Born Hargobind Hari Singh Khalsa in Eugene, Oregon, the-artist-later-to-be-known-more-simply-as Hargo grew up surrounded by music. His parents, both accomplished musicians, filled the young Hargo’s soul with everything from the religious music of their Sikh temple to the classic rock of his father’s youth and everything in between. “Growing up around music from day one, hearing my dad play Beatles songs, Tom Petty, and traditional Sikh songs… There’s soundtrack to every day of my life that I can remember. Looking back, me becoming a musician seems like it was meant to be from day one.”
His heroes were not just the rock musicians of the time that filled the airwaves and music channels that he watched fervently, but the true troubadours of music’s history. From the early folk singers like Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan to each one of The Beatles to REM’s Michael Stipe, David Bowie, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Neil Young, Johnny Buckland of Coldplay’s guitar playing, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nail’s production techniques to Tupac and Marilyn Manson and finally Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hargo listened and absorbed everything he could. A rich and colorful palate, born of these multi-dimensional, multi-cultural influences are evident in Hargo’s own songwriting.
When young Hargo was sent to religious boarding school in India to fulfill his Sikh training, the loneliness and difficulties of being isolated from his family and friends in America, and being allowed almost no time alone with his guitar, made him depressed and miserable. “Tupac and Marilyn Manson saved my life,” Hargo recalls. “The honest openness of the angst in their lyrics was a sensory outlet for the hopelessness I felt at the time. They showed me the power in recognizing and expressing that rage, musically, to create a positive change.”
At age 7, Hargo’s dad bought him his first guitar, teaching him just 2 simple chords, E and A, as he strummed and switched every four beats. Then, his father started singing Buffalo Springfield’s classic “For What It’s Worth”….”…there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…” and Hargo was hooked forever. In 3rd grade, the second ever Hargo penned composition, “Giving” was taught to the school choir so they could perform it in concert. By 6th grade he had his first band, playing mostly covers of classic rock songs. As much as the young boy enjoyed the attention and accolades from his classmates, particularly female ones, it was the act of composing his own music that truly thrilled and fulfilled him. “I think we’re all, especially when you’re a kid, looking for ways to express ourselves,” Hargo explains, “music gives me my outlet, the most tangible connection to who I truly am as a person.” While many songwriters write songs of their own personal experiences, Hargo believes that the truly meaningful, important songs come from what the songwriter sees around him – others’ experiences. “This is why so many people can relate to the truly great songs.”
It’s a long way from knowing what it is you want to do and actually being able to do it as your life’s work, however, but nothing has every deterred Hargo from his dream. Once he felt himself musically ready, it became time to put together a band – to find that relationship with a couple of other musicians that would not only help turn his dream into a reality, but also allow him to be create a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. Both guitarist Sanjay Parekh and bassist John Jolley share Hargo’s sense that music is more than just melody and lyrics. It is a form of free expression that enables one to travel life’s journey with a soundtrack of their own making. Like Hargo, Sanjay and John have never wanted or planned to do anything with their lives that isn’t involved with the creation of, playing of and enjoyment of music.
“If I wasn’t able to make music,” explains Jolley, “I’d go crazy.” And so, once out of school, John has focused his time and future on music in a variety of ways. He had already played bass in a number of various punk and metal groups around San Diego as well as working as a club DJ before joining forces with Hargo. It was John’s passion for electronic music that pushed him to want to work with such a prolific songwriter where the music would be more than about how loud or fast or fancy the musicians could play their instruments. “Hargo is a master storyteller. His songs mean so much. I provide a backbone in the rhythms I create to run underneath the melodies and hold the songs up.” The immediate brotherhood that developed when Hargo met Sanjay Parekh stems at least in part from their mutual upbringings in Indian philosophy and culture. The son of Indian immigrants, Sanjay fought his parents’ reluctance to allow him to plan his future around music until they finally gave up and, as Sanjay explains, “I was just too determined for them to stop me.” He is involved on every level of the creation and planning of the band’s career, Hargo’s business partner as well as best friend. If John Jolley is the foundation of the band’s sound, Sanjay is the motor, pushing it forward, and the three highly skilled musicians come together to create very special music.
Now, at last, it has become time for the music of this modern day poet to reach the people. Hargo and his band will kick things off with a west coast tour and the release of an EP. The EP, The Faint Glow serves as a teaser for a full album which Hargo hopes to have released later this year. Each of the songs on the EP feature the wide scope of Hargo’s talents. On “Soul Survivor” the haunting melody and desperate tone of the vocals fit perfectly the lyrics which serve as a plea to all humanity to relate to one another. His use of his voice to convey his meaning is powerful and effective. By contrast, “Tekni-Colouring” is a more musically light-hearted approach to transmitting the always deep message of his lyrics. Using a dance beat rhythm to tell the story of how music can define and uplift an entire culture, the song (set in The Czech Republic) brings us back to the hits of the disco era which proclaimed dancing and rhythm as the way to happiness. “Gardens of Alize” is the EP’s true love song, the vocal melody so strong as he tells both sides of a love affair that it is performed almost acoustic. Without even knowing what the words are, the melody and the way Hargo sings the song tell us it’s a love song. But once more we switch tone, genres and even subject matter in “Empty Cups” a modern day protest song. In 2011 we don’t protest war or bad government. We protest big business like the pharmaceutical companies that keep us dependent on their medications to make their fortunes. The angry attitude of the lyrical delivery is only enhanced by Hargo’s use of his vocal to add dissonance to an otherwise melodic song. Listed as a bonus track, “Just the Sky” is Hargo’s personal homage to The Beatles. This song was composed after Hargo was deported from England where he’d gone to write a song for the soundtrack of a film about Liverpool. The tale is in the lyrics and the emotion in the vocal delivery.
American music has always been based around two things – melody and lyrics. Words and music. The great songwriters of the past 300 years have all understood this and have found that perfect blend of a song’s message to the song’s sound. In the rock era, the truly memorable songs and songwriters write honest songs from the heart that touch us all. Meet Hargo, the latest in a long line of American troubadours.
More can be said, but all good things come with patience…