by Irene Lo
Currently on tour, Toronto-based band HIGHS were in Victoria for Rifflandia Festival last week. It was hours before their set at The Sunset Room that we caught Doug Haynes (guitarist, songwriter) on the phone to talk about their debut record, Dazzle Camouflage, what it was like working with their first producer in the studio, and how they are always writing songs.
Irene Lo: Let’s start with touring. You were in Toronto the other day and now Victoria. How does it feel? Do you find you are surprised by the fans you encounter when you play?
Doug Haynes: I am surprised every single time. I’m always like, “there’s only going to be 10 people.” I’m not sure if that’s a good way of looking at it, but I guess it is. It’s a positive experience to see that support in person. The show has fans that come talk to you and that’s the best feeling.
IL: It’s interesting to see what pulls everyone into this project. What do you find most interesting about this community you are devoting your time to?
DH: My first band was a metal band. If you compare that to the music we do, it’s a bit different. We all have roots in various genres. But in terms of why [I was drawn to this project], it’s hard to describe, but there is energy that is a positivity. Everyone in this band is a huge music consumer. You’d think most musicians would love music, but you can get wrapped up in the motions. We love listening to new projects and pushing ourselves to develop our sound further. With alternative pop, you can do weird stuff. Pushing yourself to be weird is accepted.
IL: How did you come to pick these songs to be featured on Dazzle Camouflage?
DH: A lot of the songs were written over the past year and we went through them. Our goal was to have twenty songs written and then have a ten-song album.
IL: What did you do with the rest of the songs?
DH: We still have them. They weren’t quite there yet.
IL: You are releasing this off Indica Records. What drew you towards releasing your debut with them and what was the process?
DH: We talked to a few labels, but Indica seemed very passionate about the project. The people that work at Indica are great people. They care about music and fostering artists rather than paychecks. That drew us to them — they take chances on bands. Not that I know a lot about music business, but there is a tendency to wait for bands to develop before you sign them so you’re already making money off them. With Indica, they believe in helping artists develop, and that was huge to us.
IL: Your producer was Luke Smith. He’s helped you write a cohesive record. I’d like to learn more about what new things you learned, and how that reflects on Dazzle Camouflage.
DH: It was cool, our first time working with a producer. The EP we produced ourselves. With Dazzle Camouflage we wanted to work with a producer who would push us to do our best work. We love him because [of] the sound he is able to create — they’re not huge elements, but if you take them out, you notice. Luke said he didn’t like being called a producer. He’s an artist. He wants to help artists make good songs.
We had probably called 35 producers. It got to the point where it was stressing me out, because how [was] I going to know [which producer would be the best choice]? We [were] talking about an end product that [wasn’t] conceptualized yet. Luke was one of the last people we talked to, and the minute we talked to him, every person in the band was like, “yeah, this is the guy we want to work with.” It was that aha moment.
IL: And it worked out, as you are happy to release it to the public. You were creating songs as soon as you wrapped up this record.
DH: Yeah, I don’t think we ever stop making songs.