Industry Insider | Evan Harris – Manager of Coyote Kisses Interview
We were recently given the opportunity to sit down with the manager of upcoming group Coyote Kisses. Needless to say, Mr. Evan Harris does not fail to impress with his insights into the industry. Apologies for the long read, but it is definitely worth it. And don’t forget to grab Changing Guard for free.
OTB: When did you decide to become involved with music? Was there any significant experience, in your childhood or otherwise?
Evan Harris: Hmm, I had an older brother that got me into a lot of things earlier than other kids. In 7th grade, I was already a Daft Punk fanatic and I got my first Phish record the year before that. But if there was one moment that crystalized it for me it was seeing Bloody Beetroots and MSTRKRFT back to back at Hard Fest Summer in ‘08. That was my first real dance music show and it was there that I really decided I needed to figure out a way to get “backstage”.
OTB: Did you ever have a blueprint once you decided you wanted to get “backstage”?
EH: No, not really. I started a blog and got it up on the Hype Machine. Then I went out and interned for binary entertainment in LA. I started DJing, and then saw promoters were making more money and seemed to have more interesting work. I did that at Vanderbilt for two years begging social chairs to come see nu disco producer’s they’d never heard of. Then, I finally landed an internship with Hunter Williams (agent to Pretty Lights and a bunch of other big names). He figured out quickly that I had a good sense of A&R and on my recommendation signed 3LAU, Adventure Club, M Machine and Coyote Kisses. With Coyote Kisses I loved them so much I decided to put everything else I’d learned to use in a management capacity.
OTB: And where does Frat Music come into the picture for this?
EH: After I graduated from Vandy, I needed a job but being a “music guy” I was of course allergic to wearing a suit or having a boss so I started booking shows for all the frats at Vanderbilt. Any one who knows anything about frats knows they routinely pay 2-3x more than they should for talent so I figured I could cut their costs in half and take a nice commission. Partnering with Fratmusic.com gave me some legitimacy early on and allowed me to trade FM promo for better deals on live talent for my clients.
OTB: Unrelated, but why Vandy? And, what is the significance of this?
EH: That’s one of the parties I threw. I used to get the school paper to cover them. I love that headline cause its almost like “Vanderbilt’s first hip hop party or first rock and roll show”. There’s a historical significance to it. And, I never thought I’d get into Vandy. I thought I was going to Boston College. So I applied ED to Vandy, never having ever seen the school and I got in so I had to go. I don’t think I even knew Nashville was “Music City”. As an 18 year old pre-electro, I had 0 idea how to get into the music industry, let alone imagine that it’s something I could do. It seemed like deciding to become a movie star or an astronaut.
OTB: Growing up, did you ever imagine yourself entering the industry? Essentially, what was your initial dream profession?
EH: I don’t think so. I think maybe advertising. Which is ironically not so different from what I do now. That’s my favorite thing about management; what you do changes day to day. Today there’s an issue with the merchandise people, tomorrow there’s a licensing deal that needs to be negotiated, the next day you’re just buttering up bloggers and resolving an artist’s existential crisis. It’s never boring and unlike being an agent you’re really close to the creative side. Which is like magic to me.
OTB: So would you compare yourself to Don Draper?
EH: No, I’m much better looking. Kidding, of course. But, you’re always selling something. My artist’s job is to stay pure and artistically driven. To make the music that makes them feel good. My job is being the yin to that yang and figuring out how to nudge them in a direction that’s marketable
OTB: Right. So where does your inspiration come from?
EH: I think Elon Musk is an absolute genius. He takes huge risks, but trusts in his vision entirely. He can talk to everyone within the operation like he has their job and he absorbs negative criticism in a really productive way.
OTB: So, as of right now, what is your goal with your own career? And then what do you plan to do with CK?
EH: With CK, I’m very goal oriented but with my own career I see it as being somewhat akin to strapping myself to a rocket. I want to be surprised by where I end up. But with CK I feel like the luckiest person on earth. Joe and Bryce are like brothers to me. I think about them constantly and I work for them with this insane manic energy that I’ve almost become addicted to. I know it sounds silly but I really want to make them the biggest band in the world. I want them to fill stadiums. And this has absolutely nothing to do with money and everything to do with recognition. I want the world to fall in love with their music the way I have.
OTB: This may be private, but what is your strategy to help spread their music? You can be generic if you want, and you have the right to plead the fifth.
EH: Oh god, that would take a while to answer. I have a whiteboard in my room right now with John Nash style scribbling’s all over it and that’s just for this EP release. It involves reaching out to about 1200 media outlets, pushing a new line of merchandise, running contests with three of our corporate sponsors to heighten user engagement, getting remixes done, getting a 3D animated trailer done and a music video; I mean, it’s pretty endless. It’s basically the end result of me watching dozens of successful releases and stealing every idea I could.
OTB: Now, there are a lot of acts emerging today. What makes CK stand out?
