The pines can be a backdrop or a mood, and they can invite some degree of mystery. Tension and mystery, like a jazz chord on it's way to a resolution. The music of High Pines has the same mysterious but playfully inviting quality. Odd things go on in the pines, and High Pines has etched out their own channel of oddity in the local ecosystem. They can evoke the sunny but shaded wooded afternoons, and the gloomy unexplored caverns that we all may occasionally glimpse in one dream or another. Before we hear these treasured sounds, we thought that it would be quite evil to get to know these gents a little bit...
1) How did you guys meet up? How long have you been playing together?
Elliot: Steve and I have been playing together for the last 6-7 years with Stoneclad. We played our last show on New Years, rented a spacious practice pad, and started hunting for another guitar player. We put an add out on Craigslist and that's how we found Gavin haha. He fit in so well right off the bat. We really lucked out. My hopes were high, but I guess I didn't really expect a good fit so quickly.
Gavin: I had been looking to joining a band for a few months before stumbling upon a craigslist ad that I fit the criteria for, experienced, a guitarist, and as specified in the ad, under the age of 30.
Steve: Like most relationships, it started with a simple craigslist ad. We have been together for about 5 months total; we took an impromptu “break” for about a month when the pandemic hit.
2) Tell us about your individual backgrounds in music. How did you get interested? What kind of bands did you play in growing up?
Elliot: As far as educational background in music, I've mostly been self-taught with rudimental books and online lessons, but that's more-so nowadays. The internet can be a wonderful thing. Throughout grade school I tried out for snare drum twice and never made it. Just goes to show that music isn't a deal where you either "have it or you don't". I think because I have been so in love with music of all kinds from such a young age that I never really gave up. I had been playing music in my friends basement from the time I was probably 11 or 12. We'd try to put bands together all the time, but nothing ever came of it. My first band that played out started in high school. We were called Stressed About Dragons and played a few shows, but it was short lived. Allen Harris played in that group and shortly after it ended we formed Stoneclad with James Hardy in 2013. I was 18, then. I am 25, now.
Gavin: Well I started playing music from a pretty young age, around 5 or 6, playing the drums first for a very short lived stint and then quickly moving to the guitar a few weeks later and never putting it down from then on. I picked up a few other instruments over the years such as the violin and the saxophone as well. I later went on to get a degree in music recording technologies and soon after met Steve and Elliot and now here we are. As far as bands i've played in its been a far cry from anything very professional before hooking up with high pines, anything before that was janky highschool bands and things like that.
Steve: The first album I bought with my own money was Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Had never heard nor heard of them, I just remember seeing that album cover and I had to buy it. From there it was all downhill. Picked up a guitar a few months later and spent countless hours practicing my duck walk. I got into all the rock staples from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath, Metallica to Pantera, even an unhealthy amount of 80’ hair bands. As far as bands growing, there was really only one high school metal band, several years later I did a stint in a hardcore punk band. It wasn’t until we started Stoneclad several years later that I really started my musical journey.
3) Elliot, who are some of your major influences as a drummer?
Elliot: This is always a really tough question because I feel like I have so many. But if I had to list a few of my most major recent influences... JP Bouvet, Joe Russo, Benny Greb, Eric Harland.
4) Steve, what made you want to play bass? Is it the power and unchecked authority?
Steve: It’s kind of cliché but I pretty much fell into it. Band needed a bass player, I could play mediocre guitar, and I had a bass. No brainer. But since then it’s totally been about the power and authority, only sometimes checked by the late, great, Lemmy Kilmister.
5) Gavin, why are you using so many jazzy chords on the High Pines material?
Gavin: Quite honestly, when learning the guitar the idea of a triad chord, the simplest three note chord you can play, just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I didn't understand until many years later how to use them in my own music, so during that time I put a lot of time into studying more complex chords specifically because it was easier for me to see how each chord could fit together because of the added notes in the chord. It provides a lot of really cool voice leading options for any music passage and also allows you to play the melody of the tune while also playing the chords.
6) To you, what are some major influences in terms of inspirations that led up to the creation of High Pines?
Elliot: I think that's what's so great about High Pines. We all have different influences, yet a lot of overlaps. I'd have to say Kamasi Washington, Frank Zappa, Radiohead, and Umphrey's McGee. I think that's a pretty good representation of our style. Free-form, technical at times, jam-band, with a lot of crazy effects.
Gavin: Well I listen to alot of Tauk, Umphrey's Mcgee, pigeons playing pingpong, jam band things like that. We didn't really decide on a “Style” when we started playing though, we basically just played together a few times to see what we sounded like and went from there.
