In February (when we could still go to shows with a big crowd) Away From Life had the chacne to meet the vocalist of Higher Power – Jimmy Wizard! The band was on tour as support act of Beartooth with special guest The Amity Affliction. It is not their first tour in Europe but their by far biggest. Look by yourself what Jimmy has to say about tour, music and their encounter with the police.
To me Higher Power is an expression of the five people in the band.
So how was your tour kick off?
Good! Super cool. I thought ‚cause we are first on that the rooms would be pretty empty but they`ve been full from the beginning.
The first show was in Germany as well and all sold out, right?
Yeah, the first one was in Stuttgart. Super cool definitely. I expected to be like no one there to watch us. ‚Cause it’s usually how it is when you are the opening band but so many people seemed to be into it.
Like today, there were already a lot of people at 7 pm to watch you.
So, a few days ago I saw on Instagram an issue in Austria. What happened there?
I’ve never had this before. I’ve been touring in Europe for over ten years in different bands and I never had it. We got pulled over and they charged us 300€ for our van being overweight. And we got pulled again today in Germany and got fined again for being overweight.
Was it at the border?
No, our van is too heavy for the road apparently. They take you to a weighing station and weigh your van and go „you weigh 400 pounds too much and you get fined this much “. It happened then and it happened today again.
I literally never heard of this fine.
Yeah, I actually heard it happened to a couple of friends‘ bands. But it never had it happen to us. We got pulled over a lot for being English and having that English license plate. The police always wants to stop you. So, we get pulled over like once or twice in a tour every time we come here but this is the first time that they are weighing us. Never had that.
Wow, that is really annoying.
Yes, and we really had to pay 300€ but we have friends that have been stopped before and they got fined 600€. So we got off a little bit less than them.
At least. So, how come you are touring on a more Metalcore-ish tour?
Our booking agent works with bands like Beartooth and I guess the formula of the music is actually pretty similar, you know, heavy kind of verses and a big melodic chorus. We might not all sound the same but it is a very similar formula so I think it works really well.
That’s true. But Higher Power does stand out a bit with your music. Can you describe what your style is all about?
We just play the music that we want to hear. We all listen to so much music that we all bring to the table. To me Higher Power is an expression of the five people in the band. Musically it is kind of nostalgic in a way. We reach out to what we grew up with listening to like Linkin Park, Blink-182, Limp Bizkit ..
The Pop-Punk generation.
Yeah, we all grew up listening to Rock, New Metal, Punk and Hardcore. We just literally bring all of that together. We don’t want to sound just like a Rock band. Sometimes we are writing a song and are like “Oh, this song sounds like a ballad. That’s cool.” And sometimes we are like “This sounds more like a heavy song.” We like it, you know, we play what feels good.
You are just listening to whatever the five of us like.
Yeah, I noticed that your songs sometimes sound really different. Like your last song on your new album 27 Miles Underwater, if I would have heard that first I would describe you as a whole different band.
I’ve heard that a couple of times. People say: „I love the record but I don’t know what I am listening to.” You are just listening to whatever the five of us like. We are not trying to write a record that is stuck in a formula. Sometimes we come to practice and we want to write a song that sounds like Smashing Pumpkins today. We just go with some weird space rock vibe. You know, we don’t want to limit us at all.
Does it work out all the time since you have been together for ca. five years now?
Yes! Actually, the beginning of this tour was exactly five years of us being a band.
Oh wow! So, you don’t have like musical differences?
Nah, I feel like Higher Power is still excited to try new things all the time. We are all so excited to push ourselves, so we are very much excited to write. No one of us wants to stick to one thing. We are all hungry to try something new and try something different! It works.
Nice. I noticed that your songs all have quite short lyrics but really intense words. Is that your scheme?
Yeah, I am a simple man. I am not a very complex person so that is how I write. I write very to the point. I am not a very poetic person so the way I write is very much in bullet points. When I write down lyrics, I write down thoughts, quotes or little things. And then I’ll just pick things that flow from those and make them into a song. It is very simple and it is meant to be easy to read and understand.
They really are on point and it fits to the music. I actually had to listen to it a few times, maybe because I am not a native speaker haha
Yeah, it needs maybe a couple of times and sometimes when someone explains what the song means you just get it haha
True. So, I wanted to ask: You just signed at Road Runner Records. Were there any further reasons for that?
I mean, Why wouldn’t you? Like I said we all grew up listening to Slipknot, Machine Head, etc. That label released a lot of our favourite bands, so it is kind of a surreal thing to having them approach you.
So, they approached you guys?
Yeah, we knew a bunch of people who work there that like Higher Power. Our manager worked for them and before he was our manager, he was our friend. And he worked for Road Runner and I guess a few people played our record in the office and they wanted to meet our band. It felt really surreal. This is like a dream. And then on top of that the benefit of being on a major label is that we get more money that gives you more time to demo and write a record. We are not just recording shitty practice demos on our phone. We can go and say let’s take the weekend in the studio and work on a few songs. Aside from it being a record label that we grew up listening to it has its benefits of working with a major label. It gives you time and freedom. I think that was what we needed to write the record that we wanted to because we don’t make a lot of money on tour. We couldn’t have funded the time for recording and demoing and getting a producer.
