Vegas. Sometimes you take the house and other times, well, it takes you.
But every so often, you grow up there, learn to play an instrument, start a band, get signed, work with two of the hottest underground rock producers, record an album or two and tour all over the United States, all before reaching the age where you can actually enjoy perks of living in Sin City.
And, no, this is (for once) not where I start talking about how The Killers singer Brandon Flowers actually worked as a bellhop for The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino (gasp!).
Rather, I am speaking of indie pop-punk act The Higher, who played the Chain Reaction on April 27, and who’s first full-length album, ‘Histrionics,’ hit stores on May 3, on Fiddler Records. On their debut, they have crafted 14 energetic and catchy pop-punk tunes filled with enough interesting twists to put them slightly outside the mold.
‘It shaped who we we are dude. We’re party kids and Vegas is a party city. We party there, have shows there, we have a lot of friends there,’ said guitarist Tom Oakes.
‘It’s a lot better than people think, especially [since] people outside didn’t used to appreciate it, but now bands are getting better, and we actually have talent [in Vegas],’ said bassist Jason Centeno.
For their CD release show, the five-piece band opened for heavyweights Taking Back Sunday and Saosin at their favorite place to play, the Las Vegas House of Blues.
‘I hope Lindsay Lohan is there,’ Oakes said.
Like so many bands, The Higher began in high school, when friends who loved similar types of music came together to write and play their own songs.
‘We had classes together,’ said Centeno said. ‘You know, music class, guitar class, water polo, ballet.’
Said Seth Trotter, ‘I’ve known [guitarist] Tom actually since like fourth grade. We were little kids together man, competitive in basketball and then it turned into a band.’
Around four years ago, when The Higher was only halfway through high school they recorded their first EP, the well-received ‘Star is Dead.’ At the helm was up-and-coming producer Beau Burchell, also guitarist for recently majored Saosin. A represtentive from Fiddler Records, who Burchell has a close relationship with mainly because he produced one of their best received albums, The Bled’s ‘Pass The Flask,’ heard The Higher recording and became very interested.
‘[The Fiddler representative] just heard me recording some tracks, heard some of the CD, got a burned copy from Beau, and then they came out to see us play with Something Corporate when we were still December Stars or something. They came and saw us play and they liked us and we got signed. We like Fiddler,’ said Trotter.
Four years after ‘Star is Dead’, the five piece went into the studio to record their first full length for Fiddler Records, ‘Histrionics’ which hit stores on May 3. This time the band was lucky enough to work with yet another amazing up and coming producer, Rory Phillips.
‘Rory is awesome,’ said guitarist James Mattison. ‘He’s a genius. He knew exactly what we want[ed] to do. We just went in there and knocked down our tracks in the couple days we had. It was smooth.’
‘We went in there already friends with Rory, so we knew it was going to [be] fun from the start, man. We just had fun, recorded what we wanted, showed all our different diversities and styles, and kinda plopped it into ‘Histrionics,” said Trotter.
The Higher recorded all the instruments for the album at World Class Records in Los Angeles before making the trek to Phillips’ home in Austin, Texas to record the vocals. The band explained that in both their recording and writing process, they stress the element of collaboration.
‘We like everybody to be creative in their own way and do their own thing,’ said Trotter.
‘We write songs all together, as a band. We all try to be creative. We start it off with a guitar riff, and we’ll start jamming with it, start working with it. Then, vocals. Then we just go with what songs we like,’ said Centeno.
On May 17, the band will begin traveling across the nation in support of ‘Histrionics’ with fellow acts Sunday Driver and Days Like These. These Vegas kids are, however, no strangers to touring, having hit the road on two national tours with bands like Park, Alexis On Fire, Emery, and Silverstein.
‘We love it,’ Centeno said. ‘It’s the best thing in the world, so fun. I hate being at home. We don’t have jobs so all we do is hang out, party and practice all day. We get bored.’
Hard knocks huh? Well in their spare time on tour, away from a hometown that some have compared to an amusement park for adults, these kids do their best to feel at home.
‘We’re going to Magic Mountain,’ said guitarist Oakes.