“It was a relief to be able to do my own band, because I was very responsible for all this amazing music I didn’t want to mess up before,” thenewno2’s Dhani Harrison (son of Beatles great George), tells Rolling Stone of playing with his late father. “But now we can mess it up as much as we want.” Thenewno2, Harrison’s psychedelic project with pal Oli Hecks, recently performed an intimate acoustic set in our Rolling Stone studio, and Harrison talked what it was like growing up with a Beatle as a father. (Watch the band’s “Shelter,” live from RS, above).
“The studio was in my house. My dad didn’t really like having lots of people around, so he’d go ‘I need you to press record.’ And then he’d do something fantastic and I’d go, ‘Oh wow, I’m his engineer now,’ ” Harrison remembers. “I did Albert Hall, I got to play the Hall of Fame with Prince. So I’ve done that kind of stuff for ages. It wasn’t until after we finished working on Brainwash, my dad’s album after he died, then it was like ‘That phase is over in my life now, now we can get on with our music, with our band.’ “
Going out on your own can be daunting, but Dhani was thrown into the spotlight at an early age. “When my dad toured in ’91, I think my first gig properly was the Tokyo Dome, 50,000 people indoors. That was pretty scary. I was 12, or 13,” Harrison says. It was that experience on the big stage that prepared Dhani and thenewno2 for what lay ahead. On the strength of their debut album You Are Here, the band played one of the final episodes of Late Night With Conan O’Brien and secured a slot at this year’s Coachella Festival in Indio, California.
“We make the music we want to hear,” Harrison says, and generating that sound requires a bit of manpower: Squeezing the entire band into our studio was a difficult task, but each component is essential in the group’s complex arrangements. The result is an indie-pop sound that doesn’t pretend it’s not influenced by one of the greatest bands of all time. “There’s reference to everything he’s done in everything that I’ve done because he’s my dad, we were best friends, we grew up playing music together,” Harrison says. “And if anyone hasn’t been influenced by them [The Beatles] at some point, they’re probably lying.”