North Highlands have a bewitching quality and a delectable approach to music, a spot on dynamic of rustic charm and sass driven by Brenda’s soft, yet potent cracked vocals. On first hearing Sugar Lips, the title track from their debut EP, I was immediately sold. Over the past couple of months the band have been busy working on their first album. Lead singer Brenda Malvini gives us the Highlands lowdown.
How did North Highlands come about?
I always dabbled and wrote songs while in school. I sometimes jammed with Mike (guitar), but never really had the time to get a band together and also I was pretty shy about sharing my songs with people so mostly just played for close friends. My friend Ric Leichtung booked shows at DIY space Market Hotel and he said to me one day last spring, “I booked you a show and you have a few weeks to get your shit together” So then I didn’t have a choice but to go and get myself a band. The dudes that make up North Highlands I found in school and through other friends and from the first day we jammed we just knew it was love.
There’s been a recent explosion of hip Brooklyn bands – what do you feel differentiates you from the rest?
That’s a tough one because there are a lot of Brooklyn bands that we love and have followed for a long time.
We’ve always said that our live shows are really important to us and that whatever recordings we do must be able to be performed. It just bums me out to hear a record that is super produced and then go see a band’s show and think “Wow, I totally could have stayed home and listened to your record instead.” Our last EP, ‘Sugar Lips’ is pretty laid back and when you see us live it’s a bit grittier and high energy. I think it’s always a nice surprise for people because it’s not expected from the recordings. When I see people dancing to our music it makes my heart so full.
What have been your musical influences?
We all have a ton of influences that I think really bring in nice colors to our music. I’ve been listening to a lot of Talking Heads lately and I think it’s starting to show! We’re all huge music fans and hope that our current songs will give some friendly nods to musical styles that have really inspired us.
How would you define your sound?
Latey there’s been some post rock/west african/americana/pop/dubstep sounds leaking into our songs. Whatever comes out when we’re jamming and dancing around just makes the song. and hopefully folks will like it.
You’ve been in the studio recently – what can we expect from the new material?
We’re really excited because it’s our first time in a real studio and we got to play around with some sick old instruments. All I can say is that I think that the new songs will pair nicely while lazying by the river and drinking beer from a paper bag. They’ll make good summer memories I hope.
What kind of feedback have you been receiving for both your EP and live shows?
Our EP received really kind feedback, which really excites us to keep going. “Sugar Lips” is essentially a sampler and offering of our beginning formation. The new recordings reflect more of a band sound of where we’re headed. We’ve also been given great reviews of our live shows which always makes us feel awesome. Sometimes I get really nasty stage fright and will forget entire chunks of songs and where my fingers go on the keyboard. I always have to apologise to the guys!
Any plans to tour abroad?
I wish. That is a life long dream for all of us I think. We have yet to take our van past the New Jersey border. My ultimate goal is to go abroad, I’d love to see how Europe reacts to our music, I want to see them dance! We are working on getting to Montreal in October, same continent but equally as excited!
Where would you most like to be right now?
I’d really like to be driving through the states right now with the guys, blasting Notorious B.I.G from our speakers and stopping off at a rest stop for lunch on the way to the pacific northwest. That is my daily daydream.
I spend a majority of my pay check on movie rentals. It’s kind of disgusting. Also hot dogs.
What’s the worse job you’ve ever done?
I worked at K-mart when I was 15 to save up for my first car.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your songwriting?
I was told in high school that I have Rapunzel complex, that I’m always waiting in a tower for my prince to show up! But lately, I’m drawing my inspiration from my age – trying to figure out who the hell I am and seeing my friends go on the same trip. Getting older IS hard.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
I sat down in a chair in science class freshman year and it broke. We all had a good laugh and then I went and cried in the bathroom.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I can’t say it’s just one person because there are so many people to look up to. I will say that I have always been surrounded by strong and creative women throughout my life. The women who raised me and the women who brought music into my life. The women who are my friends and my east coast family I consider to be the greatest and most beautiful women on earth.
What is your most treasured possession?
Definitely my keyboard. It’s the heaviest thing I own and the only thing I’d care about losing in a fire.
What does the future hold for North Highlands?
For now we’re working on new songs, writing and getting started on our first full length album. We’d totally drop everything to tour though, seriously can’t wait.