Steve: I try to gather inspiration every day, not only from music, but other arts, the world around me, people, magic…But my main inspiration is definitely music. Elliot and myself really began exploring the “jam” nature of music with Stoneclad, so with that you’ve got your classic jam bands like the Grateful Dead, but I like the idea of getting more magical with it, a bit more Pink Floyd, a bit more Frank Zappa, maybe a dash of Genesis (Peter Gabriel era) including the theatrics.
7) Favorite Star Wars film?
Elliot: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Gavin: Empire Strikes Back
Steve: Episode II. Also, Knights of the Old Republic II is top 5 greatest video games of all time.
8) What are some major live music events that shaped your tastes and opinions on live music?
Elliot: The Austin Dam show is a really cool one that I've gone to for the last 4 years. It's a great show to see some of the greatest musicians in the Southern Tier Region.
As far as live artists I have seen: Kamasi Washington, JRAD, MMJ.
I'd also like to share some of my favorite live (video) performances:
My Morning Jacket - Okonokos
The Grateful Dead - Shoreline Amphitheater June 16th, 1990
Pink Floyd - Pulse
The Band - The Last Waltz
Frank Zappa - Roxy & Elsewhere
Gavin: I went to a string cheese incident concert when I was very young, I had grown up going to shows with my family but this one in particular was a show where I was brought up on stage for a minute or two. Although I was petrified for the entire time, after getting off stage that was the day I decided that I wanted to always be on stage, that was the day I decided to commit to becoming a professional musician.
Steve: I didn’t really start going to major shows outside of Warped Tour (I know, I know) up until 5-6 years ago when I joined Stoneclad. Probably the biggest influence has been the Austin Dam Show. We had the privilege to perform there a couple times, and just the atmosphere at this event is fantastic.
9) Tell us about some of your plans for the future!!
Elliot: I'd really like to get back into that gig lyfe. I miss playing in front of people so often. Get some music out there for people to both see and hear. I'd also like to continue to make more connections with other artists and the community like with our friends at Evil Bubble ;)
Gavin: Music!!!! GIGSSS!!!!!! That's the plan I think, I haven't talked about it with the band too much but I know our immediate goal is to just play out as much as we possibly can.
Steve: Well we just stepped out of the studio with an EP in hand and we have wasted no time in hitting the drawing board for more material. We are hoping to get at least a couple shows in this summer As many as possible given the current pandemic situation.
10) Any plans to do more recording?
Elliot: I would like to be able to put out a new album every year.
Gavin: Once we get a few more originals under our belt, of course!
Steve: You know it, baby.
11) Could each of you elaborate on your thoughts pertaining to playing live music?
Elliot: Playing live is really something special. You get to express emotion through your music and the crowd gets to experience that. And the crowd plays a big role in that expression. Every night is different that way.
Gavin: My goal when playing live is to just put on a good show, whether that means being a dork onstage or playing a relaxing show because the mood calls for it. If there's no connection to the audience then there's really no point in my eyes, the music is as much for everyones elses pleasure as much as it is for mine.
Steve: That’s the main goal personally. Live is when you can really get weird with it and feel a physical connection with the people.
12) High Pines summer tour 2021!! Where would you go?
Elliot: EAST COAST BAABBBBAAAYYYYYY
Gavin: Rochester hopefully so i can have the guys drive out to me this time rather than the other way around. Other than that it would be nice to hit some big cities like Buffalo or Albany, but we will see how easy it is to get a gig like that.
Steve: High Pines Low Down East Coast Beach Tour 2021. Tickets available soon at your local Evil Bubble HQ.
13) The most difficult question. Describe your genre!!
Elliot: I've thought about this one a lot because it really is the most asked. If I had to summarize, Free-form Jam Band with trippy effects. How does that sound?
Gavin: Psychedelic jam band jazz??
Steve: A trio with the power to provide a smooth yet electrifying journey through space and time.
14) What is your philosophy on improvisation?
Gavin: Improvising is my musical heart and soul, it is my home base in any situation and I have spent many years trying to effectively improvise and convey emotion through my improv. Its my favorite aspect of playing music in general because it really is like a conversation between me and my band mates and is almost always a great time.
15) Advice for anyone trying to start a band during the pandemic?
Elliot: I think it's a great time to start something new. There are no shows to be had. Why not spend this time working on tunes? That way, when everything starts to open back up, you'll have this arsenal of practiced jams to flood the gates with.
Gavin: Take this time, when the world is on pause, to work on your live show and make sure that you have some quality songs. Get all your ducks in a row so that when things finally do open up you are ready to knock everyone's socks off with your music, also just have fun with it,, thats the most important part of it all.
Steve: May the Force be with you : )
There you have it friends... I don't know about you, but my mind is at ease when I consider the probability that these three guys are making sweet sounds, somewhere out in the pines. Stay evil my beloved friends...