Under the twinkle lights of the Rivoli, HIGHS opened to a burgeoning crowd. Lending an individual twist to the generic indie-pop genre with their staple afro-beat style, HIGHS brought the atmosphere to its peak. The band played several songs from their self-titled EP before kicking off into songs from an upcoming, full-length album.
The onstage presence of the band is one of humbleness; the group gives off a sense that they’re merely glad to be here. As musicians, being humble is kind of innovative, although storming off the stage, or onstage arguments actually did wonders for Guns n Roses, in regards to their fan base, if not their rap with the media.
In person, the band is just as approachable, and I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon chatting with them over french toast about life, and of course, music.
AMBY: How did the band come to be “the band”? Where did you guys meet?
HIGHS: [Doug] We all have a connection with Queens University. At one point in time we had all gone to Queens. I met Carrie [singer] and the drummer Kevin in Queens teachers college, and Carrie knew Joel… [Joel interjects] Because we went to the same church. [Doug] We didn’t know each other, but through mutual connections we knew each other.
AMBY: How did you decide what genre to focus on?
HIGHS: [Joel] I feel like we don’t write to be in a genre. We rewrote our bio and the first line is “HIGHS is a pop band.” Because I think that, at it’s essence, it’s definitely a pop band. Just really hooky, I guess.
AMBY: Do you come from different backgrounds musically, and then had to decide which direction to go in, when it came to genre?
HIGHS: [Joel] It hasn’t been a big decision making process because Doug and Carrie make most of the music together. Doug has been in a lot of bands, Carrie is classically trained [in piano]. [Carrie] With me, I was classically trained, but I really took advantage of a lot of diverse school experiences. I did a lot of musical theatre, jazz stuff, my family is really musical. Wait what was the question again?
AMBY: How did you decide which direction the band was going to go, musically?
HIGHS: [Carrie] Early on we knew that we wanted to work on some music, and it was kind of like “What kind of stuff did we want to play?” We talked about this last night, Doug asked “Do you want to do more folky stuff..?” [Doug] I’ve written solo stuff and band stuff, and I think it’s so much more enjoyable and fun to write in a band setting, you can feed off the other members, so I feel like it was just a natural progression to what we were doing. The songs do vary in genre slightly, but as much as it was mildly formulated, the songs just kind of grew. [Carrie] We’re influenced by what we’re listening to, but we listen to diverse music too. I think a big thing was the whole afro-beat influence.
AMBY: The afro-beat is very prominent in your music, and that comes from the time you spent in Tanzania, correct?
HIGHS: [Carrie] Yes.
AMBY: Did you all travel to Tanzania?
HIGHS: [Doug] That was Carrie and myself.
AMBY: What made you decide to go to Tanzania?
HIGHS: [Carrie] We were in teachers college, and they have a program called the Alternative Practical Programs, and so you can go anywhere in the world for a couple of months as a part of your teaching degree. So we decided to be a part of this group that went to Tanzania, and lived in this small village in the middle of no where and taught in the elementary and high schools there. We learned a lot and grew very close through that experience. It was hugely influential on our lives as a whole, and that translates into our music.
AMBY: Do you have plans to go back to Africa any time soon?
HIGHS: [Carrie] We’d love to.
AMBY: The band wasn’t together before Africa, that came about after, correct?
HIGHS: [Doug] Yes. We often get asked how long we’ve been together for, and it’s still very recent. I think, concretely, we formed in December.
AMBY: Well, then that’s exciting to be doing some shows around the city.
HIGHS: [Doug] Yeah, we’re still relatively new, so we still have a long way to go.
AMBY: So far you’ve been getting a lot of excellent feedback. Reviews on your site are all very positive. How does that make you feel?
HIGHS: [Joel] Well, I will say we haven’t posted any of the bad reviews [laughs]. We are feeling so well-supported. To be honest I’ve been blown away by the support, especially last night, it was such a humbling experience. It’s amazing doing something that you love to do, and have people respond so positively. A big focus of the band has been to project positivity.
AMBY: How do you feel about all this comparison to Vampire Weekend?
HIGHS: [Doug] For me, personally, I like Vampire Weekend, and so to be compared to another band which I admire is always a good thing. Even if we don’t agree with the comparison, which in this case we do, it’s always a humbling experience.
AMBY: Do you find that the bands you like find their way into your music in some way?
HIGHS: [Doug] I think definitely. It’s almost impossible to not be influenced by the music you listen to. [Joel] But it kind of has to happen. [Doug] We have bits and pieces that sound like different bands, but make something that isn’t really any of them. [Joel] Here’s the best way I can explain it; David Byrne wrote a book called How Music Works, and he opened the book by talking about how you can, as a musician, try to think that you’re creating something entirely new, but the reality is you’re creating something that is going to fit somewhere that already exists.
Thank you HIGHS, for giving us your answers!
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