As Grouper, Liz Harris plays unearthly songs that take cues from subconscious states and the natural world. "I had a dream where someone told me waves crash out what we feel inside, and that's true for me," Harris says. "The water is really restorative for me. It helps me sort things out, unlocks convoluted emotions, and that's where my music comes from."
Harris' 2013 album, The Man Who Died In His Boat, was recorded at the same time as 2008's Dragging A Dead Deer Up a Hill, giving the two some similar qualities, with Harris' celestial vocals gliding above a landscape of tape hiss, reverb and acoustic guitar. Translating the delicate mood of her recordings into live performance is a deliberate process for Harris. She isn't interested in simply presenting her songs as they've been written, explaining, "I want to take the audience along a particular trajectory. I want it to be alive." Performing, though, is fraught for her. "I've felt tortured by it a lot... I think a lot about quitting performing, but when a show is done and has gone well, or I get feedback from someone who tells me they felt better after the show, I wind up back on the wagon," she says. "My favourite shows are the ones that sound a little off. I like unclean, unsettled sound, came of age listening to noise, goth and decayed-sounding pop music."
Recently relocated from Portland to Astoria, Oregon, Harris says that being on the coast feels like coming home. "Astoria is haunted. Tons of ships have wrecked on the bar here, it's infamous," she says, describing a city that was once more populated before much of the industry migrated to ports in Portland and Seattle, where old Victorian buildings are falling apart, and where there's space for introspection. About those buildings, she says they're "incredibly beautiful at the same time that they constantly remind you that there used to be something more here. More people living and dying. People here now look at each other and don't always say hi. I like that." —Jaime Forsythe