Feature: Chris Harris of Depth & Current

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Norman native Chris Harris, 36, standing in his studio Hook Echo Sound. He has worked sound at numerous Oklahoma venues and recorded dozens of local artists.

Nice People making music

Chris Harris thinks small.

So, why does the audio engineer’s resume include recording a Flaming Lips album and performing with his unabashedly loud rock quintet Depth & Current?

It’s because the Norman native started early.

Harris, 36, began recording sounds as soon he got his hands on a clunky tape recorder at age 9. Today, he spends his time inside a storage area turned studio space named Hook Echo Sound in Norman. Harris will visit Stillwater to perform his frontman duties for Depth & Current at 9 p.m. Friday inside a house at 106 S. Lewis St.

He said the concert is part of an effort to build buzz for his band, which is something he normally helps other musicians do. If he’s not recording or putting to use the dozens of instruments littering his studio, then Harris spends his time on his record label Nice People, which offers free downloads of local artists’ home recordings and other songs.

“I’ve seen so many bands that I really love, that have tons of promise, die on the vines just sitting and waiting for somebody to come around and do them a favor,” Harris said. “In the end, it’s better to think small, and I’d much rather see these bands have wild local success than sit around forever and never have any success.”

And Harris isn’t one to sit around. Right now he could name several music projects he’s developing, from setting up local concerts to putting the finishing touches on a Christmas album.

Depth & Current released the EP “Arms” last year and is almost ready to premiere its biggest recording effort. Literally, the 7-inch vinyl dwarfs the band’s EP in size. Harris said he has plans to make the vinyl special. He employed his recording protégé Seth McCarroll to help paint the covers of the first 100 copies of the album.

Harris has worked with all of McCarroll’s bands.

“He’s an encyclopedia,” McCarroll said. “I can ask him any question and he knows the answer … I’m glad that he’s here. He’s done a lot for the music scene in Norman and the surrounding area.”

Depth & Current hanging out in its studio space.

The running joke

Harris thinks small, but he dreams big.

Every year he said he used to have a running joke with his wife. All he wanted for his birthday was for Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd to walk into his house and play drums for an hour.
“I don’t even want to record it or anything,” Harris laughed. “I just want to watch him play.”

Ever since Harris heard the 1990 Flaming Lips album “In a Priest Driven Ambulance,” he knew he wanted to record bands. In 2009, Norman audio engineer Trent Bell needed to secretly record the Flaming Lips and Oklahoma City rockers Stardeath and White Dwarfs while they covered the classic Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon.” Bell asked Harris to help.

After sitting around for hours while the recording session began, Harris eventually started placing microphones on drums and Drozd walked into Hook Echo Sound.

“Next thing I know, he sits down next to the drums,” Harris said. “My head goes crazy.”

That was it.

That was the moment Harris joked about for years. Drozd started playing and Harris kept his face next to the drums.

Harris said it was the most “sonically visceral experience ever.” Today, he doesn’t know what he wants for his birthday.

“And I don’t know what to really shoot for in the studio anymore,” Harris said. “I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do. I can just sort of retire now.”

About a decade ago, Harris was living in a farm house in Amber with his wife Krystal Bilon. She would travel often, so Harris would plug in his guitar and practice recording until 3 a.m. He did need some sleep before starting his day job at a phone company.

But in 2000, Harris moved to Norman and started recording other bands. Recording became his day job and his home was the studio.

“When he recorded on the weekends, I just hung out upstairs,” Bilon said. “I am a great sleeper so I can sleep through drum and guitar tracking.”

Musicians take a lot of smoke breaks, so Bilon, 35, always had a chance to get food. She said she’s happy the studio space has moved out of her home and into Hook Echo Sound. She’s extremely proud of her husband’s dedication.

“Because of him, I feel like we are truly part of the community,” Bilon said.

From left is Derek Lemke, Chris Harris and Scott Twitchell of Oklahoma band Depth & Current inside Hook Echo Sound. The group rehearses inside the studio space.


Putting the band back together

Band practice doesn’t always involve smoke machines and amps.

Instead of practicing, sometimes Depth & Current will converge at Blu, a trendy bar in Norman, to talk about music and band matters.

Not much separates the band.

Scott Twitchell and Colin Ingersol have been playing with Harris for several years as members of the now defunct Subatomic Pieces. Twitchell and Ingersol started their music careers with piano lessons, but quickly moved on because of parents with musical interests. Ingersol’s folks were into church and gospel music. Twitchell’s mom was into surf punk rock such as the song “Wipeout.”

Everyone, including newer band members Derek Lemke and Joey Powell work day jobs before they can start rocking. And they all share a similar reason for enjoying Depth & Current.

“The thing I most like is playing with the guys,” Lemke said. “They’ve all been in bands I was into … before I actually started playing in bands.”

Depth & Current has spent the last year playing in local festivals and record stores. The band occasionally travels to play out of state. Harris said it’s going to take work and not luck to make it in music, but he has hope.

“I believe in this band 100 percent,” Harris said. “I think if we had one of those good luck opportunities where the right person saw us, and we got a chance to play for someone to help us out then this band could be huge.”

Harris said he’s not expecting this to happen, but he knows what can occur if he doesn’t give up.

Small or big, he will do his own thing.

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