HIGHS, made up of Doug Haynes, Karrie Douglas, Joel Harrower and Paul Vroom, is an alternative pop band out of Toronto. Their music is phenomenally catchy and their new album, Dazzle Camouflage, shows this perfectly.
The album is a move away from their signature tropical pop sound into something a little heavier and moodier. But - it's still incredibly fun. The album was released in Canada last April, and Europe in November.
We catch up with HIGHS about their favourite songs on the album, road-trip essentials, the funniest thing that's happened on tour, how to get the elusive "broken cookie" and much more! Read on.
Geyser: What was the process like creating Dazzle Camouflage? Do you write the lyrics together? Who tends to start a song idea?
Doug: Dazzle Camouflage was our first time working with a producer. It was a combination of exciting, intimidating, exhausting, and rewarding. We ended up recording the album almost entirely live off the floor. The songs you hear on the album are all being played by the band live, cohesively, as though we were playing a show. There were very few over dubs. That aspect was really intimidating. We wanted to capture the energy and honesty of our live show on the album. This whole process definitely made us a better band. Much more in tune with what each member of the band is playing. We would spend 10 hour, 12 hour days playing a song over and over again until we got a take that was as close to perfect, with elements that made it ‘real’, as we could get. It inevitably made our live show much stronger. We all left the studio much better musicians.
The lyrics are generally written individually. We’ll talk through them as a band and discuss song meanings but for the most part, the lyrics are written by one person. Increasingly we will record our band practices and certain jams will lead to song ideas but for now, the songs are predominantly written in their early stages by me (Doug).
G: Do you have a favourite song on the album?
D: Gold Teeth. It could be attributed to the fact that we have a lot of fun playing Gold Teeth live. Or maybe because it didn’t exist going into the studio and then written in one day on one of the final days of recording. It feels like it encapsulates the vibe of the record, the vibe of the studio, and the headspace we were in while recording.
G: You've travelled across Canada four times this year (!!)- What are some tour hacks you’ve learned from those experiences that you can share with other bands?
D: This is our fourth time across Canada since February. A lot of time spent in the van. Sometimes if you go to a Subway and you ask if they have any broken cookies they’ll give them to you for free. You really have to butter them up first - maybe talk about the local news or maybe ‘the weather we’ve been having’. You could even go as far to buy a hat or t-shirt from the local sports team and talk about how the season has been going. These are all things that will help get you that free broken cookie.
G: On that note, what’s the funniest thing that has happened on tour?
D: One hard night, in Edmonton, we were supposed to stay with a dear dear friend of the band’s - I won’t say his name. He lives in a nice condo building. Anyways, where was I… ahh yes - Smitty’s house. Well let’s just say Smitty was letting loose after a long week’s work and got himself kicked out of the show. Upon arrival at his place to sleep that night, our ring of the door bell returned no answer. Nor did the persistent ring of the cell phone. Finally, at long last, we managed to get a hold of a friend of his who unfortunately couldn’t figure out how to get out of the apartment. He did eventually buzz us in, at which point we couldn’t use the elevator so we opted to use the stairs. Reaching the top of the staircase we found that both doors had locked in front and behind us. We were locked in a stairwell at 4 am. A stairwell which the property manager keeps a piping 400 degrees celsius. Long story short, we finally made it in and got a hearty 2 hour sleep. And this is the saddest story we could think of.
G: What are some snacks you need while you’re on the road?
G: Who gets to choose the playlist?
D: The general rule is that whoever has the driving shift gets to pick the music. We rotate drivers so everyone has a chance. What’s great about living in this modern day is that if you don’t like the music you can always listen on your own personal music device - often referred to as an iPhone or discman (ideally with anti-shock). Everyone is happy!
G: Ha! So have any of you visited Europe before? And are there any places in particular you’re excited to visit?
D: Most of us in the band have been to Europe as individuals, but never as a band. We spent some time working on Dazzle Camouflage in the UK, but aside from that haven’t had the opportunity to tour Europe. Up until this December. I think we’re just really excited for the overall experience of touring somewhere other than Canada. We were recently talking about how amazing it is that the music we create has afforded us the opportunity to travel to places like Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, etc. We feel incredibly fortunate.
G: Where do you see HIGHS in a couple years? What’s the goal?
D: Ideally in a position where we feel like we are still growing as a band. Both from an artistic perspective as well as a business perspective. As much as we’d love to be playing big festivals and touring the world, I think what success means to us really comes down to continuing to create music that we are proud of and we feel has artistic integrity. Music that is able to connect with people. The other stuff - the festivals, the touring, the ‘charts’ - would be amazing and are definitely things we think about and strive for, but they’re not what drives the band.
G: Finally, who are a few Canadian bands you’d recommend readers check out.
D: Dizzy. They don’t have any music out yet, but they will soon. They’re releasing their debut on Royal Mountain records. They played with us in Oshawa and are a great! Nice people, nice music.
G: Fantastic. Thank you for chatting!