Ever since her first acclaimed EP as Class Actress, Journal of Ardency, in 2010, synth-pop singer-songwriter Elizabeth Harper has always been fascinated by the arc of a certain type of Hollywood character — “the girl who goes to L.A., makes bad decisions but turns into a real person at the end,” she says.
A devotee of disco and its late ’70s, early ’80s heyday, Harper had always dreamed of casting that character in a project explicitly indebted to the sound of Giorgio Moroder and his famous scores for films like Midnight Express, American Gigolo and Scarface. “I kind of wanted to be the next Donna Summer,” Harper says, with the same hint of sheepish ambition that made her songs “Weekend” and “Let Me Take You Out” underground hits.
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But after hearing that Moroder himself was making a musical comeback inspired by his appearance on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in May 2013, Harper decided to reach out to the real thing. “I had just signed to Casablanca as a new label, and I was technically their first signing as a singer-artist, and I thought to myself, ‘How can we get the legend behind the legend involved?’”
Around the same time, Republic’s EVP-A&R Rob Stevenson (who resurrected Casablance in 2013) helped team Harper with songwriter-producer Evan Bogart, son of late Casablanca founder Neil Bogart. “Suddenly I get a call saying Evan and Giorgio want to meet with you in L.A., we wrote a song together and now they’re my executive producers. It was a dream come true, really.”
The result is Class Actress’ Movies, due June 23 (via Casablanca/Republic), an EP inspired by the films of ’80s excess, glamor and self-discovery that Moroder helped directly shape. And lead single “More Than You,” which Harper co-wrote with Bogart, is the most convincing mission statement: In its brand-new music video, Harper portrays the Class Actress character as a dangerously sexy melange of the types of women she found herself observing in the corridors of iconic L.A. locales like the Beverly Hills Hotel, all while slinking her breathy falsetto atop slinky synth beats.
“I would be in the Polo Lounge watching women enter and think to myself, ‘What’s going on here — who is she?’” says Harper, who is currently based in New York but returned to Los Angeles for the video. “And can you tell the difference between a pop star, an actress and a lady of the night? Everyone kind of melded into the same person, and as a woman in Hollywood I got to see this happen a lot.”
Movies should also help satiate fans’ long wait since Class Actress’ full-length 2011 debut Rapprocher, which Harper says is due in part to the lengthy process of aligning Moroder and Bogart’s schedules. “I wanted to wait for the things that I felt mattered for this project — it was like a spell. I felt at some point it was taking so long that the timing was beyond my control, and I’d spend nights and weekends crying, wishing this would happen faster. And at some point I had to let go and let it happen.”
Moroder, for his part, returns the favor. “It was such an amazing experience to work on a release for Casablanca again,” he says in a statement. “It means a lot to me at this point in my career anytime someone is interested in working with me. [Elizabeth] is so lovely to work with, and made the work a very enjoyable experience for me.”
And now that Movies is nearly here, Harper is still pinching herself at her newfound friend and collaborator. “At the time we were recording, I was one of the first singers Giorgio had worked with since the ‘80s,” she says. “Later, I went dancing with him and his wife at this club named after him, Giorgio’s, at the Standard in Hollywood. They only play disco, a lot of which was made by him, and I would realize at certain points, ‘Oh wait, he has an Oscar for this song.’ He’s the perfect person who’s been able to guide me in this next direction. Class Actress comes from this whole world he helped create, and it just makes sense to me to have him part of this fully energetic process.”