LOUDER FEATURES: Mixtape Medley with High Visions
Welcome back to Mixtape Medley, where we take you inside the playlists and record collections of your favourite up-and-coming bands!
The UK's pop punk scene has inarguably exploded over recent years, and as a result, ingenuity in the genre is thin on the ground. However, one band who are pushing the boundaries of the genre with a skate-punk soul, catchy riffs, and insatiable hooks are High Visions. Despite being physically spread across the country, their sound on their new EP 'A First Date With Imposter Syndrome' is an inclusive blend of elements of hardcore, punk, and emo - and their personal music tastes are even more eclectic! We chatted to them about the songs that soundtracked their childhood, through to the bands they would love to tour with today:
All the songs mentioned below have been compiled into this handy playlist - listen along here:
What are your earliest memories of music?
Zyggy: Probably listening to Classic FM with my family in the car. Both of my parents are massive fans of classical music, and my grandfather was a trained opera singer, so I grew up with that around the house a lot, which definitely influenced the career path I’m taking today. If I had to pick a specific memory, I’d say I remember being in my dad’s cellar and listening to the overture to ‘Tannhauser’ by Wagner (yes, I know…) and absolutely loving the gorgeous orchestration… even though I couldn’t really tell what exactly was going on, I think that’s what sparked my love for music. As well as playing in High Visions, I’m also studying to be a classical composer, so I guess that’s something?
Louis: I remember my mum introducing me to Guns and Roses, and me instantly loving the album artwork. From then on their music became a massive inspiration to me, especially as a guitar player.
Alex: I remember watching a lot of live music as a kid due to both my parents being musicians, and I remember always being the most interested in what the drummer was doing. I particularly remember being sat at home watching footage of Rush play, and being by Neil Peart’s drumming, especially the way he wasn’t just the guy at the back keeping time, he was a driving creative force and huge part of why the band sounded the way it did, while still being musical and tasteful in the way he did that. I think a song like ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ is a perfect example of that, it wouldn’t work the same without the drum part (or any instrumental part) being exactly the way it is - it’s a meticulously crafted blend of technical musicianship and quality songwriting. I can say that I enjoyed the song just as much as a kid with no clue about anything to do with music as I do today when I stand a chance of understanding it all, and that’s stuck with me as an extremely important sensibility to have when writing music – to strike the balance between playing boring parts (songs) that a million other people could write and play, and completely ridiculously technical parts that are hard to play but no one who’s not a musician would enjoy. I try and apply that idea to what we do with our music, though in a punk setting, so it won’t sound anything a like, but I consciously approach it with that idea in mind.
Which band ignited your love of music as a teenager, and do you still listen to them today?
Zyggy: I’d have to say — though this is more around my pre-teens — it’d have to be Linkin Park. I remember being shown ‘In The End’ by a childhood friend when I was around 9 or 10, and I haven’t really looked back since. My first CD was ‘Minutes to Midnight’ — which was gifted to me by an uncle from the States — and that further cemented my love for them. There was something about the combination of genres that created their brand of nu-metal paired with the ultra teenage angst-y lyrics that just hooked me from the moment I heard them. I was also hugely into Green Day during that time as well (around the height of their American Idiot era), but their music hasn’t aged nearly as well for me as Linkin Park has. Even now, I’ll still jam most of Linkin Park’s records (even the final one!) — and I still remember what I was doing when I heard about Chester’s passing.
Louis: Green Day was the biggest one for me, 'American Idiot' specifically was the first album where I remember listening to every single track and loving them all. I still listen to them today, and it’s been great to go back and experience their older work too.
