High Places made their ascent to Salt Lake City, UT last week to give us a taste of their latest effort, High Places v. Mankind. Since their last tour, they added a part-time member, Laura Pearson, the sister of Mary Pearson, who provided beautiful background harmonies to accompany her sister’s lead vocals. Also, Mary, who previously was chiefly in charge of vocals and sampling, has recently picked up the guitar and plays alongside the other half of High Places, aka Rob Barber. Suffice it to say, they have expanded their sound quite a bit since we last saw them.
They humbly took the stage at Salt Lakes Kilby Court, ready to rock and roll. After a brief introduction of the new member, and a summation of what theyd been up to for the past year or so, they dazzled the crowd with psychedelic, beat-heavy numbers. Mary has never sounded more confident and the addition of her sister, or more specifically her backup vocals, does wonders for the duos vocal sound.
Barbers guitar sounded as clean as ever and filled the small venue with its interesting chord progressions. He kept apologizing to the crowd because his guitar was not very broken in and it kept de-tuning itself. He joked that he wouldnt have to tune the thing if Mary wasnt so adamant about singing in the right key.
This was one of their first tour dates for the v. Mankind tour, so any minor hiccups throughout were expected. Regardless of the fact, High Places returned to SLC wielding a sound that was bigger, tighter, and more impressive than wed ever heard from them before. It truly makes me happy to see such nice people experiencing success. They were a pleasure to watch and listen to, and I got the added bonus of getting to talk with Mary Pearson and Barber about an hour before their set started.
So, you guys have been basically constantly touring since the inception of the band.
Barber: We did stop for a while, we didnt tour from like late last spring til now. We were working on the album, plus we had been touring for like a year and a half straight and were just like, ugh, you know?
Pearson: (laughs) Plus Rob needed nine months off for the baby. Maternity leave.
Barber: (laughs) Oh yeah. That too.
Well, Im just impressed that you can do that. Most bands tour in like, little spurts. How do you guys manage to do it so perpetually?
Pearson: Well, we kind of tour in a non-traditional way, I think just cause its the two of us. And I was like 22 when we started the band, and we were both just adults. And it wasnt like we were starting in high school and were like, Okay, were gonna go out and were gonna go out in my moms van and were gonna eat only bread and peanut butter and were gonna rage every night and never sleep.
Barber: Yeah, were like two grandparents on tour.
Pearson: (laughs) Yeah, Rob has this like Ziploc bag full of multivitamins. Were kind of health nuts. We both like to sleep a lot, and we drink Kombucha more than we drink beer.
Barber: I dont drink at all.
Pearson: So, because of that I think its made touring a little easier. Also, since its just the two of us, its allowed us to sort of, travel more. It makes going to different countries and things a little more feasible. And we try to keep our setup kind of portable.
Speaking of the setup, whats it gonna be like tonight?
Barber: Well, were gonna play some old songs. And in the old days, she would do a lot of effects and looping and vocals, and Id do the percussion and samples and some guitar, and that was that. So for this tour the biggest difference will be that we both are playing a lot of guitar and the guitars dont sound as treated as they did on previous records. It all sounds a little more organic.
Pearson: And Ive always wanted to learn to play guitar, like live. So I just plucked out little melodies and Id never really gotten to know the instrument before now.
Barber: We were on tour in Portland and Mary just came out of this record store and was like, I think Im gonna buy a guitar. And I was like, Cool! So, yeah, theres a lot of guitar for this new record.
What were the inspirations going into Mankind? Albums or places?
Barber: I think location, for sure.
Pearson: For me, just picking up the guitar. I remember we played a show with Awesome Color, who are friends of ours, and Ive always really loved their band. And they just are so awesome at playing rock music. Theyre such an underrated band and are so good at their instruments. It really made me want to practice the guitar. And to me, this album has been more of a rock record.
Barber: Yeah. And I kind of have the taste of, like, a middle-aged gay man. Ill be like, CeCe Penniston, that song rules! and I love house music, but then I loved like going to hardcore shows in the late 80s. I mean, you look at my iPod and youd think itd been stolen by seventeen different people and theyd each put their own stuff on there. And same with Mary, were both all over the place. So I think when we try to do something consciously, we just mess it up. But then hopefully through the process weve created something unique.
On A Hill
On Giving Up
The Longest Shadows
Shes A Wild Horse
The Most Beautiful Name
When It Comes
From Stardust To Sentience