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The Higher Biography

Last updated: 09/25/2007 12:00:00 PM

By Jarret Keene

Gathered around a table inside of downtown Las Vegas' Boston Pizza, scarfing slices of an extra large pie with everything on it, the boys who comprise the Higher don't seem like a local-music success story. If anything, they appear more like GameCube marathoners, with their teenage complexions, slouching postures and scuffed footwear. Indeed, had I not downloaded a killer track called "Midnight" from the band's website prior to our meeting, I might've doubted the quintet's promise and potential as the next big thing in pop-punk.

The Higher, on the other hand, has never had doubts. In fact, the band did something many would consider a serious gamble. Earlier this year, the kids, playing under the name September Star, borrowed money to produce an EP, confident that it would get them signed to a label.

It worked. After securing Beau Burchell (engineer for post-hardcore band the Bled's Pass the Flask) to handle the recording, the band drove to Newport, Calif., every weekend for two months until the EP was done. Burchell passed on the tapes to A&R at Fiddler Records, which resulted in the band's signing. Fiddler gave the Higher money to mix and master the five songs, and now the result is in stores nationwide: star is dead.

Never heard of September Star or the Higher? Well, someone in town has, because all 300 copies that shipped to stores in Las Vegas have sold out. Not a big deal, unless you consider that the EP was released a mere week ago. That the band changed its name a few months before launching a product seems to be another gesture of confidence.

"[The label] gave us an option, whether or not to change our name," says singer Seth Trotter. "September Star was what we called ourselves in high school. Also, [changing our name] marked a turning point in our lives. Now we're moving forward."

Forward is definitely the direction in which star is dead moves. Opening song "One for Hope" begins with quietly chiming guitars (courtesy of ax-masters Tom Oakes and James Mattison) before exploding into soaring melodies, (drummer Pat Harter's) jackhammer beats and layered riffing. "Black Sunday" turns the formula upside down with a fierce, double-time intro followed by a plangent, plaintive choruses. It's technical yet expressive rock 'n' roll, with hooks that'll keep you humming along even as the guitars and drums do their best to blow out your eardrums.

Like any debut, it has some flaws, mostly in the lyrics' limited subject matter, which even Trotter admits they're working on.

"[Three songs] are about getting short-shifted by girls," he says. "Our lyrics will grow as we tour the country and grow as a band."

The development will come, as long as the Higher continue its grueling practice regimen, which involves rehearsing five hours every single day of the week.

"Now that we got signed, we make this our job," confirms Trotter. "When we're on tour, we'll play every night. That's why we take this seriously."

Does the Higher's recent signing and upcoming tour seem to be rubbing off on other local bands?

"I hope it pumps up our scene," says Oakes.

"But what's important," adds Trotter, "is for them to see that signing to a label gets you on tour and into a larger scene."

The Higher is throwing a CD-release party at the (soon-to-be-closed-for-remodeling) Huntridge this weekend, before embarking on a West Coast tour. The band wouldn't have it anywhere else.

"It's our favorite venue," says Trotter, "because it's big and intimate at the same time."

After the tour, the band returns to the studio to record a full-length for Fiddler, taking things -- with any luck -- even, well, higher.

"I'll be playing music forever," pledges Harter. "I wanna be on an oldies station one day."