"It started as a total joke," says Sarah Anderson of Harpoontang (due tomorrow night at the Larimer Lounge), the outfit which also includes the trio of Paper Bird vocalists, Laura Goldhamer and M & the Gems singer Maria Kohler (also known as Kitty Crimes). "But every time we practiced, something just took over." The same can actually be said for Harpoontang's live shows, which take on an almost vaudevillian style of musical comedy, transforming the girls into purveyors of the most raunchy, gasp-worthy songs -- all delivered with an innocent wink. "It's like when little kids talk about sex," notes Esme Patterson, "before they actually know what all those parts do."
The story of Harpoontang extends almost as far as Paper Bird. Back in the spring of 2007, Laura Goldhamer had booked Paper Bird as a last minute act for the first of a long string of shows she curated at the Brooks Center for Spirituality. Hitting it off as friends and collaborators, Laura Goldhamer and Paper Bird soon became a familiar sight on handbills and fliers.
The team quickly learned they also shared a passion for lascivious comedy -- a trait not often found in the music they'd been making in their full-time bands. "We all share the same sense of humor," Anderson points out. "And when we start writing songs, we all had the same ideas. We'll all be laughing on the ground so hard. Some people get it, and some people don't. It's like therapy for me. There's this thing that wants to come out, and when it comes out, it feels so good. There's no statement. It's just, 'Let's get weird."
Back in 2008, when Harpoontang was still little more than an inside joke between friends, Paper Bird and Laura Goldhamer traveled up to Fort Collins to play a show in an old school house with Ian Cooke (another consistent character in their merry circus). In attendance was a young Maria Kohler, who would befriend the groups and -- over the next year -- slowly but insistently infiltrate Harpoontang. "Every cell in my being screamed 'I have to be in this band,'" Kohler recalls. "It was like, 'Tang, Tang, Tang, Tang...'"
"It took me a second to warm up to her," says Laura Goldhamer. "I was not sure about Maria. There were lots of people who were like, 'I have to be in your band!' And we were like, 'No!' But Maria was a good idea: She plays drums and guitar like nobody's business."
Seeing the ladies of Harpoontang do their thing, it is nearly impossible not to fall apart with laughter. Whatever fantastic lewdness is repressed in these girl's other musical projects suddenly gets let loose like a pack of wild spider monkeys at a royal gala. While the most memorable tunes have titles like "I Want My Hymen Back" or lyrics about safe sex with Santa ("He knows where you've been/But you don't know where he's been/So wrap it up"), Esme insists that Harpoontang is more than just a group of rabid felines in heat. "That might be the thing that is arresting to people," she concedes, "and they react to it more than other things. But we talk about Oprah a hell of a lot more than we talk about sex."
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music