EH: As far as CK standing out, I think there are a couple things. They’re classically trained so there’s a lot of music theory that goes into all those counterpoint melodies. But I think their biggest asset is how much love they put into these songs. The melodies are like every pop song ever got thrown in a blender. More importantly, we prize emotional impact over everything else. They’re always trying something new too. That’ll be really apparent when this EP drops. There’s a straight up rock ballad on there. Sounds like flying lotus slapped Van Halen across the face. And that’s cool because it still sounds like CK and a track in a style has never been done before.
OTB: Based on some of your answers, it seems like you have a very eclectic music taste. What are some of your favorite artists, and what genres do you listen to?
EH: I’m a big music snob, and my tastes sort of come second to following what I think is going to be big in the upcoming year of dance music. Right now, that’s a lot of deep house and future garage/maximalism. Deep house is the “new” progressive house and future is the new dubstep. Trap is done. Right now I really like acts like Flume, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, 813, Bobby Tank and Cashmere Cat.
OTB: Are there any other emerging acts that you would recommend keeping an eye on?
EH: That’s a tricky question. I think there’s a serious void in the American market right now for producers making pop conscious future music. That’s why Ryan Hemsworth seems to be doing better than a Native American applying for college. The music scene needs way more like him to pop up. If 813 were an 18 year old from Orlando he’d be f**king massive right now. But he’s 25 and from Russia, so it’s harder for him to pop. I guess I’d say keep an eye on the acts I named above. xxyyxx is having a good year. Bondax too. Dance music is in a weird place right now. The throne will go to whoever steps up and steals from the underground and makes it radio friendly.
OTB: And what is your take on the role of radio, and the entire concept of payola?
EH: I’m not sure payola exists anymore. My understanding was that was the whole thing of labels paying radio stations to play tracks and keep other tracks off the air. I think the mainstream has their place and I love pop music. I think artists like Bruno Mars or Adam Levine are amazing. They do what they do and they know they’re pop artists. And from the radio to the underground is a big food chain. The underground is where the ideas are made, then they’re stolen by mainstream EDM and made more accessible and watered down. And then the majors get a hold of it and really make it saturated. It’s like a life cycle. I love it. Because if you really understand the underground you have a crystal ball for dance music
OTB: If you don’t mind me asking, what did you major in?
OTB: So not philosophy?
EH: No, but I took a ton of it. If I could go back I would have majored in philosophy. Philosophy is like English without a point; it’s much better.
OTB: And what else would you redo? Both in college, and in general.
EH: Literally nothing. I’ve much more grateful for my mistakes than any measure of success I’ve ever had. My favorite quote about mistakes is that “It’s okay to make them, just not the same ones twice”.
OTB: Do you happen to read a lot as well? And would you recommend any books to read?
EH: Not really, although I obviously follow a ton of music websites and read music articles constantly. I don’t think there are any good books on where dance music is right now or even where the music industry is right now because a year after they get published they become dated. I took a music business course at Vandy and the word blog didn’t even appear in our textbook.
OTB: But, technology seems to have taken over in a lot of things. What do you see as the next big thing? Either in music or in general.
EH: Oh man, I wish I knew. Like I said deep house and future garage will keep blowing up this year. Dance music is “growing up” in a way. I will say that I hate all these “the sky is falling” articles about how dance music has peaked or how there’s nothing creative happening in dance music anymore. Those people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. First of all, corporate interests are taking over the festival scene so this thing is going for at least a decade. And, creatively look no further than labels like Brainfeeder or Lucky Me or Ninja Tune. I’ve heard A TON of new ideas in dance music this year. One thing I do find a little troubling is the lifespan of a fad genre like trap and to a lesser degree moombahton is getting shorter and shorter. Machinedrum famously said “RIP Trap: 2012-2012” and I’m not sure how that trend could continue. I think within the next couple years well see subgenres come in and out like seasons. They’ll blow up “too fast”.
OTB: Amid all this chaos, do you think CK will find a niche which will not crumble in upon itself? Or do you feel that they too will crumble to the test of time? Additionally, I wanted to ask you this, but I completely forgot: were you in a frat yourself, and, if so, which one?
EH: I think the groups that make big impacts are the ones that set new trends and influence other artists. I think CK is capable of that. We’re working on developing a futuristic, stadium rock sound that’s truly unlike anything else that’s happening in dance music right now. Everyone is so focused on hip-hop that almost no one is really thinking about rock. That presents a massive opportunity. More importantly, CK started as a rock band. They both play guitar. The decision to move into rock is a very organic and authentic one for us. We want to create a musical space that no one else occupies. I was not in a frat. I got bids but chickened out. I was happy to be a GDI because I had friends at most houses and by the time sophomore year was over, the allure of the frats was pretty much over and I’d taken the time to get into music. Having said that, the frats at Vandy taught me A LOT about DJing, promoting, market forces, etc.
OTB: Now, this vision seems to mirror Daft Punk’s to some extent. Using old ideals in a new manner to pioneer the future. Or do you feel that it’s very different from that. For any other people interested in the industry as well who are still in college, would you recommend joining a frat?
