The High Violets: Bridging the Gap Between Shoegaze and Dream Pop

Although they may not quite be a household name, Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets have been kicking out wonderfully lush and fuzzy dream pop and shoegaze jams since the...

Although they may not quite be a household name, Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets have been kicking out wonderfully lush and fuzzy dream pop and shoegaze jams since the late ‘90s, and this Friday, April 1st, will see the release of their fifth full-length, Heroes and Halos, courtesy of Saint Marie Records.  The album would seem to be their most accomplished yet and in a recent chat with The High Violets’ mainpeople/songwriters Clint Sargent and Kaitlyn ni Donovan the two tell me that the album is essentially the culmination of both all the processes and sounds they’ve worked with over the years.

Izzy Cihak: I’m just realizing that you’ve been together for almost 20 years now, which is sort of insane:  What have been some of the biggest highlights of the band over the past two decades, whether it be experiences, reactions to your work, or anything else that really stood out to you?

Clint Sargent: There have definitely been some good highlights, but I would say the overall reaction to our work has been the most satisfying. With fans continuously reaching out and letting us know they appreciate what we do. That, as much as anything, keeps you going.

Izzy: What do you think is the biggest difference between the mindset of the band now, compared to when you first got together?

Clint: In the beginning we viewed the band as a solid collective. We had regular rehearsal nights in Luke’s basement and considered everyone involved with the song writing. As time went on and people came and went and came back it became clear that Kaitlyn and I were composing the majority of the music. And this was certainly the case on Heroes. So this is our mindset currently.

Izzy: How is Portland’s music and arts scene at the moment?  There always seems to be tons of really cool and really diverse things going on there.

Clint: In years past it has been the case for sure, but honestly at the moment I wonder myself. We barely got this album done before I could no longer afford my rent. The last few years have seen so much change with people moving there and the cost of living going up. Many artists have moved out to the suburbs or are crowding into houses. Anyway, it’s a good question. The scene will always live on in some capacity.

Izzy: You’re about to release Heroes and Halos.  How do you feel it compares to previous releases?

Kaitlyn ni Donovan: I feel Heroes echoes the maturing between our beginnings in traditional shoegaze and our last release, Cínema. Cinema leaned more into straight dream pop. Heroes… seems to bridge the two. If you listen to the first side of the LP, you may noticed a distinctly dream pop feel, while the second side lends a darker tone with our shoegaze background.

Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?

Kaitlyn: I try my best not to be influenced by other’s music when I write, but rather images that arise as if in a dream, fictional story, or film whilst, forming the first melodic foundations of a song. To me it keeps the music pure and not overly influenced by trends or other’s muses.

Izzy: I especially dig “Longitude,” which just reminds me of so much of the mid-90s’ best alt rock, so I’m curious how that particular track came about.

Kaitlyn: “Longitude” came into fruition at a lightning pace, though I was disabled with a back injury and unable to play any instruments. Consequently, for the first time in my musical career, while laid up on a couch, I turned to composing with a drum machine and sang the vocal melody in one pass that you hear on the album. It all very happily stuck. The lyrics came later, (not so quickly) which are from the perspective of a bee, but also reflect the feelings of one in a manic phase of bipolar disorder. In the final fleshing out we included analogue drums, synthesizers, and Clint’s gorgeous guitar.

Izzy: Finally, what are you planning and hoping for in 2016?  Any chance we might get to see you on the road in the near future?

Clint: We’ve put the album out and we’ll see what comes down the pike? What might be? It’s been so long since we played live. No plans at this time. Perhaps at some point we can dust off the hiatus?

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.