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Home » Albums in Review, Sub Pop

HIGHS making a splash in the indie scene

Submitted by on March 26, 2014 – 8:34 pmNo Comment

HIGHS - Jessica DeeksThere’s a new wave of indie alternative pop rock hitting radios and stages everywhere, and Toronto’s scene is at the forefront of the movement.

I present to you the newest ambassador of the movement, HIGHS. The band name purely represents their sense of positivity and enlightenment.

Formed in late 2012, the group started with traditional rock group roots of creating music in their basement and recording it in the same place.

Frontman and guitarist Doug Haynes says that it all just fell together for the band in the last year or so.

“We all met at Queen’s University, but it started after that for us,” Haynes explains. “The three of us, Karrie (Douglas, keyboards/vocals) myself and Kevin (Ledlow, drums,) were working on songs, but when Joel (Harrower, guitar/vocals) joined that’s when we really made a push for it and started playing as many shows as possible.”

After releasing a few self-made demos and getting some play on CBC Radio 3, as well as playing some prominent festivals in the city such as NXNE (North by Northeast) and CMW (Canadian Music Week), they fine-tuned their sound.

That brings us to their debut release, HIGHS EP that was released in July of 2013. These simple five tracks have garnered so much attention and play, that Haynes is pretty much in shock.

“We’ve been really lucky in the way of opportunities and the way that people have noticed us as a band. Not saying we’re anything  special, but many bands work for years to get where we are now.”

The EP opens up with one of their catchiest tracks, called “Summer Dress,” and that’s not just a clever name. From the opening guitar lick, you can envision yourself in some sort of tropical paradise, and then enters Haynes’ lucid imagery filled lyrics, about just what the title suggests. It’s also Haynes’ favourite tune on the album.

“When I’m writing, I don’t really have a process. This song came to me while I was driving, so I recorded the melody into my phone while driving, which is very irresponsible [laughs.] When I got back to the band and we played it live, they did a really good job of capturing what I had in mind.”

Haynes elaborated in saying that now the band is writing more collectively, helping the band to have more diversity and flow, but he holds this track dear to him as his own, brought to life by the band.

“Summer Dress just energizes you and inspires you to really get into what you’re doing.”

The nice thing when listening to HIGHS, is trying to find a comparison of their musical styling. I can’t think of a single band to say HIGHS sound like, but rather they employ elements from so many amazing alt-rock bands, from the Strokes’ style of guitar and composition to Foster the People type lyrical pitch.

The next tune on the album “Nomads” takes on another vibe of relaxation of mental clarity. Reflecting on journeys past, it speaks of adventures and wisdom gained along the way. This song is nice because the vocals of Karrie Douglas are introduced, and her falsettos along with Haynes’ make for powerfully positive progressions.

The entire album was inspired by a trip and time spent in Tanzania, which brought light and insight into many aspects of life that Doug and Karrie couldn’t help but write about.

“When you travel, you distance yourself from your comfort zones in many ways, and in doing so you distance yourself from relationships at home, whether it’s with people, yourself or your surroundings and put yourself in a different place.

I was in Tanzania for a while, and that really did it for me. It put me in a different place in every sense of the words, completely changed my personal surroundings. That experience makes you critically analyze everything when you come back.”

The next three tunes “Harvest,” “Fleshy Bones,” and “Cannibal Coast” all keep the chill grooves, upbeat guitars and vocals up. The entire EP plays out more like one long awesome progressive song rather than five individual tracks. You listen to the entire album not even noticing the songs change, which is amazing.

HIGHS are playing a show on April 1 at the Horseshoe Tavern, which is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by going to check out this rad foursome. You’ll inevitably leave with a smile on your face and a tune stuck in your head.

Story by Devin Size

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