Sweet Goodbyes: Beautiful folk pop

by McKenna Cardwell

photo by Tiffany Brooks

Driving through town with her two daughters in the backseat, Lisa Harmon turned the volume down on the pop song playing on the radio as her 10-year-old spoke up.

“Mom, it’s really interesting that this band seems to give equal time to the man and the woman when they sing. I don’t usually hear that. Usually, the woman gets less time… I wonder why that is.”

As one-half of The Sweet Goodbyes, a local indie-folk female duo, Harmon smiles at the idea that her daughters get to watch their mom take up space on a stage playing powerful music.

Amidst their busy lives juggling working full-time jobs as well as being full-time mothers, Harmon and Amber Darland utilize their musical talents to encourage others to slow down and embrace the small moments.

Darland and Harmon adopted the name “The Sweet Goodbyes” nearly three years ago, after playing together for about a year under a different name. Inspired by the story writing elements in their songwriting, the name embodies a stillness that they say can surround moments of sorrow or heartache.

“There are these emotional moments in our lives that we often blow by,” Harmon said. “These are the moments the we don’t really let anyone see, because it’s when we are very vulnerable. By spotlighting them, we are just acknowledging that they are just a part of the shared human experience.”

While Harmon works as a professional mental health therapist, Darland, is self-employed and has been an individual singer/songwriter around Bellingham since 2006. When Harmon sought her out for vocal lessons around 2014, Darland decided it was time to add another member.

The vocal lessons never happened, and a band was born instead.

“Emotion. Authenticity. The name definitely captured what we felt like we were going for in both of our writing,” Darland said. “If music has come through us to move the masses in whatever way that is. Just to feel alive in the moment is good, whether that is happiness or sadness or anger. A sweet goodbye is a beautiful moment of appreciation of that”

Harmon and Darland agree that one of the driving forces behind their music is the use of poetic lyrics guided by day-to-day experiences, as well as the tales told by other people.

“I’ve been working in the mental health field for a really long time, so I’ve heard a lot of stories,” Harmon said. “I’m not necessarily telling specific stories from specific people, but there are themes that emerge that I get really inspired by.”

The indie-folk duo recently released their debut, self-title album in July. At 12 tracks in length, The Sweet Goodbyes was recorded in Empty Sea Studios in Seattle with sound engineer and producer Michael Connolly.

“We were very intentional about selecting songs that showcased our storytelling, musicality and harmonies, while also trying to blend tone and mood so that it was almost like a really great mixtape,” Harmon said. “If we were to move through a road trip, or journey together, then what would that look like? Which is kind of what this last year has been like, with finding our sound and pushing ourselves to dial things in together”

Throughout the recording process, Darland and Harmon strived to record songs filled with feeling, rather than working to achieve the perfect song, hitting every note seamlessly. While poetic lyrics and solid song structure served as a strong component, the vocals specifically were recorded to convey the real emotion they felt while writing it.

“There is one song on the album where I can hear myself cry, where I am actually brought to tears while recording. It was a therapy session.” Darland said. “We were both willing to be vulnerable in a recording, and you have to accept the imperfections to embrace the emotion.”

While the album features added instrumentals and a fuller sound, the work stays true to the feeling Darland and Harmon achieve while playing live as a duo. While they pushed themselves to expand their musical dimensions while recording, the two agree that beautiful harmony is a fundamental to their sound.

“We both have very strong female vocals that match like we are sisters, but are very different individually,” Darland said. “When we are in that perfect pitch, you can hear all those overtones and layers of harmony.”

In the upcoming months, The Sweet Goodbyes are scheduled to play at the Green Frog on Oct. 7, potentially begin mapping out a regional tour and release a special holiday song.

Catch The Sweet Goodbyes at the Green Frog on Oct. 7 or online at facebook.com/thesweetgoodbyes.