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Class Actress: "Being a Badass Bitch Is Fun"

Elizabeth Harper talks candidly about the loss of her father, power and control, and why she adores Nicki Minaj. Plus here's an exclusive remix from Swick.

Above is the premiere of Swick's remix of "More Than You"—which morphs her original synth-pop cut into a hard, dark, club banger.

Class Actress' Elizabeth Harper tells me the universe brought us together on this phone call. The New York-based synth-pop singer believes in that old adage—everything happens for a reason.

It's how she felt when she joined famed 70s disco label, Casablanca Records, back in 2013; how she felt when the legendary Giorgio Moroder signed on as executive producer for her newly released EP, Movies; and how she felt when she reconnected and heartbreakingly disconnected from a former love while making said EP in LA. It was taking years and years to follow up 2011's Rapprocher LP—but life was taking its course.


Everything happens for a reason.

It's a phrase Harper returned to when she kept meeting young people whose fathers had died—not knowing then that she was about to be crushed too. Back in 2013, the singer was in Hollywood on the verge of starting work on Movies, when her dad died of pancreatic cancer. She'd been touring for three years prior, and hadn't realized the significance of meeeting so many people who had gone through the same heartbreak.

"I kind of think they were angels sent to help me through it," she says. For Harper, nothing occurs by chance. I tell her my dad died last year, and I can sense chills on her end as she pauses. I have them too. A while into the conversation, I apologize for getting so deep. "That's OK," she says. "That's how I roll.

“When it happened, I was completely numb," she explains about her father's death. "The last thing I felt like doing was writing a slutty pop song, which is sort of my thing, you know? 'Movies' was the first song I wrote, and that was the state I was in."

"Movies" is not only the title of her EP, but it also opens the collection, tying together the story of a girl who's exploring her own darkness and desires amid the superficial glamour of LA life. The closing track is appropriately cinematic—think Lana Del Rey singing a James Bond theme—bringing her character back to reality while she still lusts for the high life.

"I know it's cliché / But I'll say it / I wish that you'll stay one more night," she sings over calming, arpeggiated bells, a cello sighing slowly as the track adds one sound after another. In the context of the song, she's referring to an addictive lover, but the same kind of yearning can be applied to a lost family member. In fact, it's more powerful that way. Sure, people will tell you that your "loved one" died because it was "their time," but that doesn’t mean you don't selfishly want them back—even if just for a night.


"Everyone I talk to / I know they don't hear me / And everything I do / I learned from the movies," she croons.

Continues below.

The EP is deeply personal, Harper continues, but conceptually it's like a short film set in the 80s where the characters covet money, power, and fame, like Scarface or other Moroder-scored films. The video for single "More Than You" puts Harper in a drug-addicted, lovelorn haze, fighting recklessly and kissing in Egyptian cotton, licking crushed pills off playing cards, and swimming in a pristine pool in a sleek, high-cut one-piece. "It's a fable. It's a cautionary tale," she says, and yet, so much of the record is rooted in personal experiences. That torid affair portrayed with an actor in the video comes from the very real time when she rekindled a spark with someone from her past—"I don’t know if you've ever met a narcissist," she says snarkily, “but when you're in a relationship with one, it's all about control." Ultimately, the relationship didn't last, but, like she's been telling me, it was for a reason.

"Everything bad that happened during making this record, everything that fell apart, lead to something better,” Harper asserts. "That’s the kind of thing now that I believe in 100 percent. No matter what, when something doesn't work out, it's because you have to do something else that's better for you. It's going be better than you haven't even been able to imagine yet."


The results of her growth are in the hypnotizing six-song strong EP. They're big bouncy pop tracks, but the record oozes with monstrous beats and discotheque-worthy bass too—evidence of her work with Moroder and Evan Bogart, son of late Casablanca founder Neil Bogart. Neon Indian also gets a co-production credit on "GFE." The singer always retains creative control, calling herself a "casting director" when it comes to harnessing collaborators for her music and visuals. She pulls together the talent she wants, and they all work together, crafting Class Actress, the persona. "Most artists don't talk about that—their image is the main focus," she says about crediting her collaborators. "Being a badass bitch is fun. I get to be a bad girl."

Nicki Minaj is one such bad girl whom Harper is in awe of—someone who’s constructed a character who's completely in control. We also talk about Bjork's Pitchfork interview (the one where she reclaims credit for the beats that were previously attributed to her male collaborators). Powerful women give her even more inspiration to be a "badass bitch."

"Now that I've been in the business, I know these girls do everything," Harper says. "So when it's like 'Oh, someone else wrote Lana [Del Rey]'s song.' You know there's a songwriting credit on everyone's song because there's another person in there, but you know they're writing these songs because no one else can. Like Nicki Minaj made herself into a fairytale princess. She can look like a porn star Barbie, but be this fairy godmother as well. She's got like a nine-year-old boy crying on her boobs! She's one of my heroes. I love that woman." Harper has control, but ultimately, she explains, everything is up to the powers that be. That's something she learned with her dad. "I buried a lot of my feelings for a long time," she says. "You start to think about your own mortality and you become an adult. And you think someone has the answers, but no one does."

No one knows what will happen next, but Harper does know she can handle it; that's what her dad taught her. "I had to get strong for a reason," she said. "His death made me even stronger. In a way, he gave me so much more. I feel like he's helping me from the other side now."

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