Illinois Entertainer: Since Ex Cops began with you and Amalie Bruun singing your songs in a bedroom in 2011, I noted with interest that in one instance she stated the two of you met on the subway; in another you both said you met backstage after a show. Which is the truth?
Brian Harding: (Laughing) It depends on which night we’re talking about. I like to say we met at the show, a Clean show. And yes, you’re correct in our devious nature.
IE: So I can believe in the rest you’re going to say now? O.K., so where does the name for the band come from?
BH: Well, I unfortunately read the New York Post a lot – for guilty pleasure. And if you read it, like everyday, there’s an article about ex-cops, like, you know, dealing cocaine or getting busted for brutality. And I just thought the name was so bold and impactful, so I just decided I wanted to use it.
IE: That’s a relief. Because I was worried it might have been because you’re both former members of the fuzz. I caught your show the other night [in NYC] and while there’s been quite the buzz surrounding the band, I was really surprised by the turnout. Especially for a band, that’s what, 15 months old? And it was an early show too!
BH: Yeah, I was pretty surprised, especially like for an early show that we were not that psyched about. I was kind of shocked. I mean, it was not even our friends, which is a good step.
IE: The other thing that struck me about the live performance is the sound of the band is so faithful to the actual recording of your debut, True Hallucinations. Is that something you strive for?
BH: Definitely, we strive for that. I was kind of worried at first that we were not going to be able to get it down. But, when it comes down to it, that was the band that was playing on the recording; those are the titles that we used; those are the voices that we used. So it all came out honestly, you know?
IE: Like many others, I immediately thought of The Bats and other bands from New Zealand’s legendary Flying Nun label on a number of your jangly pop originals. I have a feeling you’re probably not familiar with such acts.
BH: Yeah, that was kind of funny. Amalie, actually, is a fan of that stuff. I had never heard any of that stuff. I heard a lot of Feelies comparisons and I heard a Feelies album, like once. And I think I heard one Chills song. But, honestly, I never heard any of that stuff.
IE: I also hear a lot of West Coast/Beach Boys and maybe even Girls, particularly in the song “Spring Break (Birthday Song).”
BH: Girls wasn’t a band I got into until after our record. But definitely the Beach Boys were an inspiration for “Spring Break.” And maybe like Belle and Sebastian [The Boy With The] Arab Strap-era was kind of an inspiration for that too.”
IE: How would you describe your music to, say, the folks in Chicago who probably aren’t as familiar with the band as those indie savants in NYC?
BH: (Laughs) When it comes down to it, I call us a pop group. I don’t know, I mean I definitely hate the term dream pop, which we’ve been called a few times. I’d stay away from that. I’d say that we’re . . . a gothy pop band.
IE: Two of the band members – guitarist Kai Kennedy and drummer Sam Bair – are both Wisconsin natives. So in a sense the upcoming Chicago show could be considered somewhat of a Midwest homecoming?
BH: They’re actually a bit psyched to be playing the Midwest, and we’re actually playing Madison, which is actually their hometown, after that. So yeah, they’re really excited. And we’ve played Chicago a few times with all of our old bands. We’ve always loved Chicago. Chicago actually has my favorite bar ever in it called the Rainbo [Club].
Appearing: 2/25 at Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western) Chicago with Henry Wagons.
Q&A by David Eldredge