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Sydney four-piece Highline take us inside their sophomore EP ‘Off Track’

We take you inside our favourite new albums with the artists who made them. We're sitting down with Sydney four-piece Highline to chat about their sophomore EP 'Off Track'.

Growing up is full of highs and lows, and that is exactly what Sydney four-piece Highline are exploring on their brand-spanking new sophomore EP Off Track.

2020 was no doubt a rough time for any new band. After making a splash with a pair of debut singles and their debut EP Strictly Dreaming in late 2019/early 2020, lockdown halted their touring momentum.

But Highline weren’t taking the challenge lying down.

While many of us were bunkered down trying to navigate the last 12 months, the group instead spent a good chunk of 2020 writing and recording – creating what they have described as their most collaborative body of work so far, their new record Off Track.

Although Highline is still quite a new project, with a discography only stretching back to 2019, the band’s four members have a long history together. Having spent their earliest days rehearsing on school lunch breaks after first playing music together in their school jazz band, it is their genre-blending style of indie rock that has been turning heads of late.

Following the release of Off Track’s earlier singles ‘Staying Sane’ and ‘Chasing Heaven’, Highline played sold out shows at Oxford Art Factory and The Lansdowne, earned praise from the likes of MTV Australia, The Music, triple j, and more, landed at #2 on the triple j Unearthed Charts, and landed themselves on an abundance of Spotify playlists.

To say the future is looking bright for Highline might be an understatement, and if they are not on your radar, now’s your chance.

We sat down with Highline to learn more about their new record and the journey to its realease.

Image Credit: Connor Sprague

The Highline Story

From the beginning

Highline: “As a group we started making music together in early 2019, but it really wasn’t until the slow down of COVID in March 2020 where we got the time to try and understand how to write as a band. The slow down really made us start to love what we were creating, and I think by that point we realised that we can’t turn back now because we are proud of what we’ve done, and we’re excited to keep making more music and see where it goes.”

What you’ll hear

“Our music is a great mix of slower indie rock and harder garage rock. We guess that comes about from all the different influences we’ve had growing up. Sam listened to poppier bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Green Day, and Ed Sheeran which probably helped him know how to write good melodies. The rest of us grew up listening to ’60s and ’70s psychedelic rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.”

Inside the creative process

“The EP really spawned during COVID when there was nothing else to do but write. It was the first time that we had really written together properly as a band, which really helped us find our way a bit more in terms of ‘our sound’ and the direction we are looking to head in. 

“A big highlight of the process was spending time down south in an old farmhouse together for three nights. We ate, drank and wrote music non-stop for four days and really treated it like work. It was a really special trip and we had the most fun we had ever experienced off-stage together as a band.

“Our creative process has grown immensely. When Highline began, the songs were pretty much just Sam’s songs from high school. Now, it’s a true combination of all of our respective influences, ideas and talents. The lyrics are predominately still Sam’s area, however for this record we were really kept in the loop as to what they meant, what they were about, and we were all able to give Sam feedback as to what we thought needed changing/altering/scrapping etc.”

Tell us the story

“The central theme of the record is the loss of one’s self through experience. We tried to explore this through ego, harmful vices and, of course, relationships. The idea really grew from a lot of our observations of others, especially as we’ve started to grow up ourselves and change our own perspectives. We explored these concepts song by song, and by the end of it realised we were delving into a common theme of being Off Track.”

Down memory lane

“Our favourite memory while creating the record has to be either going down to the farmhouse or recording the EP up at the Grove Studios. On both occasions we were doing what we love with people that we love. Plus, I’d never seen anyone eat and drink as badly as we did for as long as we did on those occasions and come out of it with a proud smile…That has to count for something.”

Audience takeaway

“If listeners get even a slither of the same sort of feelings we got listening back to the final product we’d be pretty happy. If we could even have one person as passionate about these songs as we are, job done.”

Say it in a sentence

Off Track is…the indie rock we’ve always wanted to have written, and we’re so stoked that we finally have.”

For the love of music

“When stuff clicks. I feel like our whole pursuit in writing and playing together is just for those moments when everyone goes ‘Shit, that’s perfect.’ Even if it’s only for a second in the song, when it hits, everything just feels right…The goosebumps moments. 

“For the people that really care, it’s moments like when the bridge hits in ‘Staying Sane’, or at 3:10 in the same song when the tag comes in differently with two big hits. Or at about 4:10 in ‘Busy’ when that final solo starts. For us, they’ve always been pretty special moments.”

Kicking goals

“For us, it’s all about what we can do live. Our two best shows have to have been selling out the Lansdowne on a Thursday night back in February 2020, and the Oxford Art Factory just the other week. Playing live to fans who are enjoying it beats everything else by a long way.”

Overcoming struggle town

“We’ve had struggles and challenges at almost every stage of the process, some more fun than others. Agreeing on names for songs, lyrics, and cover art for singles and the EP has been an interesting but fun challenge, as we’ve all been trying to extend our common love of jamming into a more palatable product of art and poetry.

“We overcame that one by implementing a 3 to 1 rule, if three of us like it and one doesn’t, it stays. There’s always plenty of arguments, but at the end of the day it’s all because we want the best for our music and are pretty passionate. We also had some disappointing times with record labels that were offering to sign us up but then pulling out. It was good to finally move on from that and release Off Track independently, on our own terms.”

Essential Listening

Highline – Busy

“The last track on the record, ‘Busy’, is by far the best song we’ve ever written. Rhys once came to Sam and changed the whole chorus, giving Sam an inkling that this song might have been about a girl he once saw. For the next year, Sam introduced the song when we played it live as her name on every occasion he could. It was perhaps the most awkward when our sound engineer at a gig had the same name. Rehearsing and playing this song is a bucket load of noise and fun.”

Highline – Chasing Heaven

“‘Chasing Heaven’ has to be next in terms of the best collaborative process we’ve had, I think you can hear how much we are enjoying it at the end when we are all belting out ‘I’ve been Chaaasinggg.’  We first decided to put synths on the track when James and Sam were with our close friend Nicky, working on the demos during lockdown. They were so excited about what it was sounding like, and were pretty pissed off Rhys couldn’t come to the session. They thought the best way to deal with it would be to call him 35 times in a row, unknowing that the phone was in his pocket while he was in mid-argument with his family about not being able to leave the house.”

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