By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Considered a worthy blend of melodic modern pop-punk and fast-paced 90’s skate punk/post-hardcore, Leeds, UK based High Visions released their latest single “Checkpoint Charlie” on Jan. 24, 2020.
The single’s name derives from the checkpoint that separated Berlin and metaphorically represents how society and others might deter somebody’s dreams and aspirations, but to find the courage to stay true to themselves and not conform to what people want them to be. It follows up their 2018 sophomore EP ‘Passerby,’ recorded with Dom Wright (Creeper, Gnarwolves).
Over their time together, High Visions have performed with acts like Mallory Knox, Death By Stereo, Blood Youth and Allusinlove.
The Music Bugle recently had the chance to talk with the chipper trio of Louis Flynn (Guitar/Vocals), Zyggy (Bass/Vocals) and Alex Fell (Drums) to discuss the single, upcoming third EP and other recent happenings.
Music Bugle – Looking back on your ‘Passerby’ release, what stands out the most about it?
Louis Flynn – I think just the positive reception we received from people who had listened to it! It was the first piece of music we released that we were really happy with. We felt we’d really found our sound and loved showing it to people. Seeing people sing those lyrics back to us at shows is one of the most satisfying things an artist can hope for, so we feel extremely grateful that that release paved the way for us to experience that ourselves.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the overall punk scene in the UK?
Zyggy – One of the most incredible things we’ve found about the music scene here in the UK — especially in Yorkshire — is the sense of community we’ve found since we started being a band. The UK is absolutely full of awesome punk bands that we’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with and the amount of collaborations within our scene is phenomenal. Perhaps it’s because of the lack of distance between cities in the UK in comparison to our friends across the pond — but since everything seems closer together, it’s so much easier to make connections with other bands and foster a friendly, supportive atmosphere. We’ve definitely found that when we’ve been touring, our biggest supporters have always been the company we’ve found ourselves with. There’s so many amazing bands that we’ve had the privilege to know, that it’d take way too long to name them all. It’s our friends in this punk community that allow us to survive as a band. We’d be nowhere without them.
Music Bugle – What made you want to put out “Checkpoint Charlie” as a single in particular?
Alex Fell – From the moment we first wrote the song, we felt it deserved to be a single. We felt we’d managed to push ourselves to be more creative instrumentally, particularly with the heavier guitars, harsher vocals and more frantic, less conventional drum parts without losing the catchier elements of our sound. We always felt we’d had faster, heavier, shoutier punk songs and more melodic, catchy, pop-punk kind of songs, but with this song, we felt we’d fused the best of both into a cohesive whole better than we ever had before and really honed in on our identity as a band. It felt like a perfect mission statement for us to put out a song like this that doesn’t really sound like what anyone else is doing at the moment. Personally, I’ve never felt more confident in a song we’ve released. We went all out and wrote exactly the kind of song we wanted to and loved the end result! I’ll also add that for me personally, I love how concise it is as a song. I’m generally not a fan of long songs. I’ve always kept the ‘If you can say it in two minutes, why say it in four?’ kind of philosophy when it comes to songwriting. I’d much rather a song end and I feel I want to listen to it again than feel like it should have ended earlier, so the fact we managed to say everything we wanted musically and take these risks, in less than three minutes, leaving people wanting more, definitely helped us feel we had the perfect single right here!
Music Bugle – Who are some of your musical influences and how do they shape your sound?
Louis Flynn – Like a lot of bands, our influences come from all over the genre spectrum, from punk to metal to pop, hip-hop and classical. The main aspects of a High Visions song is high energy, tight parts and big singalongs. The punk side comes from bands like The Lawrence Arms, Gnarwolves and Rise Against, while we all love bands such as Issues, who have only three instruments and can make their parts super tight and together. Then, think of those massive Foo Fighters or Fall Out Boy choruses and that’s how we want to convey our sound. Fast, intricate and catchy; that’s how we’d describe ourselves.
Music Bugle – What are your future plans for the rest of 2020?
Louis Flynn – 2020 is the year of branching out, of playing in as many different parts of the country as we can — as well as more shows in mainland Europe — and releasing more music. We’re sitting on some great ideas that we can’t wait to show people, but we want to let everyone hear what we can bring to their music palettes!
Music Bugle – What was your most memorable show played?
