If you’ve been to concerts at The Andy Warhol Museum, you may be familiar with the man who has been curating these prestigious indie artists for the past 15 years.
He introduces the shows, but now he’s doing something different at the mic: presenting his own music as the singer-guitarist for Stutter Steps.
Stutter Steps isn’t a real band, exactly, and it’s going to perform for a limited time only, which might be only one show. However, Stutter Steps has a made a debut album, in the vein of such bands as Luna, the Go-Betweens and the Feelies, that is already bringing the band national attention.
The self-titled album’s nine songs have been in the works for 15 years, but more as a hobby for Meadville-area native Harrison, who’s been juggling his role at the Warhol with raising a family with two kids. In the early ‘00s, he was part of the short-lived indie-pop/twee-pop trio Tourister that didn’t play here much but put out a singles and did some touring, including playing the Detroit Pop Festival.
In the fall of 2012, with his kids getting older (now 7 and 9) and his wife, a printmaker, having finished an exhibit, “she kind of said ‘It’s your turn,’ ” he says.
“Not like I had any delusions that I would quit my job and go tour,” he remarks of the opportunity, “but I always wanted to make a proper studio album, with an engineer and a producer.”
Part of his inspiration came from interacting with two of his musical heroes, Dean Wareham and partner Britta Phillips (both of Luna), whom the Warhol commissioned for “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.”
“Getting to know them, being on tour with them, being around that project, seeing how they wrote songs for those films, I was really inspired by that project.”
Ladybug Transistor/Essex Green guitarist Jeff Baron, who was living in Pittsburgh for a time, suggested he work with Ladybug founder Gary Olson, who in turn agreed to produce the record in a bucolic, wooded cabin in the Laurel Highlands rather than in his Brooklyn studio. They recorded the album there with singer Cindy Yogmas, bassist David Horn and drummer Sean Finn (The Red Western), with Mr. Baron emailing his tasty lead guitar parts from his home in Vermont.
Once it was mixed at Marlborough Farms studio in Brooklyn, Mr. Harrison says, “I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I just wanted the experience. Jeff said, ‘This is really good. You should try to release it.’ ”
That’s where the Pittsburgh-based Wild Kindness entered the picture, agreeing to release the album even though Stutter Steps was more a studio creation than a band.
Far from sounding like a vanity project or some dad’s weekend hobby, it’s an irresistibly catchy guitar-pop record — alternately dreamy and driving — that fits alongside the Velvets, Feelies and Go-Betweens. The album eases in with the relaxed song “Fog,” inspired by the autumn scenes of Julianne Moore in “Far From Heaven,” and by the end, it’s clicking on all cylinders with the left-of-the-dial radio gem “Go On.” Mr. Harrison, who is also a fan of Bill Callahan and Stephin Merritt, has an unpolished voice and a dry, honest delivery that gets better with every listen and Ms. Yogmas provides gorgeous harmonies.
Magnet has praised “Fog,” which includes a slide guitar part from Mr. Wareham, as an “organic and breezy indie tune” and Austin Town Hall trumpeted Stutter Steps as “a new band to adore.”
Again, “band” is a tricky word here, as the release show on Saturday could be a one-off. Ms. Yogmas is flying in from San Francisco to appear and Mr. Baron will be replaced by Phil Jacoby from Sleep Experiments.
Asked about pulling together a live show with limited rehearsal, Mr. Harrison laughs and says, “It’s not like we’re doing free jazz.”