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Class Actress’s Elizabeth Harper: ‘Like, Get a Grip, Elizabeth!’

Elizabeth Harper began her music career as a singer-songwriter. After five years, though, she got bored of that and started a different band, Class Actress, with Scott Rosenthal and Mark Richardson. “It’s a totally different part of myself. I don’t even feel like the same person anymore,” she says. On the EP Journal of Ardency, the Brooklyn trio indulges in melancholic, synth-heavy jams about romance and desire that recall some of Harper’s favorite groups: Soft Cell, Pet Shop Boys, and Yaz. Vulture spoke with Harper about changing her sound, dancing while weeping, and her angsty teenage years. Class Actress opens tonight for Yeasayer at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

There’s a song on the EP called “Adolescent Heart.” What was your own adolescent heart like?
Ha, just like the song. This may be divulging too much information, but yeah, it was always broken and always saying the wrong thing and overreacting. The “you” [in the song] is me. I wrote it to myself, like “What is wrong with you?” Like, someone doesn’t call you back and you become suspicious and crazy all in the portion of five minutes, and then they call you and everything’s fine. Like, get a grip, Elizabeth.

What inspired the lyrics of the songs?
It might be a different person for every one. Just the constant quest of unrequited love. It’s always staring me in the face because I’m timid. The whole record is sort of a secret book about passion that you keep inside of yourself, and you write about it at night, but you don’t actually express it to the person you want to. I think each song is the exact same situation.

There’s despondency in the music, like you’re dancing and weeping.
I love the extremes of life. The drama of it all is pretty inspiring. That image you just gave me of the dancing/weeping thing, that’s kind of what this whole Class Actress thing is. Just being so overly self-indulgent in your own drama, you might as well make a party out of it. Because alone on a guitar it’s pretty depressing. [Laughs.]

What’s the trajectory of your stardom looking like?
Perfume, clothing line. [Laughs.] You know, I want to take it as far as I can. I really feel it’s time for pop music to have some romance in it that’s not forced or a jingle. It’s different than like, “I’m cool, I have my cool outfit on, and I’m listening to my top 40 song,” which is good, those songs make you feel good, and they give you some distance from reality, but it’s not personal enough for me.

Photo: Courtesy of Big Hassle