The High Strung Return with ¿Possible O Possible?
By Kyle Melton
After spending the better part of a decade touring the country virtually non-stop, Detroit-via Brooklyn-via Detroit indie rock juggernauts, The High Strung, find themselves in an unusual spot at the moment: off the road at home. That’s all about to change, however, as the band just released a new album, ¿Posible o’ Imposible?, which they’ll be getting out to support. With a new lineup in tow – Josh Malerman [songs/vocals], Chad Stocker [bass], Derek Berk [drums], and Stephen Palmer [guitar] – and a renewed enthusiasm for the myriad possibilities of songwriting in the rock medium, we spoke with Malerman about the new album, the band’s penchant for touring and the possible futures for The High Strung.
Dayton City Paper: What has been going on with the High Strung over the last few years? It seems that you’ve added a fourth member to the group. How did that come about?
We toured like sociopathic maniacs for some six years. It was about as riveting an experience as any band can have: writing albums on the road, sometimes writing songs on stage, mid-set. For no real reason, that run came to an end, and we moved back to Detroit. Once home again, we made a new album, called Dragon Dicks (a total transvestite of an album), and between that and being home, we could see we were reinventing ourselves. Not in philosophy, not necessarily, and not in style, but in an artistic way. Suddenly the songs felt like they were made of rubber, and we could do whatever we wanted to with them. I think we understood that, being a group of musicians, there was and is no reason to handcuff ourselves to a “pop” chair. All that in mind, and wanting the show to be more of a presentation, I tired of the guitar, felt something like a slave to it, truth be told, and I asked Stephen Palmer if he’d like to join up and play it instead of me. He was well known around Detroit, certainly one of the best in the city, and once he joined the band, things exploded in color. So we made another album, ¿Posible o’ Imposible?, our first with him. -Josh Malerman
DCP: How did the new album, ¿Posible o’ Imposible?, come together? How long did it take to write/record? Where did you record?
This was a classic case of looking down and realizing you have a batch of songs written. I think a good practice for a songwriter is to write whether or not you forecast an album on the horizon. That way, it’s like leaving yourself presents for when the idea of recording does come around. We did ¿Posible o’ Imposible? with Jim Diamond, who’s getting better and better. The records are a liberating experience, somewhat fast to make, because it feels like a lot the “work” is done during practice. The albums are a performance, the tape and Jim being an audience of two. -JM
DCP: How do you feel about the results of the new album? How do you feel it compares/fits in with your catalog? Where did the album title come from?
We didn’t set out to make albums that vary from one another and we also didn’t plan on them sounding alike. I do worry, sometimes, about maintaining a “voice,” a something that a listener could point to and say, “is that the High Strung?” But that’s going to come naturally over the course of a dozen or so songs. It’s hard to hide your real voice and you shouldn’t ever have to. All that said, we’ve inadvertently made six albums that vary greatly from one another. So to say that ¿Posible o’ Imposible? fits into our canon only suggests that it too, is something different than the other ones. I’d like to take this philosophy much further. I’d like to make albums that are so fucked up the listener worries about my mental health. The title came from a Spanish class exercise I had in college. -JM
DCP: What else should readers know about the new album, tour, and The High Strung for the rest of 2012?
We absolutely love Dayton. I don’t need to tell you that Bob Pollard is a melodic-wizard-marvel, but he is. Let’s have fun at our show. When the song asks us to get heavy, we’ll get heavy. And if it’s strange? Let’s feel strange. I truly hope that our songs, these songs, the new album, all of it and all of us get people thinking that they can do whatever the hell they want to with their lives. I really hope that, one day, we’re on that side of the ledger in the big book of rock n’ roll. I’d be aghast to discover we were on the other side; delivering sadness. I’m much more of a madcap than a sadcap, and I so hope this insanity, this love, is handed directly to anyone who attends the concerts. -JM
The High Strung will perform on Friday, June 8 at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. Also on the bill are The Motel Beds and Riley. Admission is $5 for 18 & up. Doors at 9 pm. For more information, visit thehighstrung.com.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden/net.