Rarely are the coolest bands to listen to the same as the most fun bands to listen to… However, Norway’s Highasakite manage to float gracefully down to that intersection. I first formally encountered the band, led by vocalist and songwriter Ingrid Helene Havik, a year ago, when I wrote of them, “They use postmodern synthetics to channel the spirit of both folk and classical music, but with the bravado of a rock outfit and the aesthetic of the best kind of retro pop.” They’ve always had a knack for the epic, while remaining strikingly eloquent and sophisticatedly stylish. And while these sentiments all make their way onto their sophomore LP, Silent Treatment (released this March), they take on a decidedly more morbid tone, presenting a collection of stark pop songs reflecting upon the human experience as it actually occurs. They’re uplifting in their refusal to ignore the casual, everyday atrocities of life on Earth. And, like like-minded popular entities (The Smiths are the most obvious that come to mind.), they make such musing danceable. They certainly don’t require existential thinkers (They’ve been compared to Florence and the Machine.), but they certainly don’t turn them away either… The band has spent recent months in the states, making a splash at SXSW, followed by a handful of dates with London Grammar. However, they have a very rare [and short (four, to be exact)] string of US headlining dates and they will conclude right here on May 19th at Underground Arts. (I’m not sure of the likelihood of them coming back anytime in the near future… so if they at all intrigue you, you should venture out to Eraserhood.) I recently got a chance to chat with guitarist Kristoffer Lo about their recent year spent on the road and the impact it’s had on them as a band.
Izzy Cihak: So you have a very small handful of upcoming US dates and those of us in Philly, or “Philthy,” as we call it, are thrilled to be included among the stops. What can we expect of the live experience?
Kristoffer Lo: We’re thrilled to finally go to Philly, as well! The live show is an extension of the album. There will hopefully be even more energy and presence. We have focused a lot on making the concerts as good and exciting as possible, and still try to make them even better.
Izzy: The last time I talked to the band you said that film and literature were a major inspiration so, I’m curious, what were the biggest non-musical influences behind your recently released, Silent Treatment?
Kristoffer: The last year has been filled with lots of touring, meeting new people and getting influences from them and the cities we’ve seen. This has had a big effect on the process of making this album. We’ve also grown as a band, getting to know each other even better and working out the music as a whole.
Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite album track? “I, The Hand Grenade” is one of the existentially heavier things I’ve heard this year… which I quite like.
Kristoffer: I think each band member has their own favorite. For myself, I have to say “Lover, Where Do You Live?” We had a little rough time figuring out how to do this song in the studio. After many versions, both faster and slower than how it appears right now, Marte started playing the grand piano riff and it instantly felt right. I think it’s really powerful opening song, both on the album and live.
Izzy: After your US dates wrap, you have a ton of dates booked in Europe, including a lot of festivals. Are there any shows you’re especially excited to play, whether because you think the setting will be especially great or the lineup is especially great?
Kristoffer: There are so many shows and festivals to look forward to this summer. Personally, the Green Man festival in Wales looks like a great places to play. Just the scenery and the country, pretty excited! And of course a bunch of the festivals in Norway, specially Øya-festival in Oslo and Pstereo-festival in Trondheim will be great.
Izzy: And what do you have planned for the rest of 2014, after touring wraps?
Kristoffer: Well, after the US we’re heading off for our first tour in Asia. We’re playing Hostess nights in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Tokyo. That will be pretty crazy. Then there’s a bunch of summer festivals, both in Norway and Germany. Then we’re off to Europa again, in the beginning of September. There’s also talk of a couple of shows in Australia. Then, of course, some shows in Norway again. We’re taking everything on as it comes right now, hoping to play as much as possible!