Alex: Technically this would be pre teen, but I think the band that really set me off on this path would be blink-182. They weren’t my first favourite band, but I think they’re the first one where an entire catalogue just clicked with me. To this day I think the songwriting and hooks were stronger than all the other similar pop punk bands, and in that style that’s incredibly important. On top of this, I’d started playing drums by this point, and the way Travis Barker played, always really creatively, driving the songs, and never choosing the lazy option, really appealed to me, and set the band a league above the rest when they all leaned into the way he played and complimented it. In particular the way a song like ‘Anthem’ would go between so many different parts and feels really appealed to me, and I’d spend hours just copying and playing along with their albums, and it played a huge part in the way I learnt to play drums and developed as a musician in those early years. I still enjoy listening to blink (particular the albums from their original run as a band, pre- hiatus), though I must say I don’t necessarily relate in the same way I used to, due to where I am in my life now and the fact that I’ve found bands who seem to hit a lot harder emotionally, particularly in the lyrics, which kind of took precedence for me and what I listen to now. And I guess when I think about it, there are a million bands taking influence from blink (and similar bands) these days, and not necessarily doing anything that interests me with that, so I’ve gravitated towards what will inspire me to do something different and take more risks musically. But they’ll always be an important band in my development for sure.
Are there any songs that you love the lyrics of, but dislike musically?
Zyggy: This is a really hard question, as for me the lyrics and music kind of go hand-in-hand when it comes to my enjoyment of a song. Even with most of the pop punk I used to listen to, the lyrics are what spoke to me more than the instrumentation. I guess I could answer it from the perspective of liking the lyrical and musical elements in theory, but not in practice — in which case I would say ‘Quetzalcoatl’ by Liturgy, or anything off the ‘Ark Work’ album. I fucking love the way Liturgy aren’t afraid to compromise or anything when it comes to their musical output; it’s what really makes them stand out in black metal, which is a genre I’ve found it difficult to get into outside of a few select artists. I really appreciate the individual elements of ‘Quetzalcoatl’, but personally I just think it falls flat as a cohesive track, as the production and monotone vocals just don’t do it for me. But that’s what I love about experimental music; sometimes the experiments fail, and that’s okay.
Louis: I’m not really a lyrics person, so I can’t think of any songs I dislike musically that I would listen to. There are definitely some the other way round where the music is great but lyrics are a bit off. Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Don Broco I think can be guilty of it for sure
Alex: This is a really hard question, as bad lyrics for me ruin lots of songs I’d otherwise like; I don’t see it happening the other way round anyway near as much. The closest thing to me is probably the more recent Eminem stuff. And I think there are definitely some bad lyrics in those songs too, for the record. But even his bad lyrics, the way he delivers them and the thought that’s gone into constructing those verses, I really admire. A song like ‘The Ringer’, I think that’s a great example of this. I find it really interesting from a technical standpoint and the way everything flows and the lyrics are put together. But if I’m looking at them as songs, I don’t know if they’re really that great. There’s nothing musical that stands out to me compared to a lot of other hip hop, or even his own earlier stuff, and they just don’t stick with me the same. But I love the attitude and how it works technically, but for a guy that fucking good at what he does, everything going on in the track falls a bit flat for me.
You have to share a cramped van with one band (of any size or genre) on a month-long European tour- who would you be the most able to put up with for that long?
Zyggy: Ooh, that’s a tough one — I can’t even stand a week on tour with Louis and Alex, let alone thinking about another band! For me, it would be either A Night in November or Lyon Estates. Both of them are bands from our local pop punk scene in West Yorkshire, both played a few shows on our first tour back in summer 2018, and both are absolute sweethearts. I feel like A Night in November would bring so much tour banter and alleviate any tension between us on long van journeys between shows, and Lyon Estates pretty much ended up being our tour dads when we were starting out; they’re the loveliest guys and the people we’ve turned to for advice a lot of times before. I think with those guys backing us up, we’d be able to survive a month in Europe.
Louis: I’m just gonna say Eskimo Callboy just because they’re German and look like they don’t take life too seriously, and their new songs are unashamedly great!
Alex: I’m gonna choose a band called Asbestos who come from Cambridge, who we toured with around summer 2019. They play stuff that gives me a big early Green Day vibe (which I love, I can’t get enough of that stuff) and they’re so good at it (and I mean, no disrespect to anyone else, but we’ve played with a lot of bands who do a very specific type of pop punk, it’s really cool to see a band doing something different with it!). And basically we had the best time watching them play and drinking and chatting shit with them every night. So I think they’d keep us all positive and stop us killing each other if we had to live in a van for a month. If I can just choose one song to check out, then ‘Futue te Ipsum’ off of their EP ‘Monochrome’. It’s only like 1 and a half minutes long, and opens the EP up with such a bang (and I believe their set when we were on tour), and it’s just such a good opener. It does everything it needs to so concisely and it hooked me straight away on my first listen. And it’ll get you the same way too.
