Against all odds, 2023 has been a huge year for hardcore and Britpop. Both genres are having a serious moment, reaching wider audiences than they have in ages. (There’s no other reason why both Blur and Pulp reunited for tours at the same time. There are no coincidences in rock ‘n’ roll.)
London’s High Vis manages to sound like both genres without really being either. They’re a band that can be simultaneously intense and introspective, artistic without sacrificing aggression. It’s a fine line, but they walk it brilliantly.
After completing their first American tour earlier this year (which included a stop at Cobra Lounge), High Vis will be back in the U.S. for a run of shows that kicks off at the Empty Bottle with Nothing and includes Sunday’s performance at Riot Fest! We couldn’t be more thrilled to have them back so soon, and their set on the Rebel Stage is bound to be one of the weekend’s most talked about moments.
We talked to frontman Graham Sayle about all of the above, the complexities of anger and, naturally, Insane Clown Posse.
- Talk For Hours
- Out Cold
- Trauma Bonds
- Fever Dream
- Morality Test
- Join Hands
Nothing & High Vis @
The Empty Bottle
Riot Fest Late Night Aftershow
Friday, September 15
High Vis was just in Chicago a few months ago for a show at Cobra Lounge. How was that?
It was amazing, one of my favorite shows. The whole thing was sick, it was such a mad group of people, super rowdy. I loved it.
That was the first time High Vis toured the U.S., but you toured the States in 2009 with another band. How was the experience different this time around?
We were younger, I was drunker. We were sleeping on people’s floors and just being scumbags, really. Now I’m staying in hotels and shit, living the luxury life! (laughs) Really, it’s cool that hardcore and punk are so massive at the moment. To play a tour of shows that are all sold out is mad.
In addition to those sold club shows, you’ve been playing some pretty huge festivals. Is that about as different as you can get?
We’re getting more used to it, but I don’t think I’ll ever be used to it. It’s fucking cool. We never ever thought we’d have the opportunity to do that, but I don’t treat any of them any different. It’s just harder because of barriers, security and shit like that. We just played in Finland to tens of thousands of people, and it was amazing. But it is totally different.
Before your Riot Fest set, you’ll be at The Empty Bottle for an aftershow with Nothing.
Can’t wait for that! Nicky (Palermo) shouted us and said “We’ll do something, just us.” I was like, “Fuck yeah, amazing!” I love them a lot. He did pretty much everything with getting the show together.
I think you’re gonna love that venue.
That’s what everybody’s been telling me! Sounds like that’s the spot in Chicago. It’s gonna be a good way to start it off. Because Riot Fest is huge, isn’t it? I make no effort to look into anything beforehand, because I just don’t want to know. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism? I don’t have any expectations for shows. I don’t think about them. But I’ve seen the lineup for Riot Fest and it’s insane. I saw we’re playing the same stage as ICP! (laughs) Really, though, I hope we have time to hang out and see some music.
Your latest album, Blending, contains some really straightforward lyrics about taking care of your mental health during the pandemic. What was that like for you?
It forced me into reflecting on myself and everything around me. Being alienated from people and being stuck with yourself makes you think about how you truly feel. During the pandemic, I just drank a lot and was alone until I hit the ass end of it. What came out of that was a really positive thing, though, making a change and not just repeating those patterns.
In a recent interview, you said “Anger is an easy emotion.” I thought that was really profound and was curious how you think that applies to punk?
Fuck, I never in my life thought anyone would ever repeat anything I said back to me! (laughs) The only thing I used to say in interviews was “No comment,” but now I’ve started going to therapy and shit, so I talk actively about everything.
Anger is a starting point, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Underneath anger is generally fear, for me. It’s protective and defensive, but below that is where the hard work is. For yourself, you should understand yourself, whatever it is. Maybe it harks back to something else you’ve been through, but anger is just the tip of the iceberg. But using your anger can be a powerful thing…
Like John Lydon said, “Anger is an energy.”
Yeah, it can be. For righteous causes. You can be angry about stuff that’s unjust. As long as you’re not angry because of jealousy or empty selfishness, it can be a good, powerful thing. It’s also just valid to feel a certain way. That’s why hardcore and punk are good. It’s good to have an outlet for that stuff, because sometimes it takes a lot of work to figure out why you’re angry.
But it’s worth the work, right?
I personally think so! Shit. I’m still coming to terms with this shit…
Are there any sets you’re hoping to catch while you’re at Riot Fest this year?
There’s loads of hardcore bands I’d like to see while we’re there. I think it’ll be interesting to see some of them on a bigger stage. It should be massive. Really, playing on the same stage as ICP is still fucking funny to me. (laughs)
Riot Fest 2023 Tickets + Lineup
Don’t miss High Vis performing live at Riot Fest 2023 on Saturday, September 16th. That same day, see The Postal Service, Death Cab For Cutie, Queens of the Stone Age and many more.
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