Q&A’s: ‘Staying Sane’ With HIGHLINE

Words/Interview by Sam Townsend {Melting Wax Photography}

Sydney four-piece Highline burst onto the music scene with blistering speed in 2019 with standout debut track Had To Be Said, and looked poised for a huge 2020 after sell out shows at The Vanguard, Freda’s, and The Lansdowne, as well as charting #2 on Triple J Unearthed.  By now though, we all know what happened next.  Undeterred, these indie-rockers made lemonade from lemons and instead spent 2020 focusing on songwriting and recording, and now return in 2021 with new single, Staying Sane.  

Highline kindly took some time out to answer some questions for Good Call Live about their dreamy new summer single, and what else we can expect from the group this year.

Although Staying Sane has an upbeat, beachy sound to it, the lyrics portray a certain vulnerability most listeners can relate to – can you tell us a little bit more about writing the track?

It is definitely quite an emotional song lyrically. I wrote it after a relationship of mine ended, and the ensuing communication after the split was becoming way too much to handle emotionally. It was one of those songs that only took an hour or so to finish all the words. It talks to the importance of being selfish and doing your best to think about yourself instead of continuing to give too much of your energy and time to that other person. It’s all worded with a bit of attitude, and I guess that was largely due to the frustration I was experiencing at the time, however, it is more of a confession of being vulnerable and not coping rather than an attack on another person. 

Was the creative process for Staying Sane different from previous releases, given the current state of the country/world?

Staying Sane was the last song we wrote for the EP and was written in a completely different way to previous songs. After some foundations were laid down by Sam and Rhys, we went away together as a band to a little farm down south and finished it off together over a few days. 

It was our first time going away to write music and the trip was one of the highlights of the whole year for the band – one of the positives of the state of the country was that all of us really had the time to come together and write, play and hang out in a way we hadn’t before. The time gave us breathing space to understand the direction we want to go in, and I think that really shines through with this new EP. 


It looked as though Highline were gearing up for a massive 2020 initially with a run of sold out shows over the 2019/2020 summer and the release of debut EP ‘Strictly Dreaming’- how did the band adjust once lock down hit?

We were really disappointed that we couldn’t tour that EP properly however lockdown gave us an opportunity to really knuckle down and write heaps of new music. We had a lot of late nights together experimenting with new sounds that can be heard on this track and throughout the EP, notably the addition of keys/synths. 

Shows were also shaken up a lot. We adapted to the seated setting quite well and altered our set to suit the conditions. 

I guess the boredom of all of lockdown also showed through some of the new equipment we started buying and renting: a 12-string guitar, bass pedals, a new keyboard and even more fender guitars. The sound of these are really going to stick out live and on the record. 

To follow on, one of the positives of 2020 for me personally was slowing down and in particular exploring music from loads of new artists –  were you afforded the same opportunity?  And whose music are you really enjoying at the moment?

Yea definitely, for us, the time away in the studio, at the farm, and everywhere else let us introduce each other to our different tastes – We definitely share a lot of common ground in our listening habits, but I feel like a lot of the differences helped us grow as music fanatics. 

Some of the great new albums that came about for us in 2020 were ‘What Kinda Music’  (Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes), ‘Amidst the Clutter and the mess’ (Green Buzzard – late 2019) and ‘Sideways to New Italy’ (RBCF). As well as some of the usual suspects like The New Abnormal (Strokes), ‘Brain Candy’ (Hockey Dad), DMA’s ‘The Glow’ and Lime Cordiale’s album. 

Have any new influences emerged recently when it comes to developing your sound?  Is there anyone in particular who inspires you to keep pushing forward?

I think The War on Drugs has definitely influenced some of our new stuff, particularly in the area of structure and the addition of synthesizers/keys in this EP. In terms of Staying Sane specifically, Rhys got the idea of the tag from the outro to  Deerhunter’s Desire Lines – a great song. 

In terms of being inspired to keep pushing on, DMA’s have always been a big influence/inspiration for us. In terms of last year, the way they used their content to adapt to 2020 really inspired us to keep trying, and their new album was great. 

Highline have been playing music together since highschool days – has music always played a significant role in your life?  And what inspired the band to enter the music industry?

We all grew up on music since we were young, and have had so many friendships come about through music, including us as a band now. In terms of entering the music industry,  It has just always been so much fun to play live, and I guess from now, everything that comes along with that is a bonus.

Highline recently played at The Lansdowne Hotel and next are playing at the Oxford Art Factory on April 3 – what’s the best part of performing again, and what are you looking forward to most about resuming travel?

The best part of performing again would be having the opportunity to show what we have been working on all year to all of our friends and fans. We’ve had these songs for a while now, and we can’t wait for everyone to hear them.

In terms of resuming travel, we would love to do the East Coast tour we had planned for 2020… Coming up to Queensland would be so much fun.

We know Highline spent part of 2020 writing and recording the next EP at The Grove Studios, any sneaky hint on when we’ll be hearing this new music?

As soon as we can. We hope it’s full steam ahead after Staying Sane comes out.

Finally, what other new and exciting things can we expect from Highline?

We have a lot of new merch coming out as well as a music video. We are also pretty keen to get back in the studio to get down lots of the songs that have come about in the back end of 2020.

Other than that, you can expect more shows and new music throughout the year. 

Highline are:
Sam Rigney (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) 
Rhys Hope (Lead Guitar) 
James Priest (Bass Guitar) 
Jim Osborne (Drums)

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With thanks to Habit Music Co.

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