Tuesday, December 17, 2013

HIGH WATER

Vitriol Records launches into 2014 with the February 4th release of the self-titled debut LP by High Water.

Stream "Garage Window", the opening track off High Water, exclusively on BrooklynVegan!

Vitriol Records is the Los Angeles label founded by Justin Smith, member of the bands Graf OrlockGhostlimb, and Dangers. A DIY powerhouse, Smith has churned out a stellar catalog of artfully packaged releases via Vitriol over the past half decade. Although perhaps best known for jaw-dropping collectibles such as Graf Orlock's Doombox (an EP housed in a life-sized, cardstock boombox), the label is no gimmick, nor is it a vehicle solely for Smith's own bands. Recent releases include an LP by French trio Birds In Row (now calling Deathwish Inc home), the final album by Bay Area post-hardcore stalwarts Comadre, and Do You Have Anything To Declare?, a book about touring bands' border crossings, authored by Smith and music journalist Kevin Stewart-Panko. Smith was named "one of the most interesting people in Los Angeles" by the LA Weekly in its "People 2013" issue.

Based in San Mateo, California, just south of San Francisco, High Water is fronted by Smith's bandmate in Ghostlimb, Neal SharmaIn High Water, Sharma is flanked by three of his oldest, closest friends - guitarist Jon Drinnan, bassist Ben Lambdin, and drummer Mike Cross - and to hear them talk about their band is to be reminded of how pure it can be to make music with friends. "We all have known each other for 10-15 years as friends and have grown up playing music together," says Sharma. "It always feels that much more meaningful to be making music with close friends."

A far cry from the hardcore punk of Ghostlimb, High Water makes earnest, stately rock songs, descended from The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr, even Neil Young. In Justin Smith's words, "the sound sits somewhere between guitar-centric rock and whiskey-soaked awesomeness." The self-titled debut album, High Water, was recorded live to 2-inch tape, mixed and mastered, all by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Loma Prieta, Ghostlimb) at his East Palo Alto studio, The Atomic Garden.

In a voice that is weathered yet hopeful, Sharma sings stories of people known and places traveled. He claims his perspective is informed not only by his DIY punk roots but by his current day job at Peninsula Open Space Trust, a nonprofit land trust that works to conserve open space, parkland, and farmland in the Bay Area. References to the power of the natural world abound throughout his lyrics.

Another winner for Vitriol, High Water sees the label plow forth in its evolution, unfettered by any rules about what is hardcore or what is cool. It's a great way to start a new year.