Getting high with High Highs
Tammy Potakh has a conversation with Jack Milas from New York-based Australians, High Highs, about their debut long-player:
High Highs new album Open Season transports me to a place faaar, far away from this world and is so much more magical in sound when compared to loud car horn beeps. I love listening to these guys when stuck in traffic; my steering wheel becomes a kick-ass silent bongo, I can’t stop swaying and smiling… oh and I don’t have a care in the world for the weird glares that I get from businessmen in the cars next to mine who are anxiously waiting for the lights to turn green.
With infectious chord progressions, heavenly vocals and hypnotic harmonies, their music makes me want to leap around in a sunflower field, barefoot and wearing a long flowy skirt but, considering I live in a city, mellowing out to their music in an air-conditioned car environment will have to do for now. I was lucky enough to catch the boys perform live in Sydney and, alongside putting on a great gig, they were also incredibly humble, thanking the audience after every round of applause. I blame them for releasing my true inner hippy and I thank them for their beautiful music.
Are you excited about finally being able to really get your music out there and share it with the world?
Definitely. It’s been a long time coming for us. I mean, some of the songs are old, some new but it’s taken a while for the project to align properly and now it feels like it’s the right time for it to come out. It’s a weird feeling and I’m still getting used to it, so it feels really good.
What made you relocate from Sydney to Brooklyn?
I moved over there a while ago and it was totally independent of the band. Oli and I had been making music for a few months before I moved over in Sydney and then we found ourselves both living over there a year after I moved, that’s when we decided to keep this going. We felt very blessed to be living in NY where a lot of the bands that we liked were from and we knew it was an important place for music and now it’s gotten to a point where our band is our main focus. We feel very lucky to be a functioning band in New York for sure, not many people get that opportunity.
How did you and Oli come up with the band name High Highs?
Actually my dad came up with it … he didn’t mean to. My dad loves music and we were listening to the radio about four years ago and there was a song called High Highs. At the time my dad was really into the song and I loved it as well, so he recommended it to me and Oli liked the name. It stuck immediately because it worked with the kind of music that we were making. It just fit naturally.
What kind of stuff inspires your songs? What do you base your songs on?
Inspiration is tough because I think it can come from anywhere. It’s about being a vessel for ideas. It’s rare that I have a specific experience and then go and write about it… it’s more that there are things in the back of my mind that I can’t make sense of and inspiration is more of a challenge for me. The main focus of making this record was to have minimal arrangements and not clutter it too much. The whole record is about taking a pure idea and then working together and presenting it in the purest way possible. Aside from that it’s a very honest record, I don’t think I really thought about that before the songs were written, it’s just the way they came out. It is a pretty raw album in that sense.
I have to ask you about my favourite song… what’s Open Season about?
I’d hate to ruin what song might mean to you or your friends. I was addressing myself when I was writing it and I don’t want to dissect it too much. It was definitely a real breath of fresh air compared to a lot of the other stuff I was writing at the time. I mean it’s called Open Season because it’s a very honest song but it’s also open in the sense that it feels like a free feeling – coming out the other side of an experience of being bogged down. That’s what it meant to me, hopefully it can take on a different meaning for anybody else. I certainly didn’t write the song with an undertone or a narrative hidden in there – it’s just a feeling.
You have a really impressive falsetto. How did you discover it? Do you do any nifty vocal warm-ups before live gigs?
Falsetto started for me because it was the only way I could write and hear melodies when they were higher. That’s changing a bit now but I write in falsetto a lot – so that’s why I sing in falsetto and that’s how I discovered it. Warm-up wise, I do a lot that don’t sound very pretty [laughs]. It’s all very boring but there’s a lot of blowing through a straw so that helps you control your breathing but my falsetto definitely needs a bit of a wake-up before I can walk on stage.
If you had to describe your sound in three words – what would they be?
I’m gonna steal Oli’s quote with this because I can’t think of anything creative! He said to me that the record sounded like “sun-kissed sadness.”