’s floored by the appreciation for his EP. “I am so stoked, and it’s so cool to be doing this,” he admits. “I didn't even know people actually cared, but the internet is a crazy place.”
At the peak of emotional tumult, Harrison is tasked with finalizing his debut full-length. But in the studio, he seems more self-assured than ever.
“I realized recently that I'm only making music for myself, and I wish I figured that out a long time ago. I hope people think it's beautiful.”