It’s been quiet on the High Hazels front – until now. Crashing onto the radar with their self-titled 2014 debut, the Sheffield quartet have had a three year absence to finetune their latest indie-pop EP, ‘Weak Sun’. Ahead of their upcoming UK tour, we chatted to singer/guitarist singer James Leesley about ‘Weak Sun’, lyrical content – and the current state of Sheffield’s music scene:
For any TMB readers who aren’t familiar with you guys, could you give us a quick summary about High Hazels?
I’d describe us as a four piece band that tries to write alternative guitar music. We’ve know each other since we were at school, apart from our new bass player Paul [Musgrave], who’s only just joined the band – replacing my brother who’s gone to London to study art! But we’ve know Paul for quite a while, which is great. We’ve been writing songs since we were at school and carried on since then. And now we’re getting on a bit!
Your debut album came out in 2014 – and after a three year silence, you’re back with the ‘Weak Sun’ EP. Aside from Paul, what else has changed in the band?
I think from the time between the album coming out to now, we’ve learnt a lot. We now know where we want to go musically. At the time of writing High Hazels, we were looking at multiple roads we could go travel down with the sound. But now, I feel that we’re more settled on our sound – and more conscious of how it comes across to the listener.
Do you think your music influences have changed in the three years since the album came out?
I think so, yeah! We’ve had similar influences throughout our career, but I think some have become stronger over time. Lyrically, things still have the same dark tone as they did on the album – but we’re trying to get magic and dreaminess into the songs now. We want the music to have a similar sound, but have more depth to it.
You guys named yourselves after a local park in Sheffield. What’s your opinion on Sheffield’s current music scene?
I think over the last five or six years, the strength of Sheffield’s music scene’s has dwindled. I haven’t got any favourite new bands that are necessarily from Sheffield – though there are bands I love that have moved on from the city, such as Slow Club. Obviously the rise of the internet has played such a big part in modern music. I feel like what used to be the power of a scene to get heard as a band can now be done on your own through an online presence. It’s either that, or there’s a really good music scene here that we’re not a part of!
So you guys kick off a mini tour this month, playing four different cities in two days. Are you excited to get back out on the road?
Yeah, massively! With Paul just joining, he’s only had chance to play a few gigs with us – so that’s really exciting to get on the road with him. Nothing’s changed in the band dynamic-wise since he joined, which is a great sign! We haven’t played outside of Sheffield for a long time, which means people will have sat on our music for a lot longer, waiting to see us live. That’s crazy! We’re just excited to get back out and play.
Do you have a favourite city (or venue) outside of Sheffield that you love to play?
We’ve always loved playing Manchester. I think the music scene in Manchester has been on the rise since we last played too. There’s always loads going on there. We’ve played some great gigs at The Castle – it’s such a lovely little venue. Deaf Institute is a venue we’d love to play in Manchester, too – I’ve been to loads of gigs there.
After you finish the tour, what are your plans for the remainder of 2017?
We’ve just been in the studio, so we’ve got a few tracks that we can’t wait to put out. We’re just waiting until we can release something that leads onto the next album or an EP. We’re in the arrangement stage at the moment, but we’re definitely going to be bringing out new music soon. The plan is to play more gigs on the back of releasing the new music, and see where that takes us!
Final question! If there was one thing you’d want your fans to know about High Hazels, what would it be?
I’d probably say that we’re not as serious people as the music might make you think we are! We’re serious about the music side, but we constantly look for the next joke one of us can make – which often leads us to being unproductive!