Zyggy – We’ve had the privilege of playing so many awesome shows to so many amazing audiences, but by far, our most memorable experience has been the week we spent in Europe last October. We played three amazing shows, two in western Germany and one in Belgium. The people we met there and the bands we played with were some of the most hospitable and open-minded people we’ve ever met and I know for sure we’ll do our best to go back sometime soon.
Music Bugle – To you, what’s the group’s most meaningful song/set of lyrics?
Zyggy – It’s hard to say! The lyrics that both myself and Louis write mean a hell of a lot to us and we take care in ensuring our songs both encapsulate our personal struggles and tell the stories we want to convey. I think a lot of our lyrics focus on our struggles within wider society. Our newest single ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ is about the difficulties we’ve had in following our ambitions when we’re forced to conform to society’s norms. For me personally though, I’d say my most meaningful set of lyrics so far would be “Duluth” off ‘Passerby.’ It’s about a topic that’s quite important to me and something that happened to a close friend of mine; a situation of domestic violence flipped on its head from society’s mainstream narrative of abuse. The title also ironically references the Duluth Model of domestic violence – I’m not sure how many people picked up on that when we first released the song!
Music Bugle – Any advice for young aspiring musicians?
Alex Fell – I think there are three big things for me that I definitely feel more people should try and do. Firstly, I’d say get out and tour as much as possible. Don’t play your hometown every two weeks. Work more strategically and work out short tours around different cities you can do without financially crippling yourselves. Don’t wait for someone to contact you and ask you to play. Be proactive. Use the advantages of social media to make friends with bands, tour together and play different cities to new crowds, ’cause if you have a good live show, you’re gonna leave people wanting to see you again, buying your merch, checking you out online and really building a following. Secondly, I’d say trying to really hone in on your identity as a musician and a band, working out what your unique selling point is, what makes you stand out and not being scared to run with it. Take risks with your songwriting and try and do things musically that other similar bands wouldn’t. There are already a million pop-punk bands out there. If that’s you wanna do, then you need to do something different and interesting with it rather than just emulating what’s come before. Some people might hate it, others will love it, and I think that’s much more beneficial than everyone just thinking you’re okay and not remembering anything. If you can do this without losing the positive elements of what you do that people relate to and respond well to, you’re on to a winner! Lastly, I think being smart with how you release content to do with your band. For better or worse, social media is one of the most important things now in music. Creating a presence online is hard work and keeping interest when you’ve got it is even harder, so if you release a single, create other content around that to keep a buzz going. Acoustic versions, playthroughs, discussions of the track, whatever works for you and you think your fans will find interesting! It keeps interest going much more successfully than just throwing a song out and hoping people care enough to remember!
Music Bugle – What’s something people should know about the band that they might not already?
Zyggy – When we were on tour in Europe last year, we ended up playing a five-hour game of Monopoly that ended in a half-hour round of negotiations. We still haven’t forgiven each other to this day.
Music Bugle – What frustrates you the most about today’s music industry and how can it be fixed?
Alex Fell – I don’t like to get all angry and ‘old man yells at cloud’ about it, because at the end of the day, the world changes, the industry changes and the way people consume music and other media changes and you can either be smart, adapt with it and find a way to make what you do work in the modern world or you get left behind. I guess for me, the thing I do miss is that I’m a huge fan of the album format myself and I generally prefer to listen to a collection of songs as a thematically cohesive whole than a series of singles by different artists on a ‘New Punk Tracks’ playlist or whatever, but if the average person is listening on playlists or will only listen to the singles, you can’t fight against that. You could still release a full-length album with two or three singles that have music videos, but you’d be wasting a lot of time and money if 90 percent of people only listen to, for example, three out of 10 tracks, but I don’t think you have to abandon the format completely at all. Just release it in a way that makes sense in 2020! Release tracks individually or maybe a couple a time, say, over the space of a year, then gradually build up to a full album. Give the majority of songs the individual release and push they deserve, so they all get focus and make sure they all stand on their own as a quality song, but then still flow and create a consistent feeling as a finished piece that still tie together really well for the fans that want to listen as a whole! To me, that seems to be the much smarter way to release stuff for a newer, smaller band. Obviously, if a band who’s been around 25 years releases an album all at once, people will listen to it, but a smaller, newer band has to be smarter with it. especially if they’re wanting to stay relevant and active as time goes on, as things are only going to go further down this path. I don’t think anyone owes you their time. There’s so much music they could be listening to instead, so you have to work hard to try and grab their attention and make a product that deserves it!