High Hazels

Acquaint yourself with the story of High Hazels and you might marvel at the speed at which they’ve already appeared to establish themselves in the hearts of our city’s music lovers…

Steve Lamacq gave them a spin on Radio 6 before they’d ever played live and, a couple of months on, you could say that their star seems set to rise in dramatically. However, two years locked away in a practice room rehearsing their craft hints at a grounded young band, whose dogged determination should see them avoid the trap of listening to their own hype.

Their carefully woven dream-pop appears to settle comfortably within every crevice of the charming Tesla Studios: Sheffield’s newest and potentially most wondrous troubadours have arrived.

Was it ever frustrating, waiting so long before playing live?
J: It’s not frustrating, it’s more that you have to be disciplined. We’re rehearsing three or four times a week – it’s quite a regime and you just get used to it. Some bands just work toward gigs, or work towards recording, but we just wanted to write and practise getting the songs perfect first.
S: We all had the same drive, sort of thing. It weren’t as though we wrote a couple of songs and thought ‘let’s play a gig.’ We didn’t even have a bass player at first, it were only when Paul joined that we started to think that this could actually work.

With it taking so long initially to get the songs how you liked them, I’m interested to hear about your songwriting process – I assume there’s a lot of attention to detail…
J: It’s very rarely that were working on separate ideas, we’ll usually all be playing little bits together then suddenly all four of us will sort of click and think ‘that were nice…’
S: We strip it back so that it sounds good just on an acoustic guitar – if that sounds good then you never need to hide behind any effects on stage and everything just builds from there, really.

What are the stories behind the songs for your Session, then?
J: ‘French Rue’ is the one that’s been played on the radio a bit; that’s about when you’ve got a taste for something but then it goes for a while, so you’re trying to be persistent, whether it be a girl or a guitar… it’s not a guitar (!), but just being patient and hoping it will come back. ‘Loose Stitches’ we wrote a while ago but haven’t played much. It’s our take on going out and socialising…

That’s a bit of a surprise, putting that subject matter to your sound…
S: Yeah, it’s our spin on it. We didn’t want to start naming drinks though.
J: It’s about not being very confident as well, when you think ‘I wish I had said summat then…’
A: We wrote that a long time ago though so hopefully we have improved a bit!
J: And ‘So Strange’; we’ve tried to keep it as open as possible but it can easily be applied to relationships – not in a positive or negative way, but when you look back on loads of stuff that’s happened and wondered how you are where you are.

You mentioned the airplay for ‘French Rue’: when people with the influence of Jarvis Cocker and Steve Lamacq are saying they’re fans, how does that feel?
S: Great! It shows you’re on right lines. For so long we had no one behind us telling us how we sounded, so it were a massive pat on t’back really.
P: We’d been our own judge for so long it were just good to get someone else’s opinion.
S: We had the songs but weren’t sure how we were going to get going, really, so I just sent Steve Lamacq a note with a picture of us and a couple of days later we got played. We found out off someone else – they wanted to know if we were touring – we were like ‘no, haven’t played one gig yet!’

After that you’ve got quite a bit of attention – in Sheffield at least: do you feel under pressure due to the hype surrounding you now?
J: We’ve always thought that as long as we’re happy with our songs, then whether we’re playing here or on a massive stage somewhere, we don’t worry that much do we?
P: It’s still early days as well so I think it’s too early to feel any pressure really.
S: We just want to focus on carrying on writing songs and just improving as a band.

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