The High Dials are survivors. While most bands don’t make it to a sophomore album, the High Dials have sustained themselves for nearly ten years, with a fifth album set for release. Survival usually entails change, and over time the High Dials have not only changed their lineup, but their sound and process as well. After two very quiet years, the High Dials return to the Montreal stage, bringing with them their new EP Yestergraves (released in November) and a video.
After the last album, the band was considering breaking up. “We were at a crossroads,” says Trevor Anderson. “We were all at the end of a cycle and we didn’t feel very satisfied where we were at. Do we start a new a project, should we even do another one? We had exhausted a certain way of working and we wanted to be more experimental for our own enjoyment and push ourselves somewhere new.”
Left to their own devices, though, the High Dials feared they would just write the same album. To introduce change, the High Dials turned to a new producer, Marc Bell (Bran Van 3000, Lauryn Hill). “He comes from a different background than us. He works more in hip hop and R&B and is definitely not coming from the universe we’re accustomed to.”
The new sound is still very much in the vein of a pop band and still psychedelic, but also more stripped down. The layers are there, but not quite as deep. “It’s more focused,” says Anderson. “We kept things more direct.”
Another element that changed was the band makeup. The High Dials was a five piece band, but the new EP was recorded only by the three core members, Anderson, Robbie MacArthur, and George Donoso on drums. To record the album and keep the layered sound, Anderson, MacArthur, and Donoso took on all parts. Anderson took on programming the electronics, MacArthur took on keys and bass. “It was not a record that developed as a group of people performing,” says Anderson. “It was a studio album, a lot of passing things back and forth.”
Change is never easy. “It wasn’t without pain,” says Anderson. “You set off into the unknown when you’re breaking habits and ways of thinking. It’s not a smooth process. Our future was uncertain. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was an identity crisis, but almost. And of course there are conflicts because people are passionate and feel strongly about things.”
However, the will to continue was very much there. “Through it all, we never really lost belief in it. We knew we were onto something good,” says Anderson. “We’re a hungry band. We always want to create something even better. We’re perfectionists, but I guess every artist is dissatisfied.”
“The music is very new and fresh,” he says. “Just like the producer, the fresh people in the band aren’t familiar with our whole history. It’s fresh blood, a new atmosphere. All of this stuff brought us to a point where we’re feeling really excited. We’re still excited about making music together.”
The result is an album of music, though the intention is to release the music in a series of shorter EPs first. The first EP was released in November, the second is intended for the spring. “It feels like the right way to put it out right now.”
The High Dials also have a new video to the song Yestergraves. “The only thing I’ll say about the video is that it almost killed 2 band members – Robbie and myself,” he says, “We were shooting on the day that winter arrived in the last days of November. The snow started coming down really heavy, so the video features snow. We were coming back with a lot of equipment and lost control of the truck on the overpass near Verdun. It would have been the last video.”
Fortunately, they survived all that.
The High Dials and the Vasts play January 18 at Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent). 9:30 p.m..