The world works on the energy of opposing forces, and High Places is no different. Its two members couldn’t be further apart: Mary, 24, majored in orchestral bassoon performance and grew up in small-town Michigan, while Rob, 34, was studying visual art and engaging in the punk and hardcore music scenes. The group’s songs are just as surprising.
They manage to take elements of electronic and noise music and merge it with tropical rhythms and sweet-sounding semi-spoken vocals to make some counterintuitive — and surprisingly danceable — pop songs. When asked about his vision for the group, Rob told the music download website eMusic, “I thought it would be cool to channel something like Beat Happening and filter it through Black Dice.”
Their technique is admittedly haphazard and results in songs that are sometimes surprising, even to the duo. The songs start off without much direction in mind, but according to Rob, “Lyrically is when it starts to take hold for me as far as what the song really feels like ... before that it just seems fragmented.” The real magic, it seems, comes from the collaboration: They’ve even gone so far as to describe themselves as a trio, saying, “It’s almost like a third person making the music.” Certainly, High Places is more than the sum of its parts, both members with their own diverse and differing background adding something to the entire process.
Mary and Rob met in Brooklyn in 2006 and High Places started as an experiment that was only supposed to last a summer. It soon became clear that High Places was something more and Mary abandoned her plans to continue to graduate school: “A lot of times, you learn what you don’t want to do from school.... I want to break all of these rules I just learned.” They released a number of limited-edition seven inches and compilation tracks that were compiled into an album by eMusic, then released on CD by their new label, Thrill Jockey. Their self-titled debut full-length album is out Sept. 23, and marks significant growth for the duo. Partly to account for this growth, according to Rob, is their exhaustive touring, especially with “Lucky Dragons, who construct music in a lot of similar ways, using acoustic sounds and piecing them together into a bigger picture.” Mary added, “You learn so much from seeing a band play every night that you can’t help being influenced by something.”