From the Instagram birth of record-breaking single ‘Peaches’ to the chemistry between Justin Bieber and Kid Laroi, producers Harv, Shndō and Aldae explain how JB’s latest effort ‘Justice’ was born out of pitch records and magic-making studio sessions…
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It was inevitable that Bernard Harvey would eventually produce a No. 1 single alongside Justin Bieber. But it’s always just been a matter of when it would happen.
The 35-year-old Kansas-born producer and instrumentalist, who works as Bieber’s right-hand man under the title of band leader, has linked with JB in the past on arguably some of his best work. He’s landed production on Under the Mistletoe’s ‘Fa La La’, criminally underrated ‘Believe’ bonus track ‘Just Like Them’ and even scored credits on Bieber’s 2020 effort ‘Changes’ in standouts like ‘Available’, but his latest track alongside Justin isn’t just a classic among fans. It’s taken over the world.
Harv is half of the production team credited on Bieber’s seventh Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single ‘Peaches’, which has earned its place at No. 3 on the Official Charts now two weeks in a row. Featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar, vocal runs that only Bugatti Biebs could execute at his prime, and a coast-uniting chorus, ‘Peaches’ is the product of a JB Instagram jam session that found its way into the hands of the two perfect producers for the job – Harv and electronic wizard Shndō.
But its unorthodox story of becoming an early frontrunner for song of the summer is barely a fragment of the anecdotes behind how Bieber’s latest effort, Justice, was created. Clash caught up with Shndō (‘Peaches’), Harv (Production on ‘Peaches’, ‘Somebody’) and Gregory ‘Aldae’ Hein (Production on ‘2 Much’, ‘As I Am’, ‘Unstable’, ‘Somebody’, ‘There She Go’) to chat about how they’re celebrating the chart-topping album’s early success, how a Rodney Jerkins’ writing camp led to a Lil Uzi Vert feature and how the process behind “Peaches” was unlike anything they’ve done before.
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Congrats on having the No. 1 song and being a part of the No. 1 album in the U.S. Harv, this has got to be a special feeling for you. Where’s your head at right now?
Harv: I’m still taking it all in, honestly, because that’s a lot. That’s like something you dream about your whole life. Just living in the moment. It’s cool just getting out the positive response back. Everyday it’s like waking up to a new thing.
What was your initial reaction to ‘Peaches’ going No. 1 on the Hot 100?
Harv: I knew ‘Peaches’ was a good song. I would play it before the song came out, before the world heard it. And every time I played it, it would get the same reaction. Everybody’s like, “Yo, I love that song. I love it.” I was like, “Oh, this song is gonna do really, really good.”
Did I know it was gonna go No. 1? I did not. I knew it was a good song. Shndō: I was sleeping. I woke up to a ton of texts, a bunch of people sent me the picture of the Hot 100. Everybody was calling me while I was wiping an eye booger out my eye. It’s very surreal. I would have never expected this, starting out at 13 years old and making beats in the Dominican Republic. Like, never expected something like this.
We’ll get more into ‘Peaches’ in a second, but I do want to talk a bit about the album itself. How long of a process was this record to work on, was it right after ‘Changes’ that everyone hopped into ‘Justice’?
Harv: Immediately. So we were supposed to go on tour for ‘Changes’, because I’m also his music director for the band for touring and everything. So right after it comes out, COVID hits, right? So we had to cancel our tour, we had to cancel the promo for ‘Changes’, we had to do a lot of things. We took probably a month off. And then after that, we just went back to work.
The goal was always to do two albums back to back. Even before we did ‘Changes’, we were going to do another album really fast. So that was the goal initially. But just because of COVID, we had to jump into it really fast and just to keep busy. Justin was playing music, like, “Oh, he’s working again.” After that, it was go time. I started sending him music and different ideas and linking up in the studio.
Aldae, doing a lot of the collabs on this record, what is that like to see these guys like Uzi and Laroi hop on your work?
Aldae: It’s badass because it’s like, these are things that I say like, “Oh, it’d be sick if Lil Uzi hopped on this,” and I’ll say shit like that to Josh [Gudwin] for another record and that didn’t happen. And then out of nowhere, Uzi hops on ‘There She Go’. It adds a whole-nother dynamic, another voice, a fan base to the record. It just furthers the reach.
For ‘There She Go’, Rodney Jerkins threw a camp in Orlando. I had known Rodney for a week and he somehow convinced me to come to Orlando. The first day of the camp, there was a loop, and the song was literally written in 40 minutes. Rodney and his team produced that record.
