Updated: May 5
We’re all chasing our own little slice of heaven but Sydney 4-piece Highline has the whole cake. Recently announcing their second EP Off Track to be released on the 13th May, recorded at the acclaimed Grove Studios, things are looking pretty optimistic for the Crew.
It's raining outside, the last cup of instant coffee, and poorly-rolled cigarette help, but don't quite ease a recent heartbreak. This is the feeling of the band's new single, 'Chasing Heaven' - reflective, sombre yet hopeful... It an enthralling listen all over. Quite the tasteful blend of painful anguish over howled vocals.
We were lucky enough to sit down with singer Sam Rigney and drummer Jim Osborne for a chat.
What have you guys been up to?
SAM: "We’re all at uni, Jim and Rhys are quite smart so there on scholarships for their things"
Nice. Guess it must be a challenge to balance that with music.
SAM: "For sure, though we don’t have a problem because it’s a lot more fun than Uni."
JIM: "The goals to drop out of Uni."
Never know you could get some success, I was listening to your new single Chasing Heaven, and you boys have a good tune there.
SAM: "Thanks, man, yeah, we’re real happy with the new single and ep that’s coming out next month"
I think the EP's really good, there’s such a variety of moods.
JIM: "Yeah, definitely has its ups and downs."
The last EP had those sad songs but overall, it was more upbeat.
SAM: "Yeah, the difference was this was the first time we were writing together. However, the words were predominately still by me. That old ep were songs we were still writing in high school. This EP we were together a lot in Covid. Went on a long trip. Everyone came together and everyone’s influences can be heard on this record. So much better in the writing side of things. Was definitely a group effort. Definitely a lot more mature"
The lyrics come across as extremely personal, I almost saw it as a letter of someone from an old relationship.
SAM: "A lot of it was written last year. I pretty much took the reins with more of the lyric writing with the exception of 'Call Out.' But yeah, all those songs are centred around an old relationship and those experiences."
So, both you guys would see music as an emotional outlet.
SAM: "I think these songs mean a lot to everyone for different reasons, especially in the band. Everyone takes it on a bit differently. Whatever we intend for it to mean. It’s good."
That’s what’s great about all art is it’s subjective. You can have a variety of opinions on one song but that’s what makes it special.
SAM: "For sure, an example would be ‘Chasing Heaven,’ (guitarist,) Rhys sent the lyric referring to anything that feels good but at the same time is killing you. It could be a number of vices, an addiction or a relationship. It could be a scenario in a relationship or friendship that though they make you feel good, they’re not good for you. I think within the band that song means a little something different to each one of us. Which is really nice."
The song has a very catchy melody but those lines "Chasing heaven chasing you," a variety of people relate to. I saw you guys did a show this month, at Oxford Art Factory. I was interested because it was one of the first shows that people were allowed to stand up and dance. How was that compared to your previous shows with the Covid restrictions?
SAM: "It was so much better, during Covid we did three or four seated gigs. It was really funny because we would play our upbeat songs and you’d expect them to all be moshing, but everyone was just sitting down. We didn’t realise how much we missed it. During Covid, we played at the Landsdowne with 200 people at limited capacity. But the energy was twice as high this show because people were so excited to be standing and dancing. We were playing these new songs not even on this new EP, songs we had just written never played live before. They were carrying on like it was their favourite tune in the world. They were excited to dance, go on people’s shoulders. It was really nice to have some time off away from that sort of vibe. But it’s so good to be back and we were really happy."
Yeah, it would’ve really been hard to feed off the energy of the audience during those restrictions.
SAM: "Yeah, we relied a fair bit on doing acoustic versions of songs to get variance in the set. Which was great and everyone loved them, but it was just not the same. We just missed it a lot, though people had more of a chance to listen and comment on the lyrics. However, it’s much better to be standing up again."
Yeah, in Brissy we’re doing standing shows and it's awesome because everyone gets so much more into it.
JIM: "Yeah totally."
As I was listening to your EP I noticed there was a variety of influences. Do you like to categorise your music or are you open to experimenting with new sounds?
SAM: "Yeah, a bit of both. The four us are so different as people, and in turns of our musical influences. It’s really great because that’s what makes our sound unique. There’s Pink Floyd in the guitar lines, Zeppelin on the drums, we all love Oasis. We probably categorise ourselves as brit rock kinda stuff, but at its core, I reckon it's rock."
JIM: "Sams got poppier influences to the rest of us. Which makes sense because he sings. We play a brit-pop sound but like trying to see what can be done to push it. Not just stick to verse-chorus-verse"
SAM: "Our last song 'Busy' is one of our favourite songs to play. Very catchy chorus, very personal lyrics, then it goes into this 2-minute outro-breakdown guitar wash. That just builds and builds, by the end of it. He’s smackin drums as hard he can, and the guitar solos nuts. I think that this EP is giving more of an idea of where we are looking to go sonically. We try to stray away from the stock standard verse-chorus songs and push it a bit more to see what we can do. The other guys are really good at weeding it out and putting it back together."
