The story of High Heavens begins in 1996 when Austin, Texas emo-punk troubadours Glorium were invited to tour the southern United States with Washington, DC legends Fugazi. It was there that guitarist of Glorium Ernest Salaz (and later moody dark pop band I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness) met Fugazi’s Front of House engineer Nick Pellicciotto (of DC’s Edsel and New Wet Kojak).
Fast forward to Austin in 2017, and the two friends formed the debut of High Heavens, a band built on their same musical interests of the past 10 years. The band’s lineup was complete with keyboardist Jeremy Erwin, bassist Jonathan Skaggs (of San Francisco’s Crime in Choir), and the engaging, effervescent voice of one of Austin’s favorite sons, John Matthew Walker.
Their first single and album Spring is not calling was recorded and produced by Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn/Jack White, Modest Mouse, A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit and The Sword to name a few).
The band was able to play once in 2021 during the pandemic when tensions arose. Keyboardist Erwin had had enough of Austin and moved to Colorado, and Pelliciotto and Skaggs decided to pursue other musical interests. It was during this time that High Heavens transformed. Ernest and Johnny decided to record a few more songs with Stuart without a band. Ernest contacted his former Glorium rhythm section of George Lara (now with 60s Chicano soul band Eddie & The Valients and San Antonio pop group The Please Help) on bass and Juan Ramos (The Please Help) on bass. drums, and with a skeleton framework recorded some basic tracks.
An additional recording was made at The BBQ Shack by Austin heavy garage/psych/hardcore musician Jason Morales (guitarist of Tia Carrera, Black Mercy, Migas and Olympia, Helltrout of WA).
Conrad Keely, a longtime friend of…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, played additional keyboards on “Life is a Loan Shark,” as well as saxophone and Rhodes piano on “Hundred Bullets.”
High Heavens are currently rehearsing with new members and will be playing shows throughout Texas beginning in November 2022.
Today, Glide presents the album’s first single “Life is a Loan Shark”, a dreamy song about childhood memories and lost love. The band’s blend of indie rock and psychedelia are featured on this song, which finds them layered in heavy synths courtesy of Jeremy Erwin. There’s a touch of Bowie, a touch of Twin Peaks and a pinch of dark lounge pop. It all comes together to create an intriguing and enchanting song, with vocal harmonies and musical layers falling into place.
Ernest Salaz describes the process behind the melody:
“Life is a Loan Shark” was based on an acoustic demo called “Bolero” that I sent to the band, eventually finishing it and playing it live just before the world shut down in 2020. I really wanted to record it during it was hot but the other guys decided to move on. That’s when Johnny and I made the decision to follow him with Stuart. I called my old rhythm section from Glorium who came from San Antonio. We spent all day learning it and making it more minimal, with less rock sound and more room to add layers later, which I did at Jason Morales. Once Jeremy added his remote keyboards, I knew we were on the right track! Isolated keyboards sound amazing. For me, it was a natural progression to take what I learned from my other bands to create something deep, lush, and immersive. Johnny and Stuart are the perfect conduits for all those pent up ideas I had.
John Matthew Walker adds his own take on the lyrics:
“Life is a Loan Shark is a reflection on the gap between our expectations and what life offers us. There she laments, jaw dropping; his search for gold brought in money. See her dancing, grateful hands; a coin is in front of her.