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Even to have a new guy like Kid Laroi on here and a legend like Rodney, do you think Justin has this ability to bring these different worlds together on his records?
Aldae: He does. And Kid Laroi is going to be a legend. I think Justin sees something in Laroi that he sees in himself, a younger version of himself. And the music reaches a certain level, like it passes Justin’s standards. I feel like it’s a testament to how music can range from, you know, a young kid from Australia to like a certified legend, already just based strictly off the music.
For ‘Unstable’, I had that demo for a year and a half, and was still reworking it as Justin heard it. And he had told me to make it past tense, because it was “Will you love me when I’m unstable.” And he wanted that to be more of a past-tense thing. But as far as the chemistry, I knew Justin really loved that song. And he had me and Laroi in the studio to listen to it. And there was definitely chemistry between those two and us.
And the song was like a great starting point, I think, for what Justin and Leroi will do in the future.
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What separates ‘Justice’ from his previous efforts?
Aldae: I think maturity. He has a better understanding of himself. And it’s like, it’s very vulnerable and honest. And there are a lot of love songs, but there’s still depth to it.
And what’s your favourite studio memory from these ‘Justice’ sessions?
Harv: Honestly, my favorite memory was working on ‘Somebody’. I got to work with Sonny [Skrillex], [I spent] a long time looking up to him, man. Just to be able to be in the studio, and there’s other songs that we worked on, but ‘Somebody’ is the one that stuck on ‘Justice’. Working with him for like the past three or four months, he’s so creative and one of the nicest guys on the planet.
Harv, seeing some of the stuff you and Justin worked on like ‘Just Like Them’ off ‘Believe’…
Harv: C’mon man, you did your research!
Nah, I love that one. Or even after ‘Fa La La’ off ‘Under The Mistletoe’, I’m not surprised you’d eventually earn a chart-topper alongside Justin. Was it a shock to you that ‘Peaches’ was the track to do it?
Harv: Shocked is a hard word because shock is like you don’t really believe in yourself. I believe in myself. So it’s like I’m not really shocked. It’s just like, “OK, this is great.”
Can you break down how ‘Peaches’ came to be?
Shndō: I remember taking an ear break [from producing] and going on Instagram. It was the first or second post that came up, Justin playing piano. I was like, “What’s this?” When I heard it, I was like, “Damn, this could be an anthem.” It was bringing the East Coast and West Coast together immediately. I screen-recorded that video. And I threw that into Ableton and sped it up a little bit because it was a ballad kind-of thing. I made a quick pseudo live-drum groove on Ableton. And then I took the piano jam that he did at the end of the video and put it in the intro, just to have some kind of arrangement.
And then I texted that to Harv, like “Maybe we can make something out of this.” And I named it ‘Peaches’ as a placeholder. I was like, “You need to add a baseline to add that live element.” Then he sent me some guitar strums and a reverse guitar thing. I tightened up the mix a bit so it would be a better idea to present to Justin.
Harv: Justin was like, “Yo, this is fire.” He goes to the studio, he actually re-records the hook and then writes a verse and then sends it back. I’m jamming out to that, a couple of hours go by. Justin FaceTimes me and he was just like, “You’re not gonna believe who I got on the second verse.” I’m like “Who?” He’s Like, “Giveon.” He jumps on the second verse, which is crazy, so we listened to it. All of this is on the same day. Three to four weeks go by and Justin is like, “I’m thinking about getting Daniel Cesar on it” and I’m just like, “Run it.” Now it’s what it is.
Shndō: I remember hearing it in the studio. It was the first time I’ve ever heard Giveon really. The tone was insane. And then I heard the Daniel Caesar verse when it came out, because I never heard it until the release.
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I’m assuming that’s not normally the process with Justin.
Harv: That was definitely not the normal process, that is the 2021 social-media version. I don’t think anybody’s ever had a hit song off of the artist posting something on Instagram and the producers taking the Instagram clip and producing around it and then sending it to the artist.
What’s been your biggest takeaway from working on the album as a whole?
Aldae: Learning the patience that it requires to achieve something like this and the certain layers of a record, and especially of a pitch record, like how many seasons a record has. You really do have to be patient. And just because something doesn’t happen right away doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. It’s just a lot of timing. You just have to stick with it and not lose your mind and just like tinker and toil away until you exhaust all efforts, then allow divine intervention and be patient throughout the whole process.
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‘Justice’ is out now. Justin Bieber’s new gospel EP ‘Freedom’ is also out now.
Words: Brenton Blanchet // @BrentonBlanchet
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