A few years can make a big difference—and no one knows that better than the Higher. Just one year ago the group were despondent: they were unsure about their line-up and didn't feel like the music they were playing fully represented their eclectic tastes. However, instead of calling it quits the band decided to take fate into their own hands and change all of that. "We've always been fans of R&B and pop and I think as we got older we appreciate it more," says guitarist Tom about the band's motivation to incorporate more of those elements into their music. "We just can't wait for people to hear this album."
Originally formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2002, the band have undergone a massive reinvention since their debut full-length Histronics dropped in 2005. "I feel like this record definitely represents the Higher better than the last record," drummer Pat explains about On Fire, which was recorded earlier this year in Beverly Hills with Mike Green (Paramore, The Matches). "With this record we were really able to focus on writing the songs to the best of our ability," he continues. "We found our zone and just went from there, you know?"
Although On Fire's upbeat amalgam of emo, punk and R&B may catch some listener's off guard, there's enough diversity on the album to please everyone from Jawbreaker to Justin Timberlake. The infectious opening single "Insurance?" is a bonafide dance-floor anthem; "Guts" is a guitar-driven rock song that explores the group's darker side; and with its glitchy beat and stuttering synths, Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy's remix of "Pace Yourself" is guaranteed to get even the most jaded hipster out on the floor.
"It really feels like we have a fresh start," says Tom, crediting the band's newfound positivity to last year's addition of guitarist Reggie and their new home on Epitaph. "When he joined, he made us realize that we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted with our music," he continues. "We're fresh as babies now. We're ready." While the songs on On Fire are familiar enough to appease dedicated fans of the Higher, in many ways the band have transcended their roots and created something wholly unique in a landscape dominated by mediocrity.
The Higher have already converted Epitaph founder Brett Gurewitz (who signed the band after seeing them perform just once) as well as fans all over the world—and now it's your turn to get turned onto the Higher. Oh, and if you don't dig it, well, that's cool, too. "There's definitely going to be kids who hate it and there's definitely going to be kids who love it—but I think even those kids who hate it are secretly going to fall asleep listening to it," Tom says about punk purists' potential reaction to On Fire's soul jams. "I just think people should have an open mind and be ready for something different."