Photos by Emma Bormet at EB Photography
With so much press being given to the headliners of Riot Fest, the media sometimes misses out on one of my favorite aspects of the festival: the up-and-coming bands like High Waisted. Sure, when it comes to the strange diva demands of Morrissey and praying the Misfits don’t break up before closing the final day, there’s plenty to talk about. However, at it’s core Riot Fest has become a showcase for artists who happen to explode on the scene not too long after making an appearance on of the six stages.
Hailing from New York City, High Waisted have already made a name for themselves with their exclusive blend of punk influenced surf rock.
It makes the listener want to stage dive as much as shoot the proverbial curl. Fronted by the equally lovely as flamboyant Jessica Louise Dye, with Steven on guitar, Jono on drums and Jeremy on bass, High Waisted are poised to take over the underground surf scene, and if that particular scene doesn’t exist yet, they are happy with taking the indie rock n roll scene while they’re waiting.
During Day Two, before tearing into one of my personal favorite sets of the festival I had the opportunity to sit down with High Waisted and discuss what makes them tick, the importance of the do-it-yourself aspect of the indie scene, as well as what it means to be in a woman-lead rock band in today’s music industry.
How did High Waisted get started as a band?
Jessica: We met at a bar sharing old vinyl records and sipping spicy tequila in the lower east side.
For someone who hasn’t heard of your band, how would you describe your sound?
Jessica: We are a cannonball of glitter, exploding in space and time
Jono: Party for your ears.
Jeremy: ….I dunno, I liked her answer
Steven: Rock N Roll
I hear so many different influences in your music. A little Link Wray, Dick Dale, and maybe even a little bit of The Ventures, what bands or artists directly influence what you do?
Jessica: The Beach Boys, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Ventures…Not who, what. NYC. Lovers. Gravity. The Desire to dance!
Jono: There’s a lot of Led Zeppelin in what I do, but that’s not necessarily the band itself, I think we all have different influences.
Jeremy: Yeah everyone in this band has some seriously different influences. I’m like really into The Pixies and Nirvana and all that stuff but this guy here Steven listens to like Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall.
Jessica: Dionne Warwick.
Steven: Yes. Dionne Warwick for sure.
What are you listening to right now? Anyone here at Riot Fest you’re stoked to check out?
Jessica: Obsessing over Parquet Courts and Angel Olsen. I am most stoked to see The Julie Ruin and Sleater-Kinney.
I love how you guys are doing everything on your own. I’m sure you’re not ‘anti-label’ or anything but as of right now, how important is it to have final say say in how you sound or what you do as a band?
Jessica: I think having control over your art, persona, image and aesthetic should be important to every artist – label or not. For this moment, it’s just easier unsigned to get what I want, when I want it, how I want it. But ideally, we’ll land on a label who has the same vision, hopes and dreams as we do. A label should be family and team members – that keeps the DIY alive.
Yeah, I’m really into the DIY aspect of music these days. As a musician myself, I have so much respect for artists who just get out there and make it happen. Just putting yourselves out there, label or not.
Jono: Yeah, it’s not to say that we don’t want to be signed, it’s just that you don’t need to be signed to be here. You know what I mean? Here we are playing Riot Fest, but we’re not on a label. But if someone turned around and offered us a great deal that would help us, we’d want them to be on our team.
Jessica: We’d want them as part of our family. Really everyone we work with is like our family.
I absolutely love your album On Ludlow but this is the first time I’m getting to see you live. What can I expect to see in your set later?
Jessica: Lots of jumping around, hair flipping, laughing. We get to jam our fave tunes in front of new people, it’s the best damn feeling.
The last thing I expected to hear from a NYC band is surf. Explain that!
Steven: Well surf music is everywhere, all over the country, all over the world. and there IS surfing in Montauk!
Jessica: and the Rockaways! Rock Rock Rockaway Beach! That’s where we go!
Steven: Yeah surf music can play anywhere, it doesn’t matter where you are. It’s really more of a mind set.
Jeremy: It’s a way of life man, a way of life.
Steven: It’s a Wave of life.
Jono: I like to think that there’s a lot of people out there who think they’re playing surf rock music, but they’re not. They’re playing like garage rock with a lot of reverb or something. You know it’s about the lead lines, and the bass lines in there, and the drum beats we’re doing there, but we really try to bring a lot of other energy in there too. We definitely bring that east coast, NYC punk in there as well. Jess gets all Riot Girl, you know? It’s important to know our roots. I mean we love surf rock, we’re a surf rock band, but we’re also psyche! We’re rock n roll!
Jessica: I just wanna make music I can dance to. It’s the whole motivation of this band. I can’t dance to anything else. I would’ve made a lot more sense in the 60s.
This is your first big music festival? So far how has the experience been?
Jessica: It’s everything we’ve dreamed, getting to share the stage with our idols, beautiful weather and the kindest crowds.
Jono: Riot Fest has been incredible. They make you feel like you are part of their family. They take care of everybody, they feed you, they make sure you have plenty of hospitality. Everyone from the stage crew is super nice. Shout out to Shout out to Katie, shout out to Murder, Hot Carl. Just the best people, so nice.
Jessica: This was the perfect Baby’s First Festival for us.
Were you here on Day One? Did you get time to check out any of the bands?
Jessica: The Flaming Lips!
Jeremy: Flaming Lips, Jimmy Eat World. I caught a few minutes of Glassjaw.
Steven: The Specials!
Jessica: We’re here for the music!
Jeremy: They were like ‘do you guys just want the one-day passes?’ and we’re like No! We’re staying all 3 days. I wanna see some bands!
For only being around for such a short period of time, you’ve already gotten the reputation of being party animals…
Jessica: Us? Nawwww
I mean, I don’t even drink, but if I wanted to hang out with High Waisted for a night, what would happen?
Jeremy: It depends on where we’re at! I’d definitely hide some shrooms in your tacos!
Jessica: hey I only did that ONCE and I’m never gonna live it down!
Jeremy: Did you see our video for “Party In The Back”? If you have, you already know what we’re gonna do!
Steven: The bar in that video? That’s where we pretty much met actually.
There’s always been women in rock music, and some pretty amazing artists at that, with that said, do you feel it’s harder or easier for a woman to front a band these days? What’s your thoughts on women in the music industry in general?
Jessica: The music industry is innately rooted in misogyny. It’s manifested in the exclusion of female fronted bands from top billing at festivals, lower paying wages, sexual belittlement and objectification of female artists. I personally have been accused of using my sexuality as a marketing tool, or have had my talent undermined because I “play like a girl.” Women are seen as sexual objects in rock and roll’s history. Look at the covers of Guitar Magazine: scantily clad women next to amazing guitars. I want to be on the covers, feeling confident in any outfit I desire, not because I’m attractive, but because I earned it through my musicianship. Take a look at guitar pedals with sexist titles like “Big Muff,” “Fuzz Licker,” or “Bomb Shell.” There is hope though, because more girls are taking up music at a young age and the climate is slowly changing towards the positive. It takes constant open conversation and gentle correcting through education to finally reach gender equality in music.
What’s next for High Waisted?
A trip to the moon. Writing a new record. Figuring out how to play a show underwater.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.