Saturday, August 12, 2006

The High Dials: MAGNET Jan/Feb 2006

“There are two types of High Dials songs,” says 30-year-old singer/guitarist Trevor Anderson. “Love songs and science-fiction songs.” While he may be oversimplifying, there’s a grain of truth to every joke. The Montreal band channels the psychedelic ’60s, specifically that point when groups such as Love and the Zombies started mining Eastern influences for both sound and Zen philosophy.
“What are we?” asks Anderson. “We’re just a sum of memories. But my whole identity is made up of memories. How do you cope with them, deal with them and let go of them in a healthy way? I think that’s what I’m dealing with in a lot of songs.”
Then there’s Rishi Dhir’s sitar, which he swaps with his bass—emblazoned with an Aum (a sacred Hindu symbol)—during shows. Live, guitarist Robbie MacArthur assumes bass duties while Dhir rolls out a small rug, removes his shoes and sits dwarfed by the giant instrument. Dhir picked up the sitar while visiting relatives in India about a decade ago, but he admits there’s still room for growth. “I’ve been taking classical lessons for about a year with this German guy who looks like George Harrison,” he says.
Back in 2001, the High Dials formed out of mod trio the Datsons (Anderson, Dhir and drummer Robb Surridge), changing their moniker to avoid questions about name similarities with that other band (New Zealand-based Datsuns, who they happen to be friends with). The change also signaled a musical shift.
“It gave us an opportunity to break from our past,” says Anderson. “Spread our wings and broaden our scope. A New Devotion was the debut record of a new band.”
A New Devotion impressed the Rainbow Quartz label, which in 2003 ushered the worldwide release of the sprawling concept album about a boy named Silas and his battles with a futuristic city. The album was one of those big-in-Canada successes, cracking the top five charts on Canadian college radio but merely sliding into the top 50 in the U.S. college charts.
New sophomore effort War of the Wakening Phantoms was recorded in various garages and barns before the band sought out the expertise of producer Joseph Donovan (Dears) and mixer David Bianco (Teenage Fanclub, Frank Black). “Robbie and I both wanted to incorporate a lot of shoegazer elements in the music,” says Anderson. “We wanted to do an album that was very atmospheric and psychedelic.”
Phantoms is just as sprawling and thematic as its predecessor, and Anderson laughs when questioned about the viability of two consecutive 60-minute albums: “It’s part of the psychedelic tradition. Don’t cut the song short.”
The High Dials - The Holy Ground.mp3

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