Highwind Shares Their Dizzying, Dazzling “Final Words”
By Will Yannacoulias
Photos by Darkstrand Visuals
Unveiled February 21, Final Words is the sophomore release from Moose Jaw's undefinable Highwind. The band's original lineup from 2016's Cellar Door of Chase Rysavy, Eric Taylor and Troy Waggoner are joined by longtime friend and long distance collaborator Ehren Pfeifer on the new six song EP. The band's debut was an excellent album and the social media buildup to Final Words had me excited to hear their follow-up effort. Three songs in and I was transfixed, excited to engage the artists behind the music.
If I may let the mask of journalistic professionalism slip for a moment; gawd I love this record. The songs are bursting with barely bottled energy, deftly evoking punk, pop, emo, hardcore, and alternative rock influences in unexpected but rewarding ways. Highwind are firmly rooted in a punk rock tradition but with more depth and humanity in the lyrics and more head and heart in the music. Melodic, complex and structured in a way that demands your attention yet always serves the meticulously arranged songs, this is the chemistry of lifelong friends and natural collaborators taking their time to make something truly special.
"We try not to get repetitive" the band told me during our video chat. "We feel out what seems like it should come next and then push it if it doesn’t feel different enough or feel right. We’ve scrapped so many ideas, it’s so important that everything in a song feels right, and that comes from jamming. We take time to figure out how to bring the dynamic down, then back up, or make a song seem it’s going to change in a direction and then do something completely different." Highwind's constant search for what 'feels right' has endowed their songs with a delightful array of unexpected twists. Melodies lull you in then suddenly veer of in unexpected directions. The band will slow and soften when the vocals are screaming, then come crashing in as the singing turns soft. On the track "I Feel Helpless" I have a vivid memory of pulling my truck over and mouthing the words 'what the f---?!' as I did a rewind & relisten; over the course of 50 seconds a bouncy, jangly Smiths jam shifted into a big sunny alt rock riff, then the drums and bass fell away leaving nothing but Rysavy's ragged guitar and on-the-edge pleading shout, before diving into a flashy classic rock solo and the eventual return to the jangle-bounce. All done in the most organic, seamless and sincere way possible.
Highwind's strength is in their fresh, unorthodox, patient songwriting, and their willingness to draw on influences outside of the unwritten rules. This strength has sometimes proven to be a barrier as Final Words looks to land with it's audience; single releases of individual songs don't capture the scope of their work and genre-specific playlists and social media outlets feel their sound isn't a perfect fit. "We can't send one song because they all have specific different elements which we love" they shared. "It can be hard to get this into people's ears, we're trying right now to get on playlists and seek out a broader audience and we get feedback like 'it's too heavy... it's not heavy enough... too soft, too loud... the guitars aren't rock-y enough and the screams aren't scream-y enough. It's seems like we're just right between everything... just like living in Saskatchewan! Right in the fuckin' middle!"
Every Saskatchewan artist knows the feeling of being a little isolated from the larger music community, and that shadow can feel just a little longer for those outside of the bustle of Saskatoon and Regina. Highwind are proudly a Moose Jaw band, and since I'm a lifelong resident of Prince Albert our conversation turned to small town scenes and the ebb-and-flow nature of smaller regional indie music communities. The band was nostalgic yet optimistic, telling me "When we were promoting Cellar Door in 2016 there were a bunch of Moose Jaw bands, we played five or six shows that summer just in town. There was Megan Nash’s band PandaCorn with Brodie Mohninger, Lords Kitchener, Friend Friend who were a cute married couple indie band, and going back to when we were in high school we used to see Andy Shauf, The Holly Springs Disaster, Away From Here, a bunch of really good local bands. One of our goals as a band with Final Words is to bring that back and help restart a local indie music scene here in Moose Jaw."
To experience the passionate, weird and wonderful music currently coming from Moose Jaw, check out Highwind on your favourite streaming platform.