The Scoop: New Jersey’s High. – Nu Age Shoegaze Champions

If Shoegaze, in its traditionally rebellious form, is a characterised sub-genre of dreams, distortion, and deeply-rooted ethereality, then New Jersey’s High. are this generation’s nu-age champions.

Crafting commuter friendly Shoegaze for the metropolis outcasts and adolescent-adventurers of New Jersey and beyond, High., originally formed of guitarist / vocalist Christian Castan and bassist / vocalist Bridget Bakie, are cutting diamonds from the grey-scale slabs of suburbia.

“I gain a lot of inspiration from commuting all over New Jersey…” notes Castan. “Riding on the highways ‘cause it literally takes anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour to get anywhere cool.”

Adamant not to follow in the big-city clichés of many before them, Bakie and Castan, both staple members of the East Coast music scene in their own right, firmly rooted their seeds of inspiration in the grounding nature of their hometown of Boonton, NJ; a decision which inspired the trajectory of their creative outlook during the solitary cliff-hanger of the global pandemic.

Feeling “super fatigued and unmotivated”, the duo sprung straight into action as soon as restrictions were lifted. Debuting in September of 2021 with a live set-up formed of Barkie, Caston, and the addition of a second guitarist and drum-machine, High. wasted no time at all finetuning their (what would come to be) trademark splurge of Shoegaze-come-postcard-punk; a viscerally pictorial showcase of instrumental-indulgence and vocal anarchy, destined to live and breathe beyond the 8000 populated safety-blanket, of Boonton.

Picking up instant acclaim on the infamous DIY circuits of New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia, the duo soon realised that in order to achieve full mind, body, and soulful sonic-expansion, they may require the support of a few additional players; ditching the drum-machine in favour of their neighbour Jack Miller, with guitarist Danny Zavala joining the group that following spring.

Now with an army of musicians and fans at their beck and call, 2022 saw High. settling down into the rhythms of their own creation; and thus their debut single ‘Dead’, a structural barricade of discordant beauty, was born. A “heavy collaboration between the band and our producer Matthew Molnar”, ‘Dead’, along with its subsequent predecessors ‘Painbox’ and ‘Lifetimes’, was recorded at Cloud Factory in Woodland Park, NJ, with close friend and collaborator Shane Furst.

Where ‘Dead’ and ‘Painbox’ are a lo-fi macabreists day-dream- all bedroom insularity and collaborative-cessation, ‘Lifetimes’ is the inescapable no-man’s-land in which real-world nightmares form the basis of subconscious freedom. Inspired by a hyper-realistic dream in which Caston visits a friend who’s recently passed, ‘Lifetimes’ reaches beyond the parameters of love and loss to clutch the beating heart of bereavement; manifesting itself as an emblematic embodiment of tranquillity and mournful incomprehensibility.

“I could not communicate or speak , but was in my friend’s basement helping them fold laundry. Such a weird scenery but Incredibly peaceful. When I awoke, I was permanently affected and in extreme pain. I wish I could have had a conversation. Our dreams take us to different universes and it makes us feel connected to others.”

A tough year to follow, 2023 see’s High. start as they mean to continue with the release of their fourth single ‘Bomber’. Forming the basis of their debut EP set to swiftly follow suit, ‘Bomber’ is a luscious demonstration of melancholic freak-out; all wrinkled guitars and saturated bursts of lyrical explosiveness. Recorded this time, at Strange Weather Studios in Brooklyn (the iconic haunt of fellow Shoegazers DIIV), with Daniel Fox and Daniel Schlett, ‘Bomber’ is a heightened step-up into a newer, grungier unknown; a definitive mark which sees the group twist and contort the iridescent musicianship we’ve grown to love thus far, with effortless conviction.

Follow High. on Instagram here. Stay tuned for future releases here.

Photo by Luke Ivanovich.

Issue Forty-One of So Young is out now and available to read in print here or as a digital magazine below.