Ex-boy band prodigy opts for rock over pop

Quick Shot Paulo’s eponymous three-song EP marries the impassioned vocals of Chris Harmon with a driving rhythm section, courtesy of bassist Vince Mini and drummer Jay Gervais. Lead guitarist Pete Carlson ignites their tight melodies with searing riffage and sharp hooks. The result is a fresh sonic force that is bouncy enough to sing along with yet heavy and demanding enough to make a lasting impression.

QSP hail from Tampa. Front man Harmon is the band’s main songwriter and rhythm guitarist. Prior to forming QSP, the 21-year-old spent time working with Lou Pearlman, CEO of Trans Continental Records, birthplace of boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync.

According to Harmon, the story goes like this (Pearlman was not available for comment): At age 14, Harmon was seen performing by the mother of Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys), and she got him a record deal with Lou Pearlman’s blossoming Trans Continental Records in Orlando. At the time, the Backstreet Boys were just starting to gain attention in Europe but had yet to become a pop force in the states. Harmon said he spent about a year in Pearlman’s stable.

“It taught me a lot,” Harmon said. “It taught me the business at a really young age and gave me a lot of good lessons. (Pearlman) is really a great guy. Obviously he’s a straight-up businessman, but he taught me a lot. From that early age I knew exactly what I needed to do to make it in this business.”

Harmon’s praise of Pearlman comes despite the fact that other Pearlman artists, such as The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, have sued their former boss for supposedly cheating them of royalties.

“I still have the contract, and it is terrible,” Harmon said. “It was kind of tough because I was livng in Tampa at the time, and there are not a lot of entertainment lawyers. We did revise some stuff, but I don’t know if we had the best law advice we could’ve had. Also, at that time, I was like, ‘Yeah sure’ (due to how young I was).”Pearlman was grooming Harmon to travel the same road as cookie-cutter bands such as N’Sync and O-Town.

“Right when I got signed (Pearlman) put me with his hair stylist and his clothes stylist and had me going tanning and working out, all that kind of stuff, right from the get go,” Harmon said. “He put me in voice lessons right away, too. Before we really started working on songs he had me doing all that.”

Harmon had been writing songs since he was 12 and said that Pearlman alluded to the fact that he would be able to record some of his own material.

“He was cool about it. I don’t know if he was just stringing me a long, but he let me use my own stuff, and he had other stuff,” Harmon said. “But, I was only 14, I started writing songs when I was 12, so I’m sure my stuff wasn’t that good.”

After approximately a year of learning how to pose for teen magazines and do MTV-ready dance moves, Harmon said he decided he was playing for the wrong team.

“When (The Backstreet Boys) really started getting going that’s when I got out,” Harmon said. “I voluntarily got out of the contract because I realized that was just not what I really wanted to do, all the choreographed dancing and everything. I just sent them a letter, there was a little loophole in the contract, and that was it.”Harmon said that missing the opportunity to make millions of dollars does not upset him.

“I don’t regret it at all,” harmon said. “It would have been great, I guess, to have money and all. But from a musical standpoint it would have been terrible. I knew what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t that at all.”

Harmon said his parents were not disappointed with his situation to leave the potentially lucrative deal he had with Pearlman.

“They were cool with it because I went right into another situation with another band, not just hanging out with my friends.”Following his departure from Trans Continental, Harmon formed a band called Corban, which opened for acts ranging from The Doobie Brothers to Debbie Gibson during the mid-1990s. However, the band dissolved after about a year.

“That situation just kind of fell apart – internally really,” Harmon said.

Harmon then went to Los Angeles and Nashville, where he played with different bands and studied guitar. After finishing high school he returned to Tampa and enrolled at USF. In the summer of 2001 he formed the core of QSP. Bassist Mini joined the band more recently.

“We only get better the more we play,” Harmon said. “It has only been us four for two months.”

Harmon said that he is enthusiastic about playing in a band that is in its embryonic stage.

“Every time we play we’re trying new songs because we’re writing so much now,” Harmon said. “That’s something we decided from the get-go, that we’re always gonna be working on new material. It’s cool because we’re always getting better, and we’re always sounding a little different because we’re always throwing new songs into the set.”

Quick Shot Paulo will perform at The Brass Mug on Fletcher Avenue (by The Wooden Nickle) April 26 at 10:00 p.m. They will also open for Vince Neil (of Motley Crue fame) at The Twilight in Ybor City on May 24.

Contact Wade Tatangelo at oracleofflimits@yahoo.com.