As disjointed as a comedy-rap-jazz duo may sound, the unlikely pairing of Harry Baker (poet) and Chris Read (musician) fit together more than any solely comedy, rap or jazz duos I have ever come across. Bold claim, I know, but these two London lads really are top notch when it comes to musical comedy.
Both well-accomplished in their respective fields, Harry is an international slam poetry champion and Chris an accomplished jazz musician, the two have performed together in some way or another for the past ten years. In recent years they have consolidated themselves as the witty, tuneful duo they are: ‘Harry & Chris’. The pair have championed sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as multiple appearances on Sky’s Russell Howard Hour, and it’s easy to see why.
Their End of the World Song and The World Cup Song they released this summer are just two examples of songs they have written in response to societal events. These, amongst others, showcase how quick-witted the two are. Their ability to match quick-fired wordplay lyrics to catchy melodies shows they have a real knack for creating their works. The way they both bounce off of one another, leaving you never truly sure what is genuine ad-libbing and what is pre-planned, shows how polished their presentation of an un-polished show is.
They don’t mind stopping mid-song to have a chat and laugh with the audience, it doesn’t feel like they take themselves or their songs too seriously - something which is crucial for musical comedy to work. Their songs are there to be played with, to be laughed at as much as they are laughed with. It is this laid-back, approachably funny attitude the two have onstage that make their interaction with audiences so successful. Audience participation, usually a rather murky water, which many performers shy away from diving into, appears to come naturally to them. Their shows have less of an audience-performer divide, it feels more like you’ve just wondered into a random room with a couple of lovely lads making up songs plopped in the middle of it. Before you know it you’re shouting ‘you’re a flippin’ ten!’ at them with total glee. And that’s exactly what they are, a big flippin’ ten out of ten.
How did the two of you meet and start performing together?
We locked eyes across the room at our school battle of the bands competition. Chris won first place and Harry won a prize they made up that year for ‘most potential’ and we both wanted what the other had. We’ve played together in some capacity ever since school but only became ‘Harry and Chris’ as opposed to ‘Harry’ and ‘Chris’ about three or four years ago.
You were both doing elements of what you now do together before you started working together. Was it easy making the adjustment from working alone, separately, to together?
Yes! I think because we had ten years of friendship to fall back on it made it a lot easier than other creative collaborations we have attempted to embark on. We both still perform separately, but something about having your best mate on stage with you is hard to beat! It also means the train journeys to and from gigs are a lot more fun…
What’s the idea behind your tour’s your name? How are you going about saving the world?
Last year we wrote a song about the predicted end of the world and the world didn’t end, which we take full credit for, so we wanted to see what else we could apply our superpowers to, and immediately went straight for the important issues like the environment, Teletubbies and England’s world cup chances.
How do you write your songs? Does one of you take the lead usually? Is it one does music, one does lyrics?
It used to be one of us bringing an idea to the other. Harry is more lyrically minded (in that he can’t play an instrument) but these days the whole process is collaborative. Once we have an idea we’ll both work on the lyrics together, and it often means it’s able to head in a direction that neither of us could envisage by ourselves.
Where do you think your ideas come from?
We often try to make each other laugh, and that always feels like a healthy starting point. We currently have 145 shared WhatsApp groups with different ideas with varying levels of success.
You remind me quite a bit of Flight of the Conchords, do you get that a lot? Are you fans of Jemaine & Bret?
We love them. We went to see them earlier this year and had a special moment. They didn’t explicitly say so from the stage but we think they felt it too.
What do you think the future holds for Harry & Chris? What will you do once the world’s been saved?!
Well depending how you look at it it’s either good news or bad news but it feels like the world needs a good deal of saving still. While it would be lovely if everything sorted itself out after our last show it does however mean we’ve still got work to do. We’ve just finished a Eurovision song contest entry that was instantly rejected so we feel like there’s life in the old beast yet.