By Colin Stutz on November 19, 2012
While speeding down Venice Boulevard in West Los Angeles last night, Dhani Harrison’s alternator blew up and his car caught fire. Quickly, he lost control of the vehicle, all the electronics shut down and he was stalled in the middle of the street. Coming from a Beverly Hills party, Harrison stood dressed in a suit watching smoke billow out from under his Audi’s hood. With no cell phone service to boot, the 33-year-old British singer and guitarist was marooned.
Once the fire let up, a policeman drove by, slowed, looked Harrison over and drove off without a word. Pushing his car to the side of the road, Harrison was joined by a linebacker of a man who’d been walking by, but even this was not without foil and amidst his act of good Samaritanism, the man’s backpack was stolen. Sullen, Harrison walked 20 long blocks home at 1 a.m.
Photo by Noah Abrams
“It’s been a busy couple months,” he says the next morning in better spirits, sitting back inside his all-purpose Santa Monica office space, recording studio and clubhouse, a few-weeks-old wedding band around his finger. “Release a record, get married, almost set yourself on fire, play Lollapalooza; I’ll have done nearly everything this summer.”
For a man with so much going on, it’s ironic that thenewno2 frontman would choose to shape his band’s new album, thefearofmissingout, around such a seemingly humdrum psychological condition. But aside from the anxiety one feels that tells us our lives could be better if only we had done this or that, Harrison also points to the problem with the opposite, which is constant action or change. “Actually experiencing life,” he says.
“Sometimes you’re experiencing so much you wish you had FOMO [Fear of Missing Out],” Harrison continues. “You have FOMO for normality. You feel like you’re missing out on everyone else having these nice mellow lives while you’re on a road in the middle of the tundra somewhere going, ‘I’m experiencing too much life right now. I need to go home, sit on the couch, let my life pass me by for a minute until I feel OK.’”
Shaping the songs around a single theme like this helped to sculpt the direction of the new album, thenewno2’s second full-length, and Harrison says it’s the first release that feels like a full band effort. Looking to bring some of the forceful playing from its live show to the record, Harrison incorporated his bandmates—Nick Fyffe, Jonathan Sadoff, Jeremy Faccone and Frank Zummo—to play and join in on the songwriting process as a collective experience, relinquishing some of his self-admitted obsessive compulsiveness. Harrison also recruited his childhood friend and three-time Grammy winning engineer Paul Hicks to join the band to handle programming and act as a studio urchin production partner. What they made is a painstakingly produced chronicle blending dubstep beats with layered big rock instrumentation that hits heavily like some of Bristol’s best. There are guests, too, including RZA and Harrison’s Fistful of Mercy bandmate Ben Harper, all guiding listeners through this common contemporary anxiety—the fear of missing out.
“You need to have all those people in there and you need to let the weirdness happen on the album and not just in the live set,” says Harrison. “And it’s been easier for me to walk away from something because I know that Paul and I have exactly the same music taste. It’s that trust where you’re just like, ‘I know this is going to sound exactly like I want to hear it. And if it doesn’t, maybe it’s better?’”
For Harrison, closure comes in the album’s journey, calling it “total therapy.”
“The record’s all about different types of FOMO and by the time that you get to the end it’s like you listen to the tone of what we’re saying and you have to let it go; otherwise it destroys you,” he says. “And it’s positive. There’s no time. You don’t mind. It’s OK.” F