BBG Presents: High Hazels

1 September 2014

In a world where the rhythm of popular culture is ever changing, we feel it’s high time you heard something new. It’s high time you heard High Hazels. Born and brewed in Sheffield, this British band of four, James, Scott, Paul and Anthony found common ground in their love of music from an early age. Recording their first songs in Autumn 2012, the band have quickly caught on, with the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Radio 6’s Steve Lamacq pitching their appreciation for their distinct donation to modern music.

But for High Hazels there’s little more to their melody than most, with their roots grounded to their Northern core, and their loyalty to the virtues of vintage instruments, mutual modesty seeps from the artists and into the artwork. This week, treating Portabello Road to some ‘dead’ heartening Sheffield slang, photographer Paola Vivas and writer Fenn O'Meally caught up with the four talents, teasing out a little more info from these modest melodists’.

How would you describe your music?
It’s a good question, you can’t really describe it that much, it’s quite fresh, it’s quite shimmery and very melodic. We focus on melodies, we tend to use vintage instruments, they’re a big part of it. Trying to capture that classic sound of the 60s guitar, can make it quite psychedelic. The thing is we definitely make a conscious decision to make varied songs; we don’t want to be a one trick pony.

Listening to your music, there seems to be strong 80s vibes throughout, reminding me a little of the Smiths, where do a lot of your influences come from?
I think we remind a lot of people of the Smiths through Scott’s use of guitar, that sort of dreamy sound, but that Smiths reference is often to do with some of our earlier stuff rather than some of the newer 50s 60s stuff we haven’t released yet. In terms of main influence though, there’s not one particular era, its always different, it could be something from the 50s or it could be something from yesterday, we all like similar music so it’s usually a collaboration of ideas which we pass around to one another. We don’t want our music to sound throwback though, we always want it to sound fresh and brand new. The way we write and play is about focusing on two guitars, drums and one vocal, similar to those in the 50s and 60s so it’s always going to sound similar to music in that era.

You all grew up together in Sheffield. Do you have any interesting stories of the bands journey?
They’ll be loads. At our first ever gig James thought it would be cool to have his top off and wear a flat cap, looking back it was hilarious, we were terrible. But then there was also the time at our first proper decent gig in Sheffield. We finally got to play on a bigger stage, in this fairly big venue called the Leadmill, James got carried away and put his foot on the stage monitor and went flying off stage. It wasn’t even a good move!

What’s behind the name of the band?
It’s the name of a park near where we grew up. We wanted a reference to Sheffield, but not an obvious one, and High Hazels Park isn’t really that well known. The hardest thing in the world to do is to think of a band name, but with we think it kind of suits us, suits our sound.

What music did you grow up listening to?
Well growing up in the mid 90s, there were a lot of Pulp and Brit Pop, so when we started playing, that’s when we really started to listen to music and started getting into bands like The Smiths. There was a lot of 80s stuff from our parents too, like the Beatles and New Order.

Can you tell us a little about your rehearsal regime and what goes into perfecting your work?
A hell of a lot of rehearsing and practising, it’s all about just being on your instruments as much as you can. We’re still learning our craft so we have to spend a lot of time on it to even have a chance. There’s very few nights where we are not together, working on guitar lines, baselines or melodies and then when gigs are coming up, we are always in the practise room. It’s always that combination of working and earning in the day and then practising in the night. When you’ve got a job it makes you enjoy your craft more, and we’ve always said as long as we’re enjoying it and we’re all best mates, it’s all worth it.

It must have been rewarding to have ‘French Rue’ featured on radio 6, how did you guys feel?
That was the first kind of thing that got the ball rolling, our first break through. We’d been in the practising room the year before, so when ‘French Rue’ was featured it kind of told us we were on the right lines, it was like an immediate pat on the back. It was brilliant to have that sort of support from people who know what they’re talking about.

There’s four of you, who wears the trousers?
We’re all pretty equal, it has to be. In terms of what we do, we do what ever is required. Decision wise, we all chip in. We’re all on the same wavelength really and we said from day one we have to be dead honest with eachother.

What’s the best advice the four of you have been given?
Just to keep writing. James Skelly from the band, The Coral, also said that ‘the best thing to do is to just stick to your tunes’ which was pretty inspiring.

Do you have a favourite song?
Not really, we have favourites that come and go. The favourite one is often the last one you wrote. You get really excited like a child with a new toy. You move on constantly.

If you could collaborate with any other artist who would you choose?
Anthony - I know who I would, I’d probably go for Hamilton Leithauser, lead singer of The Walkmen.
James - I’d like to work with Guy Garvey.
Scott - Johnny Marr he’d be a good one.

How high is the high Hazel dream, and where do you see yourselves in three years time?
It’s always a hard one, you don’t want to overshoot it, but if we can keep making albums where we’re constantly are improving that’s the real goal and that’s all that’s in our hand really.

The boys' new single, Misbehave is out now, listen here. But be warned you may go Hazel nuts!

High Hazels' album will be released on 27th October 2014 on Heist or Hit Records.

Interview by Fenn O'Meally.

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