What’s the best song to listen to on a warm, lazy day on the beach?
Zyggy: Deafheaven’s ‘Sunbather’. The whole album. Hands down.
Louis: Anything by The Story So Far, especially on the most recent album. Their style of pop punk always reminds me of summer.
Alex: I’m a big fan of that kind of surf-y, garage-y punk stuff, and I’ve been getting back into Wavves recently, listening to stuff like ‘My Head Hurts’ a lot right now. It’s not really lazy music, but I love these kinds of bands (stuff like Fidlar or Dune Rats does a similar thing for me too) where it takes the energy and attitude of punk, mixes it with incredibly catchy hooks and some pretty downbeat lyrics, but then uses a lot of different sounds to create a vibe sonically that is pretty far from other stuff I listen to, and creates that beach image perfectly for me through the music.
You get to play one of your songs in a showcase for a major label- which song would you choose and why?
Zyggy: Once again, another hard one. It’s definitely a contest between ‘When I’m Dead, Just Throw Me In the Trash’ or ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, as both show off our best qualities as a band and succintly sum up what we’re about, how we combine all our different influences and what we want to achieve as a band. I guess it would depend on what kind of label we’re pitching for; but my personal preference would be ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. Even two years after first penning the original idea for the song, it’s so hard-hitting and I still find myself singing along to Louis’s parts (sometimes instead of my own!) when I’m listening to it. I think ‘Checkpoint’ works almost as a mission statement of ours: “Hey, we’re High Visions, and you’re here with us now.”
Louis: I would say 'Checkpoint Charlie' because it’s technical, heavy, but has in my opinion the best chorus and songwriting we’ve done.
Alex: I’m gonna go with ‘When I’m Dead, Just Throw Me In The Trash’ off our new EP ‘A First Date With Imposter Syndrome’ as it seems to be the song that grabs people’s attention the quickest. I think it’s just a perfect introduction to the band, it hits you hard from the start with the intro drum fill and the riff in the double time section, and is full of catchy chantable lyrics in the verse and chorus. I love the vocal interplay between Louis and Zyggy in this one, it really showcases the strengths of our dual vocal approach, and I think it gets the balance between fast Skate Punk, catchy Pop Punk, and some heavier, more technical hardcore/metal influenced moments right and shows off all the strengths of our band in one package. It came together really quickly, and I feel it’s a really concise song, where we get in and out, do everything we need to, in 2 and a half minutes, and still fit so much musically (for a band like us) into that run time. Something clicked for us with this song in my opinion, where we realised we didn’t need 4 minutes to say what we wanted, and these kind of driving but densely packed songs were where our strengths lie. It was a real game changer for me.
You get to bring one musician on board as a songwriter for your new EP – who would you want to work alongside?
Zyggy: This is a hard one for me to answer, as I’m usually very picky with having anyone who’s not one of the core guys — or our producer, Dom Wright — having input on our sound. But if I was going to pick one person, I’d probably bring in Dan Campbell/Soupy from The Wonder Years; not because we have a similar style or anything (we don’t, aside from maybe our lyrical flows), but because every move and stylistic choice he seems to make both with TWY and Aaron West seems to be purposeful, there seems to be meaning in every part of the art he creates. I feel like working with Soupy would be less about the individual aesthetic elements, but more about the project as a whole, what it represents, what we want to convey with our work; probably less like a guest songwriter or producer and more as someone who can provide artistic guidance… kind of like a music composition tutor, now that I think about it. Then again, I’m basing this entirely off of Soupy’s artistic work, I have no idea how he is as a person — so I’m definitely projecting. Louis: I think Jordan Fish from BMTH would be a great shout. The guy is an incredible producer and musician, and I think has a real talent when it comes to songwriting.
