Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Interview: Highspire

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Here's my recent interview with Alex and EJ from shoegaze/dreampop band, Highspire who are also in the Melbourne-formed, but currently New York-based psychedelic pop band, The Morning After Girls.

Where did you get the name Highspire?

Alex: I had a crush on this girl and went to pick her up for a date at this place called Highspire Road. The date was a bust, but the name stuck in my head as having some meaning and unique quality. There's also a town in central Pennsylvania called Highspire, but that's not the inspiration.

You formed in 1999 and stopped playing live in 2003. It says on your myspace not to ask, but...why did you stop playing live?

EJ: A combination of moving away from Philadelphia after being robbed of all my equipment and not being able to get the band to sound the way I envisioned live. Really just a combination of many small things that added up to one big headache.

Alex: On top of that we had problems with bandmates who really didn't understand our music or care enough. They were always trying to steer things away from our vision.

You guys are currently playing in The Morning After Girls and are also set to release new material with Highspire. Is it difficult to divide up your time between the two bands?

Alex: No. I'm usually too focused on The Morning After Girls to spend much time on anything else. Although there's always that rare moment during rehearsal when the others have left the room and E.J. will play the bassline to "Portsmouth" or "No Day Like Today" and I will have a sing through it.

We're tracking and mixing everything at my home studio so it's not too difficult now that I don't have a day job. I wake up at 8 or 9 a.m. every morning and work most of the day on music. So when I'm not on tour, away for practice or recording Morning After Girls demos, I'm working on Highspire or some other projects.

Your songs, particularly "Fade In A Day", "Until the Lights Go Down" and "Portsmouth" are quite ambient and have a retro-feel to them. I think your music is quite unique compared to most contemporary shoegaze/dreampop acts. Where do you get your influences from?

Alex: I'd say The Stone Roses first and foremost, followed by Verve, The Charlatans, Bowery Electric, Blur, and Radiohead. And I would also add Ride, The Doves, Catherine Wheel, Slowdive, The Gorillaz, The Dandy Warhols, and Portishead to that list. I don't think there's anything unusual about our influences, but it's our mixing of different elements that makes the songs eclectic.

EJ: All the same bands Alex mentioned and My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, early Boo Radleys, Adorable, Spacemen 3. I have a ridiculous late 80s, early 90s vinyl collection of British music. I'm a big supporter of the more underground shoegaze bands of the past 20 years. I've been the webguy for Clairecords for five years. So I've kept pretty current with the scene via tonevendor. I've been a supporter and friend of Malory, Airiel, Ulrich, Air Formation, Oliver Ackermann's bands, Resplandor for years. Martin and Sacha of The Morning After Girls have a different approach than I'm used to, as I'm more a music first guy and they're much more vocal first so they've been an influence lately. Though ultimately I think I'm more influenced these days with messing about in my studio as I don't really listen to anything too much so not to be too influenced.

Who were the coolest bands to play with back when you were touring?

Alex: The Warlocks, Aesobi Seksu, Dirty on Purpose. Although we were probably the most fun to play with out of anyone because something strange would always happen at our gigs. Club owners seemed to like to blame us if some underage kid was in the show or if someone vandalized the toilet. One time we were ejected from Canada as a band because of suspicion of illegal substances, but I stress that was untrue.

EJ: Malory live are usually just straight up amazing. Like make you want to quit playing music amazing. Skywave was always fun. Loudest band outside of My Bloody Valentine and possibly Dinosaur Jr. I've ever seen. Except Skywave would just rock like one halfstack each for guitar and bass. Modified to be crazy loud of course. Emerald Down was a great, underrated shoegaze band as well.

What are your current favourite albums?

EJ: I listen to the same stuff I was listening to 10 to 15 years ago mostly. Or stuff I'm doing. Some newer bands that I've liked what I've heard are 93 Million Miles from the Sun, Ringo Deathstarr, Fleeting Joys, LSD and the Search for God. I listen to a lot of obscure 60s and 70s psych bands. According to my iTunes the last five artists I listened to are Sweet Jesus, The Dylans, The High, Suncharms, and Pale Saints.

Alex: I don't listen to a lot of new music. So my current albums in rotation are classics like Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, and Let it Bleed from the Stones, Electric Warrior by T-Rex, and newer classics like People Move On by Bernard Butler and Lost Souls by The Doves. That said, I like 2 by Darker My Love and the new Doves record.

I read that Highspire has gone through 15 band members. Is that true? Is anyone joining you two on the upcoming EP release, or are you making it all your own?

Alex: No. Pure hyperbole. Perhaps including studio musicians it could be true. But I can only count 10 actual members of the band including me and E.J. We have a drummer participating in the new Highspire material. But that's it so far.

I sort of consider our first band together, which was called Intro to India, as early Highspire. We didn't really know exactly what we were doing, but we were part of the "Psychedelphia" scene of the late 90's. But towards the end, the music was essentially the blueprint of what Highspire would be. Actually, The Morning After Girls is technically the fifth band Alex and I have been in together. I can't get rid of the guy.

Do you think they'll be any Highspire gigs down the road?

EJ: No. Unless it's just for kicks, semi- acoustically. I'd love to as a full band as I think I can now make it sonically possible with the right people the way I'd want it to be. But logistically it'd be tough to practice a band up and travel to do anything at this point.

Alex: We talk about doing a Highspire tour, and I for one would be very keen to do it, but we would want it to be well thought out and executed with the right people backing us on stage and money and time probably will not allow that.

What's been the most exciting moment in the band's now 10 year history?

Alex: The moment I realised that all the shit things that happened to us in 2002 made us stronger musically and spiritually. Among other things, our whole band quit on us, then E.J. lost his prized Rickenbacker in the burglary he mentioned earlier. It would've been easy to pack it in and just say it was far too much trouble to continue, but we didn't. We made an album about it instead.

EJ: It makes me feel good whenever someone comes up or writes that they appreciate what we do. Since we've never gone out of our way to do anything but make music we want to hear, it's exciting when others also enjoy what we've done. It's almost a form of communication, a secret handshake if you will.

Is there anything (previously unknown) about your band that you'd like to share with the world?

Alex: We are truly humbled and appreciative when someone likes what we do.

Where can people buy Highsphire's previous albums as well as the new EP and upcoming re-released EP?

EJ: The EP's will be released on our own label on iTunes or via download through myspace/website. I'd like to make a fairly limited amount of CDs and eventually a vinyl release. Let's face it, most people are gonna download it free off internet blog sites. Unfortunately money ends up mattering for small bands to keep going and recording, at least recouping. Which is part of the reason why we haven't released anything in a while. That's why I'd like a vinyl release at some point. If a majority of people are like me and they like what they downloaded and it comes out on vinyl, they'll get the vinyl. I'm seeing the future of music formats as digital and vinyl at this point. At any rate, we don't do this for profit or anything other than it's just what we do. If other people enjoy it, that's icing. That's a brilliant feeling.

Alex: Also you can get the physical CD of "Your Everything" at Tonevendor.com or iTunes. There's also a cover of "Dagger" by Slowdive on iTunes and ClubAC30.com that we're rather proud of.

Thanks, guys! x

Highspire's myspace
The Morning After Girls' myspace

Watch Highspire's "Believe" live


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