The Wild Honey Pie's 3rd B-Day Bash ft. High Highs & The Last Bison

Widely tipped as “indie darlings” and a “band to watch” on the strength of an acclaimed EP, some high profile film and TV placements, and a series of hypnotic live shows, High Highs are set to deliver on their early promise with a debut LP in late January 2013.

Critics have embraced the four-track High Highs EP as “simply spun and exquisitely enthralling,” and singer Jack Milas’ falsetto as a “weapon of mass emotional destruction.” Milas and co-founder Oli Chang create an “unholy” blend of acoustic-guitar textures and synthesized atmospherics. The band’s signature sound has struck the blogosphere as “shimmering” and “stunning” “sun-kissed sadness.”

High Highs kicks off with “Flowers Bloom,” with its “delicate synth soundscapes [and] haunting vocal harmonies.” It also features the “sweeping” “folk-pop” of the single “Open Season,” the “gorgeous” “Ivy,” and “Horses” – which has drawn multiple favourable blog comparisons to Neil Young.

Milas and Chang began making music together as High Highs in their native Sydney, Australia, while working at the same recording studio. Chang was in another band at the time, but found himself drawn to Milas’ writing style. The pair plunged into a world of collaboration and invention. They discovered the basis of a band aesthetic by marrying Chang’s passion for electronic indie with Jack’s penchant for classic acoustic rock.

“There’s obviously a lot of scope for what you can do with a laptop and a keyboard,” Chang explained. “It’s more straightforward which palettes of sound work with acoustic guitar, drums, and voice. That helps narrow it down a bit.”

Lead vocals were a responsibility Milas initially was tempted to shirk. “I just had so little confidence in my voice,” he confessed, “and singing in falsetto was the only way I knew how to get any vague vibe out of it.” Chang concurred. “Singing in falsetto, you don’t have to be confronted with yourself,” he said. “Your speaking voice is you. With falsetto, you can become someone else. You don’t have to deal with listening to yourself.”

When Milas took an opportunity to work and live in New York, Chang soon followed. The duo settled in Brooklyn, re-committed to making High Highs music, and joined forces with drummer Zach Lipkins – who is also handling mixing duties on the forthcoming LP. “It’s awesome that Zach is a really talented producer as well as a great drummer, especially because a lot of the time the drum arrangements are really minimal and heartbeat-like. He knows how to ride a gentle dynamic wave.”

Live gigs presented the trio with a new set of musical challenges. “We had to figure out ways to get this delicate, soft music to have impact in a live kind of atmosphere,” Milas said. “We’d be going on after a heavy metal band, or a synthy pop-rock thing, and it was like we had to match that in scale, create a big sound, and cut through the noise. We realised there has to be scale and dynamics to the performance, within its small intimacy, because if it’s all too quiet and hushed and atmospheric, it doesn’t engage us or the listeners.”

High Highs played well-received gigs to expanding audiences in New York – including a packed residency at Pianos on New York’s Lower East Side – and in London to a sold out crowd at the Old Queen’s Head. Their widescreen sound meanwhile attracted the attention of college radio programmers and music supervisors alike – which landed a coveted slot in ABC’s taste-making Grey’s Anatomy, another in the hit film Pitch Perfect, and another in a heavily-rotated spot for the Amazon Kindle.

The band’s debut long player will feature EP favourites “Open Season” and “Flowers Bloom,” live standouts “Once Around The House” and “Phone Call,” and more brand new songs. Tour dates around the release date will be announced in late 2012.

The Last Bison

The Last Bison is anything but typical. The seven-member ensemble led by Ben has seemingly risen from the marshes of southeastern Virginia to captivate the national music
scene with a rare blend of folk that is poetically steeped in classical influences. Band members describe the sound as “mountain-top chamber.” Already the band has drawn
flattering though imperfect comparisons to indie rock superstars the likes of Mumford & Sons, The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes. Flattering because each of those bands has carried folk rock into the main- stream; imperfect because none of them have a front man that shares the stage with his father and sister, nor uses a 75-year-old chaplain’s pump organ and Bolivian goat toenails on stage. The Last Bison is a tight knit community of family and friends that boasts a sound all its own.

The Last Bison’s live shows transport audiences from urban music halls to another, less familiar, era. Rich melodies accent unabashedly spiritual lyrics. Traditional folk instruments resonate with unexpected arrangements –sharing the musical space with lush family harmonies, classical strings, and earthy percussion. Band members appear to have stepped out of an 18th century stagecoach. The look hints at the band’s roots in colonial Virginia, while the sound transcends a defining era.

Kris Orlowski

Baritone vocalist, songwriter Kris Orlowski writes from a real, unguarded place and that accessibility is tangible on stage and off. With the October release of a rock orchestral EP with composer Andrew Joslyn alongside a five piece band, the group is turning heads. Sound on the Sound claims Orlowski is "…a troubadour by definition, whose full bodied croon develops a charisma all its own." Unless you've had your heart surgically removed, these are songs that will move you.

Musically, it is probably easy to peg Vassals' songs as an update of the Pixies' quiet/loud binary opposition (and when you listen live - they are LOUD), but so much more can be found here in terms of the songs' restraint, craftsmanship and lyrical dexterity. From start to finish, Vassals' songs often grow in intensity from buoyant initial verses to bruising choruses, though upon close listening underneath a structure of pop melody remains. Even in the caustic, feedback-drenched choruses there is that insulating force of hummable melodies, channeling the charged energy of the songs like those overhead power lines carrying electricity across the country.

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The Wild Honey Pie's 3rd B-Day Bash ft. High Highs & The Last Bison with Kris Orlowski, Vassals

Friday, December 7 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Knitting Factory Brooklyn