I didn’t detect much of a brit-pop influence, I thought your vocals to be more alternative.
SAM: "By brit-pop I think Oasis or DMA’S. Anthem rock. Big strong lead vocals with a catchy chorus built around it. Our lyrics are thought about for a long time, so we are actually saying something."
Totally, if you stick to a genre you confine yourself and put up creative barriers. Being open to a variety of sounds you carve out your own niche
SAM: "Yeah, totally that’s what we’ve done, especially in our third project. We seem to keep coming up with songs that are ‘us."
JIM: "It's exciting we could go back to whatever, but we still do what sounds good."
Was this main approach to your new EP “Off Track” being a very fluid songwriting process?
"SAM: "A lot of the songs we had a year before from 2019, and those were songs where we were jamming together, then three of the songs 'Same Same,' 'Chasing Heaven' and 'Chiswick Park,' were all just written in the Covid lockdown period over a short time. We never sat down and said okay it's time to write an EP, We just had these songs that came together and complimented nicely. It was very fluid. And that time of writing was very relevant in my life. Together we got to go up to the Grove studios and record with Jack. I think 'Off-Track' came off on its own. "
Yeah, I tell the passion really comes through while listening.
SAM: "Yeah it was so much more enjoyable for everyone. We went away on a writing trip. So much more enjoyable than the writing of our debut EP. You can hear it when we play live. These new songs are so much more special to us. 14 hours days writing, and hanging out eating, drinking and partying with each other non-stop."
So you guys were living with each other for a week?
SAM: "Yeah for like half a week, we booked a farmhouse. We had rough ideas for songs but wanted to have it really pressed by the time we went down to the Grove to record. We picked apart every single guitar line, every drum hit and every single word. Made sure it was perfect. Got to sit around the fire and talk about what we can change. Would say “that’s cool” or “that’s lame” It was a really good environment, a really collaborative process."
Sounds like you guys are pretty honest with each other.
SAM: "Very honest. It comes down to that we are all together through this music. We all met through a jazz band in school. We weren't necessarily mates before that. But now our relationship is around this project and we don’t take anything too seriously."
JIM: "Yeah, it’s all for the right reasons."
Apart from the writing trips do you have a structured approach towards the band?
SAM: "Yeah, we call them 'whiteboard sessions,' where usually we end up pissed in my driveway. Other than that really structured leading up to gigs. Three rehearsals are week because we take a lot of pride in playing well. We also catch up a lot. I see Rhys quite a fair bit, catch up write and do admin.
Sounds pretty casual.
SAM: "Yeah, usually over a beer or two."
Beautiful. What’s your ideal environment to be in?
SAM: "Performing, though the recording was so much fun. Jack was such a dream to work with. To go up to that place with that producer was incredible. Performing live is good. But we haven’t had much of an opportunity due to last year. We want to come to Brisbane this year."
JIM: "Recording can be stressful because you want to get that perfect take. Performing is fun. Sometimes the best moment is just jamming in the garage."
If you take it too seriously what’s the point.
SAM: "We always find the time in rehearsal to have a few jams and muck around. Play some stupid stuff we hope no one ever hears."
You guys like playing covers at all? Some bands stray away from it.
SAM: "Yeah we play at least a cover a show. It's fun for us as well to see everyone's reaction. The first song we played together live is 'Too soon' by DMA'S Last show We’ve done Franz Ferndinand 'Take Me Out,’ that went really well."
JIM: "Everyone loves a good cover."
Yeah, you only have a finite amount of songs so it's good to have a couple in the backburner.
JIM: "Yeah, it's good fun."
It’s great you guys aren’t afraid to wear your influences on your sleeve.
SAM: "Yeah very much so doing it for ourselves."
There's controversy with bands playing covers but sounds like your guys are pretty authentic.
SAM: "We’re an up-and-coming band. We just want to put on an enjoyable show. A cover is a fun thing for everyone."
JIM: "Yeah make it a party!
That’s a good approach. What influences you guys and your new single outside of your musical influences.
SAM: "A lot of the words are written about this girl."
No name drops don’t worry.
SAM: "Yeah, we are just influenced by trying to grow up a bit as a band and find out who we are. We stray away from songs that are about love like 'Chasing Heaven' or 'Call Out.' Even the songs that are about love is more of a sophisticated take."
It sounds like your growing up as a band but taking inspiration by just growing up as people. Going through those experiences all young people have to go through.
SAM: "Yeah totally, our music growing up with us."
And finally, when you guys coming to Brissy?
SAM: "July to August."
JIM: "Want to go Melbourne up to Sydney."
Sounds like a plan, I’ll keep my eyes peeled on the socials. Definitely love to suss a show sometime.
SAM: "Cheers, be great to see you there."