DIY recording and autobiographical lyrics weave together in Harper Gambit's debut record Yesterday's Dreams | Provided

Local alt-rock outfit Harper’s Gambit’s debut album Yesterday’s Dreams is a pandemic-born labor of love. 

Bassist/vocalist Jake Schoenberg and guitarist/vocalist Derek Tuck, the band’s main songwriting duo, took a folk-influenced approach to writing lyrics for Yesterday’s Dreams, focusing on direct storytelling.

“We don’t really speak in metaphors,” Schoenberg said. This narrative approach gives the band’s alt-rock expression an Americana sensibility. 

Much of the songwriting for Yesterday’s Dreams was driven by Tuck and Schoenberg turning angst into catharsis. 

“We began recording during Covid-19. We couldn’t go out and play at that time and that was hard,” Schoenberg said. “It was challenging for us to stick together as a band when we couldn’t perform, so we kind of took that energy and put it toward recording.”

One track, “Oak Tree,” is a response to Schoenberg and his wife’s pandemic-induced wedding cancellation, delaying both the celebration of their love and the chance to see friends and family. 

“Writing the song kind of helped me and my wife cope,” Schoenberg said. “I need to be playing music to keep myself level headed and to channel the heavy emotions.”

Tuck wrote “Yesterday’s Dreams,” the title track, while frustrated about the student loan debt that has crippled many in his generation. “I’m trying to think of a way of saying it without sounding cliche,” Tuck said. “It’s more a mental health kind of thing for me. Like if I don’t do it, I feel worse.”

The recording process was not without its challenges: Tuck and Schoenberg recorded the album entirely on their own, making a home studio out of Tuck’s guest bedroom.

 “Everything on the album we recorded ourselves,” Schoenberg said. “And every instrument we had to record one at a time and track by track.”

The result is an album brimming with not only fresh emotion, but an air of authenticity. The album’s upbeat energy floats on an undercurrent of hyper-personal songwriting, bringing an appealing earnestness that transcends genre.

Ultimately, logistical constraints didn’t hinder, but rather encouraged, Harper’s Gambit’s creation of Yesterday’s Dreams.

“We could [only] create with what we actually had in that room, where we recorded everything,” Tuck said. “I think being able to limit yourself like that breeds creativity.”

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