High Places talk about new album, Olympics, and... heights

High Places talk about new album, Olympics, and... heights

Given the propulsive-yet-tropical-yet-ethereal experimental pop in which High Places specialize, one might expect them to be a little standoffish, a bit removed, sort of aloof. To our surprise, the duo of Mary Pearson and Rob Barker turned out to be normal and chatty in a late March interview. In advance of their April 2 show at the Triple Rock Social Club, the bi-coastal act -- one lives in Los Angeles, the other in NYC -- opened up about their name, the Olympics, new album High Places vs. Mankind, and heights generally.

High Places vs. Mankind feels a lot harder and more propulsive and pop than your first two records. Were you consciously headed in that direction, or did you just wind up there?

Mary Pearson: It seems to me that we've just naturally evolved in a lot of ways. We've gotten more comfortable recording ourselves and constructing songs. We had quite a few discussions about what we wanted the new album to sound like, but to be honest, the sound kind of appeared on its own. It's that sort of surprising end result that I like most about working with Rob. Neither of us ever knows where we're headed because the other person contributes something so different and unexpected.

Rob Barber: I kinda feel like the new record is a bit all over the place, as far as tone and tempo, like the drone songs and then the dance-ish numbers. I think that is because between the two of us, we like to play around with a lot of different ideas, and sometimes we throw really disparate ideas at each other within the same song.

Is there any significance to the album title? That doesn't seem like a fair fight.

MP: The album talks much more about personal human interactions and emotions than anything we've made in the past. We felt like it was time for a showdown.

Do you have a favorite place to shop or eat or visit when you're in the Twin Cities?

MP: Rob and I are both vegan, and we've found heaps of good food in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. I'm always up for some good East African food.

RB: I hope at some point we will be there in the summer, because in the past I have had a really rad time swimming in the lakes. How many cities have public lakes to swim in? Not many! I love to swim. There was a record store I went to in like 1997 that was really rad.
But I am not totally sure what area I was in -- in the west, maybe -- and every time we have been back, I am racking my brain trying to remember where it is! Any clues? I remember I bought Refried Ectoplasm on lime green vinyl and a Code 13 record. How's that for a
mash up?

Did you watch any of the Winter Olympics?

MP: I watched some curling, and I found myself surprisingly mesmerized. I like the idea of worldwide events. And as a native Michigander, I champion all things winter -- except for winter itself, which is why I now live in LA!.

RB: I don't own a TV, so I didn't see anything. I really like skiing, we both do actually, and we are pretty much exactly the same level of ability, so when we have gone together -- last time was in Alaska -- we have a blast. Although not having health insurance makes me a bit nervous... I like watching it too. Hockey is fun to watch, but I way prefer my grimey Flyers over the classy Olympics. You know, like foil on the knuckles kinda stuff. No front teeth. No helmets. Bushy moustaches. I guess it is also not 1978, so I should move on....

Your songs are really intricate, made up of a lot of samples, melodic lines, and beats. Given that there are two of you, is it difficult to replicate the albums in a live setting? How do you go about doing that?

MP: We've approached our live show in a variety of ways. With the new songs, we are both playing guitar, so I've had to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time.

RB: I play guitar as well now, too. We do rely a lot on sampling ourselves being that we are just two people, and the weird collage stuff we make is impossible to do live, which on one hand is cool because it makes the live sound a bit more dynamic than a straight up
drummer, but it would be cool to combine the samples and real drums at some point. I don't feel being only two is limiting though. Just makes us more -- hopefully -- innovative.

What's the most ridiculous guess someone has made as to why you call yourselves High Places? Why do you call yourselves High Places?

MP: All the connotations of "high places" are pretty cool. We like mountain tops, and euphoria, and the sort of religious implications of the name. If you saw the list we made back in 2006 of potential band names, I think you'd agree that High Places was the best choice.

RB: I think Mary is making fun of me.

Are you afraid of heights, or do you embrace them?

MP: I like 'em. There seems to be a feeling of accomplishment that comes from reaching great heights. Maybe that's a holdover from when we were tree dwelling animals -- we had to have respect for how high we are off the ground. Otherwise we might have fallen out of the tree.

RB: I am obsessed with heights. I love them. I am that dude that always freaks out their hiking partner by dangling my legs over cliffs and stuff.

HIGH PLACES play with Tobacco and the Hood Internet on FRIDAY, APRIL 2 at the TRIPLE ROCK SOCIAL CLUB. 18+. $10/$12 at the door. 9 p.m.

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