Alex: There’s only one real answer for me, and that’d be Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms. Hands down my favourite band, and my favourite lyricist/songwriter. I’m a big fan of how he writes songs that can be gritty and aggressive yet incredibly memorable and catchy, without being scared of some weird, less conventional moments, full of lyrics that can be the most emotional, gut wrenchingly honest words I’ve ever heard, yet still humorous and kind of gross in places, and full of references to high and low brow culture. A song like ‘Pigeons And Spies’ off their new album does this so well for me, you’ve got lyrics about dinosaurs and alcoholism and sexuality and mental health and dysfunctional relationships all in a 2 minute song that’s also a sort of tribute to MCA from Beastie Boys. And that shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s my favourite song I’ve heard this year. And I’d love to work that into what we do.
You are given the money for a jukebox in an old rock pub full of seasoned rock veterans – would you play a classic rock anthem to impress them, or try something new and different and risk starting a brawl? (and which songs would you choose in either scenario?)
Zyggy: Honestly, an old rock pub full of old classic rock dudes is probably the last place I’d like to end up, especially if they’re not open to new things; but hey, you get those kinds of people in every kind of genre. I’d probably go all out and play something that’s completely left-field, and if people get angry that’s even better. I’m not sure what, though; part of me would want to put on something like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Converge and get people to mosh like crazy, part of me wants to put on some modern trap shit to set the boomers off, and part of me is here like “Has Gloria Coates’ ‘String Quartet No. 5: Through Time’ ever been played at a pub before?”
Louis: I would be terrible at impressing them with something old, probably something like 'Black Hole Sun', 'The Boys Are Back In Town', or even 'Helter Skelter'. I would absolute risk it and play something heavy like 'Forever' by Code Orange, or 'Holy Roller' by Spiritbox.
Alex: We actually have an old rock bar called The Yorkshireman near where I live in Sheffield, and it has the best jukebox I’ve ever found, you can find whatever you want on it. So to me this isn’t hypothetical at all! It really happens semi-regularly (or did before the whole pandemic thing). So me and my friend Harley like to go in regularly and the first song we play is always ‘The Boys Are Back’ by Dropkick Murphys, mainly cause there’s no better drinking song than that (or any Celtic Punk if we’re being real). Funnily enough, everyone else just leaves, so no brawls I guess.
Which song are you the proudest of writing?
Zyggy: I’d say the song I’m most proud of writing so far is ‘My True North’ — the final track off of our most recent EP. It’s the first time we properly played around with an atypical song structure; we wanted to write a slower song to contrast the crazy, high octane punk songs that the rest of the EP is full of, but I always find that a lot of bands’ “slow songs” end up being kind of slogs to listen to, or overstay their welcome, which influenced our decision to make it the shortest track on the EP. The idea came from a bass line that I improvised during a practice session, and the main facets of the song are that bass motif paired with a set of lyrics I wrote while on a plane ride back home from seeing my girlfriend in Germany. Overall, ‘My True North’ was us experimenting with something different, and I think it really paid off.
Louis: 'Checkpoint Charlie' for sure. It encapsulates everything about us as a band in just under 3 minutes. It’s what I would play for anyone who hasn’t heard us before.
Alex: I’m gonna go for ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ – also off our latest EP. Partly cause it was spawned off a drum idea I had (the intro and first verse), and it was the moment I feel I started getting more actively involved in the writing process, and opposed to putting drums on someone elses idea. And then Louis brought the chorus in and I was in love with the song. It ended up being gritty and heavy and technical while also having our best chorus, and (I’m repeating myself here) but it does it in under 3 minutes, and I honestly believe every single note in this song is perfectly placed, I wouldn’t change a thing (and I’m such a nitpicker and perfectionist with this stuff, it’s a big deal for me to still be happy with something half a year after its release). And I definitely feel we started seeing a much stronger response the moment we released this song, than everything we’d released before. It was an obvious single to us but it wasn’t an overly poppy, radio friendly pop punk that sounded like everything else like that. It nails the personality of our band and what makes us different, while also being a driving, hard hitting, anthemic punk song. To me that’s perfect, it’s the best representation of what we’d been trying to do with the band, and it was the first time other people really seemed to start seeing what we were doing through the same lens I did, and that felt pretty great.
High Visions' latest EP, 'A First Date With Imposter Syndrome', is out now via Is No I In Team Records- stream the EP here:
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'My True North', below: