Canada’s The High Dials has taken its love for 60s psychedelia and power pop and created a sound that, while similar to many of its influences, still possesses both an energy and modern feel that makes it unique. The band released Anthems For Doomed Youth–an excellent listen–in 2010 and heads to Austin this month for another showcase at SXSW.
I recently asked vocalist/guitarist Trevor Anderson some questions about South By Southwest, its latest album, and the band’s influences.
Houston Calling: You guys have played with some legendary bands over the past few years. What’s been your favorite experience as a musician so far?
Trevor Anderson: Touring the UK with the The Brian Jonestown Massacre stands out. And the last time we went to SXSW we opened for Echo & The Bunnymen, that was also a highlight. It might sound corny, but the truth is that every show has the potential to be a peak experience. The best gigs aren’t necessarily the ones you would expect. That’s the magic thing with live music. You can transform a pretty humdrum Tuesday night in a crappy club into something transcendent. At least, that’s the carrot on the stick that leads us to drive ridiculous distances and sleep on strange floors.
HC: What’s your favorite part of touring?
TA: Definitely not the sleep deprivation or road diet. For me, the most important thing is the feeling of freedom. It may be an illusion, but outside responsibilities just drop away. There’s just the road and the next destination. From the moment I had my first taste of it I was hooked. Musicians have always been wanderers, haven’t they? Roving, rambling, never knowing what they will find in the next town. And the laughter. We laugh a lot on tour.
HC: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s SXSW?
TA: Truthfully, probably the margaritas. I also really dig those old twisted trees full of chirping birds on their way to/from Mexico. That always grabs my attention. It’s also great to see old friends. There are always lots of bands we know and/or admire passing through, so many sets to catch in a day. SXSW is definitely a happy but draining experience. As the annual get-together for the indie rock world it’s kind of like an epic five-day office Christmas party. The closest thing our world has to an office party anyway.
HC: Anthems For Doomed Youth was released late last year. Are you pleased with the response the album has received so far?
TA: Yes and no, I guess. I’m proud that KEXP and CBC have been trumpeting the record. But I’m never really pleased with press reviews, good or bad. Even after all these years making music I am still surprised by the way things get misrepresented or oversimplified, that knee-jerk reductionism. But then I’m surely not the only musician to feel this way. It just goes with the territory–you have to play the game to be heard. Hopefully people are still able to listen to music unfiltered and have a personal experience with it without thinking about what the music is supposed to be and what they are supposed to think about it. Again, that’s one of the best things about live music. It’s just you and the audience with no middleman making commentary.
HC: What’s your most memorable SXSW experience?
TA: We played a party in a Mexican restaurant. It was outside on the patio underneath a tree that must have been 600 years old. Just ancient. It was difficult because the sound was bad, but it was so informal, kind of like a house party. The crowd was about a foot away. SXSW never feels completely under control. It’s gotten so big, there’s a kind of unhinged wildness to it. I like the unpredictability of the parties most.
HC: Are there any bands/musicians you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?
TA: Actually, I haven’t checked out the line-up yet. I’m looking forward to seeing some of our dearest faraway friends.
HC: Where do you draw the inspiration for your music?
TA: I guess the big ones are time passing, romance, and other kinds of love. And wandering, both literally and figuratively. There’s a basic yearning in everybody that gets expressed in different ways depending on the person. With me it’s songs. I have needed to write songs from a very young age.
Watch The High Dials recording:
HC: Similarly, what do you consider to be your primary musical influences?
TA: When I was 15 I discovered the Cure and the Kinks very close together. They both had a kind of bittersweetness that I hadn’t heard before and made a deep impression on my teenage mind. Obviously there were many more before and after, but last night I was remembering that winter at 15 years old in particular and I think those two bands really shaped my sensibilities, or I should say reflected them back at me.
HC: If you could play music with any musician, living or dead, who would that be and why?
TA: I’m not really much of a jamming guy, not a good enough musician. Plenty of people I’d like to have over for dinner and beers though. Too many to list.
HC: Are there any bands you’re listening to these days that you’d recommend?
TA: Everyone in the band is really into the newest Deerhunter record. Tame Impala, Budos Band, Tir Na Nog from the 70s. Badly Drawn Boy has a cool new record. I just discovered things I like in Led Zeppelin. That is an absurd thing to say, but it’s true! I grew up biased against them, but something just clicked recently. Hopefully this discovery won’t destroy us like it did the Stone Roses.
The High Dials play an official SXSW showcase in Austin at Easy Tiger Patio (709 E. 6th St.) on Friday, 3.18.11, at 10pm. Visit the band online at www.thehighdials.net.