EH: No, I think there’s definitely something to getting back to basics and calling upon old genres and ideas and re appropriating them. What Coyote Kisses is doing right now is listening to the most cutting edge dance music, acts like Flume and Rustie and putting their own Van Halen-esque rock spin on it. The result is something entirely unique. This new track they’re about to drop on Sunday, “Changing Guard” is a perfect example. I don’t think joining a frat or not joining one determines success in music. Unless its more of a distraction than asset. I will say if you want to do well in music, you’ve got to be a crazy person. You’ve got to think about it when you wake up, in the shower, in class. You’ve got to dream about it. It’s got to be so all absorbing that it literally makes you a little crazy. If it doesn’t do that for you, find something that does.
OTB: But how far back into time do you think an act should go back to find inspiration from? Would the Jazz Age be too far, or would they be able to take it back even further to the Classical era?
EH: Bach is HUGE for CK. If you listen to Binary Suns, for example, there’s a ton of Bach going on in those counterpoint melodies. And the song is composed in three movements. Its practically a fugue.I’m less certain of jazz in dance music right now. I used to listen to a lot of afro-lounge, Thievery Corporation and stuff like that. That’s where a jazzy sensibility is huge. But obviously without jazz there is no hip-hop. I’d be happy to hear more jazz in your average trap banger. They need some help
OTB: In terms of production for CK, what type of role do you play? You seem to be very knowledgeable about their sound and process, so does that mean that you are present ‘in the studio’ when they are working? Or do you keep in touch from a remote location?
EH: For now, we’re all remote from one another. The guys go to two separate schools. That makes everything harder and strains the creative process a little. But we all talk every day. They send me whatever they’re working on. My rule with them is you don’t have to take my advice but you have to listen to it. I want them to feel that their creative process is pure and that I’m not overstepping. At the same time, I do want to nudge them one way or another if I think something is seriously wrong, which honestly only very rarely happens. I fall in love with basically everything they send me. I’m easily the biggest Coyote Kisses fan on earth
OTB: So since CK are still in school, how does that affect the growth of the act? I’m sure it limits touring, the amount of time they are able to produce music, and much more.
EH: It’s almost debilitating. We haven’t been able to tour except for one off shows. I think we have the best agent in dance music, but you’d never know it because we can only play shows on Saturdays and not even every Saturday. On top of that, they have to fly out of small regional airports, which kills us in flight costs. But they graduate this month and they have a TON of material hanging in the wings ready to roll out over the summer. We’re finally taking the gloves off.
OTB: What do you and CK have planned for after they graduate? I’m sure shows is somewhere in the equation.
EH: Yeah, we want to play as many shows as we can this summer. I’d be happy living in a van with them playing gigs that cover our costs. But everything hangs on what happens with this EP next week. If it does well, we can have a more aggressive summer. I’d like to see it as the #1 release on Beatport with at least one HypeM #1 and a quarter million plays per track in the first ten days. That would be a success for me, I think.
OTB: From what I understood, you’re hoping for the EP to go viral and then some. How feasible do you think something like that would be?
EH: Viral is really tough. It’s difficult to orchestrate. I’ve done everything I can in the lead up to give this thing every advantage possible. That’s just about all I can do.
OTB: Heading back to something I brought up earlier, what will the production process be like once CK graduate? Will you all convene and work in a central location, or will you continue to work from various locations?
EH: No, I think we’re all looking to move out to LA in August. They have some aspirations to cut a full-length record this summer. Hopefully, it’s one that really delves deeper into the rock angle. But at that point we’ll have a real studio to work out of and we’ll be able to hire a good team of engineers. Sonically, the production is getting better and better
OTB: And in LA, would the entire team (you + CK) be housed under one roof?
EH: No, I think we may try to avoid that. We’re all super tight, obviously, and Joe and Bryce have been best friends for years but we wouldn’t want a fight over who cleans up the kitchen to hurt the music. We’ll probably all just live real close to one another.
OTB: Once CK is established and well on their way to success, what do you plan to do? Do you plan to pick up other acts as well?
EH: I’ve tried doing that. It’s tough to find acts that I’m as passionate about. It’s like being happy married and being told you need to go out and find a mistress. I have no plans for what I’d do when CK is blowing up. I try not to think of it that way. It seems like I’d be setting myself up. All my goals revolve around them and what needs to get done today to get them where they need to go
OTB: However, hypothetically, if you had multiple acts, wouldn’t you be able to gain connections in multiple areas, which would then benefit each of your acts even more?
EH: Yeah, I think that’s true to some extent. But I feel like I really want to get one act through the door before I try.
OTB: Would you care to leave us with your final words?
EH: I guess my advice to anyone who really wants to get “in” on dance music is to be insatiably crazy about it. Make sacrifices. If you love what you’re doing you’ll never feel like you’re working for a second.
OTB: Last question to satisfy my own curiosity: do you plan to attend CK’s respective graduations?
EH: I don’t, actually. I’d love to but we’re all poor, and it’d cost about a grand to see them both. I couldn’t see one without the other although that would be kind of funny to support one and not even acknowledge the other. They’re the kind of guys that would laugh at that.
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