Heights‘ post-hardcore noisefest and, more specifically, their incredibly energetic and in-your-face live show really caught my attention when I saw them as main support to Biohazard back in February last year.
So much so that I made sure I caught them a second time, when they toured as part of the Metal Hammer Razor II Tour in November. Every bit as good.
This time around they’re playing all the same cities, further promoting their new album Old Lies For Young Lives. Unfortunately this time I wasn’t able to catch the show, but I did get to meet the guys for a brief interview.
Kudos to Monty and Dean (and the staff at the venue, and their tour manager) for being ridiculously cool with the mini-Me I brought with me. Little Mister had rugby practice right after the time I’d scheduled for the interview so he sat in on our chat and took all the photos in the Flickr set linked above and which are on this page.
I’ll cover the main points of the interview here. As ever, the unedited mp3 is below – complete with interruptions from my able assistant when he required help with the camera!
Tell us a little bit about the band.
We’re Heights. We’re from Welwyn Garden City – down south and we’ve been together four years last month. We play post-hardcore, punk sort of music. Just trying to do something vaguely different – heavy hardcore music. That’s it really! Trying to do something a bit different in a scene where a lot of things are the same. It’s nice to try and push some boundaries.
Are you short a bassist at the moment?
Yes, we’ve got a friend called Steve who’s playing with us at the moment. It’s not a permanent thing. We’ve known him since earlier this year and he’s done all our touring with us over the summer. He’s filling in for us live, and then we’ll see where it goes. Just the four of us and a live bassist.
The first time I caught you was as main support for Biohazard. The first words I think I ever heard Monty say were “You probably wonder what the hell we’re doing on this stage. So do we.” You then promptly tore the place apart. So how did you get that gig?
All I heard was their manager wanted a young hardcore band from the UK that didn’t sound like Biohazard. We spoke to Billy and he said that when they started they were a hardcore band that sounded different. So although we don’t consider ourselves as a hardcore band, as per, they wanted someone a bit different as opposed to someone who’d copied something they created.
They were always saying to us they were the “misfits” of the New York scene, so it felt more appropriate for us to be there. I don’t know how the fans took it, but it was fun.
Biohazard are an older band so a lot of their fans are older. We had a lot of people come up to us and say “We were expecting you guys to actually suck!” All skinny and weedy… we don’t have that kind of an image. It was really nice to hear that kind of thing – “I’m a big Biohazard fan, but I really liked you guys as well.”
You’re just back from touring in Europe, aren’t you?
Yes, we did Europe in May this year. Must be our sixth… seventh time in Europe? It’s so big you can keep going back and still play to loads of different people. You can’t really wear it out, unlike the UK. We’ve not done a UK tour since February and every town we play on this tour we played in February!
In Europe you can go through an entirely new run of different towns, countries… Germany, though… When you do a European tour, it’s basically a German tour and you visit some other countries along the way. Germany’s massive and they really like the music. Italy’s been good to us as well; we’ve had some really good shows in Italy. We did Scandinavia for the first time… that show in France…
We never expected France to like us that much, but it was great.
I notice in the past when you’ve been touring, you often ask if fans have any crash space. How did that work out for you?
Yeah, that’s how we sleep in the UK! Still now, we stay with friends and fans. We’re sleeping at an old friend’s in Glasgow tonight. The UK’s easier because we’ve been touring around for a while now.
We’ve done it in Europe. We did a show in Milan about a year ago and we got the barmaid to write us a sign in Italian saying that we needed somewhere to sleep, which we put on the merch table. We got loads of people offering, we thing because we went to the trouble of getting the note in Italian!
Our merch guy actually uses Couchsurfing. He’s an Australian and he’s literally living on couches over here.
So this is the first headlining tour. Is it more work for you?
We’re doing forty to forty-five minute sets, so it’s a lot harder for me [Monty]. It needs a lot more stamina and fitness. Especially the first few nights, but I’ve got a lot more into it now.
We did a lot of work over summer. Hour long sets in Russia and so on, so we know we can do it.
I’ve never seen another band leap into the crowd to start a pit before.
Yeah, there’s more that you can do than the stereotypical shouts at the crowd. And it’s a benefit of playing smaller venues. I don’t like playing much bigger venues than the ones we’re playing. And I like the idea that we’re never going to be filling arenas or anything.
We played Newcastle last night and it was probably one of the best of the tour. It’s a big room [Newcastle University], but they always seem to be up for it. You could have hardly anybody there and they’d still go mental. They were thanking us afterwards for even coming!
Old Lies… has been out for a few months now. How are sales going?
Really good, actually! We just got a call last week… we get the first week, and then don’t hear much as it’s not really our concern. But we got an update the other week and it was a lot more than we expected.
You don’t really sell albums any more. People just torrent them from the day they come out. People at the label are always saying you should sell more, but what are you going to do?
We sell a lot more CDs in Europe than we do here. The UK tends to favour downloads, whereas there seem to be more collectors in Europe. Actually, we sold a lot more CDs on the Biohazard tour and I think that’s down to the age of the crowd.
Maybe a bit early to be asking about new material or anything, but… what’s next for Heights?
Actually, new material! Because of the way it works, the album was recorded a long time before it was released so it’s just not new to us any more. We recorded it in June 2012 and it came out in April 2013. It just goes to show that even if you’re the most prepared band in the world and you have your masters back really quickly, there’s still a big delay.
So for us, we’re totally ready for some new songs. I’m really excited to be getting back and writing some new stuff. Hopefully we’ll be recording this year and releasing something early next year. We’ve got a headlining European tour in December, but we’re hoping before that to get into the studio. Record a couple of songs, obviously not an album as yet.
When you’re a band like us, you change your sound quite a lot. So for us, it’s sitting down and writing just to see what comes out! We’ve done some songs that have, at first, come out completely different from everything else – we’ve had to work on them quite a bit to make them more like our other material. Otherwise we’d have an album with melodic songs next to really dark, heavy songs. A certain amount of variety is good, but they’d be like to two different bands.
The writing’s usually me [Monty] and Dean. There are some I’ve written the music and Dean’s done the lyrics, and vice versa. We’ll usually do the initial writing then take it to the rest of the band at Hutton’s house, who’ll put their influence on it and change it about until we’re all happy.
We did two videos off this album. We were going to do a third, but we thought we’d save the money and do something new later on with it. There’s a lot to be said for what they call “bridge singles” between albums. They show you how the sound’s changing and an album burns you out. And as we said, nobody’s buying albums any more.
Also, it lets you know if the route you’re going down is the route you want to be going down. You can come out of the studio after it’s recorded and think “that’s just what I want to be recording – I want to do an album now.”
There’s still a lot of pressure to do an album each you. You have to keep in the public eye and stay fresh. It can be hard.
If you could pick any band to support, who would it be?
[Monty] It would have been cool to support Alexis, but they’re gone.
[Dean] I’d love to support a band like Deftones. Or Let Live.
[Monty] I think I’d like to open for Dilinger. People say we’re wild live, but they’re the next level. It would be nice to play a show where they’re the bar and you’re trying to beat them every night. And fail miserably!
And then there are bands that have gone and come back – like Cancer Bats.
[to find out who they had a good tour with, but thought were a “terrible band”, listen to the recording!]