That is really convenient, right? I also heard that you moved to Leeds because of the bigger scene there? Like Bring Me The Horizon, While She Sleeps and Aksing Alexandria are from there.
Not like the Metalcore bands ‘cause I didn’t listen to Metalcore that much. But Leeds has a really good DIY Hardcore scene ‘cause it is the university city. So, there are a lot of young people there and a lot of youth culture. I think I have lived there for eight years now. When I was 20 I was traveling there a lot for shows and all my friends’ bands were from there. A lot of my friends were moving there and starting new bands. So, I was like “Why not?”. I just wanted to be involved in Hardcore and play in Hardcore bands. This is all I wanted to do. Moving to Leeds was the next step for me, because there was nothing going on in London at the time.
And you moved there with your brother?
I moved and then my brother came. He saw me and wanted to do the same thing and he was like “Can I live on your sofa?” and I said: “Go for it!”.
So, you two decided to do a project together?
We just talked about it since he moved. I always had this idea of a band I wanted to do like this but I didn’t really know anyone on the same page. But obviously me and him grew up semi-listening to the same music. He knew where I was coming from, what I wanted to make and what my vision was. He was also the best drummer I know so when I was going to start a project, he would be the first drummer I would com to. And luckily it all worked out.
Took a long time but just practice makes perfect.
But you are actually not a vocalist, right?
No, so I had the vision for this and I always wanted someone to do the clean vocals but when we were starting it wasn’t me who was the singer. I always assumed I would find someone who would sing. But it ended up me being the singer because in the early beginning in the demo days I was playing guitar and bass at practices and I am not really good at either of them. Ethan really wanted to play bass, like really really wanted to play bass, so I don’t think I am a good enough guitar player to actually play guitar and everyone was like “You have to sing! It is your ideas.” And I was like: “I’ll try.” I didn’t expect it to go further than a demo. I just thought I’d do this demo where I try and sing and that would be it but at least we had fun and tried. And then now – here we are!
Now you are doing screams and vocals all of a sudden.
I am still trying to figure out what I can and can’t do. Now we have been a band for five years but you are constantly learning, finding new things you can do and hitting higher notes. The more you sing, the better you are getting. I am just still learning everything.
Isn’t it really tough on your voice?
It is hard! The more you tour with people who can actually sing, the more you pick up. You learn how to warm up, you learn to drink a whole lot of water the whole day, you learn to get a good amount of sleep. Now I know what I am doing, I can make it through a tour alright. I have my bad days but the first few tours I was constantly losing my voice.
Is there a trick how to not get so sore?
For the screaming you just learn a way how to not hurt your throat. If you do it enough, you are focused and you listen to your body, you just figure it out. I couldn’t explain it and I can’t really scream on cue. If I’m not on stage it is really hard. When I am on stage and in the moment it just happens. It took a couple of years to figure out how to do it to not loose my voice and make it through a whole set. Took a long time but just practice makes perfect.
Do you ask the other singers for tips or anything?
Yeah, I ask every singer or just listen to how they are warming up. You just see them and ask “Oh, what is that tea you got?”. Like a hot nice tea to soothe your throat. You just talk to other singers and learn a few techniques. Like a said, we practice on tour all the time and I’ve had to. We tour so much and get put on these bugger tours, kind of being forced to actually learn what I’m doing. It would be embarrassing in front of all these people to lose your voice halfway through the set.
With all the practicing you have a tough timetable on this tour.
So, we only had one day off between this tour and the last tour we did in America and I got sick and lost my voice completely for almost two shows. But we are only human. As long as you are not sick and get a good night sleep and listen to my body. You just learn that along the way.
So, do you get enough time to rest while touring?
Yeah, on this tour we have a day off every four days. That is cool, we never really get that. If you are not playing a show, you are paying for the van and a hotel. When we were touring and drawing the route, we are trying to take as little days off as possible. Financially we are not making the big bucks yet to afford that luxury. Hopefully one day.
But do you have the chance to see a little bit while touring? You already toured here a couple of times, right?
Oh yeah, I’ve been touring Europe for over 10 years in different bands. I’ve seen a lot.
A lot of different bands? In how many have you been?
My first band, I toured in Europe with, was Abolition which was the UK straight Hardcore kind of Metalcore band. It was very 90s sounding. There was another band I was in called Violent Reaction which is like a really 80s Punk/Harcore band. It was a bunch. Was playing bass in a band called Shrapnel.
What was that?
It is when a grenade explodes and the shrapnel goes everywhere. Yeah, I was playing bass in a band called that and toured Europe. I’ve been around.
Yeah, totally. I saw that you even played at Summer Breeze here in Germany.
That was cool. That was a real fun one! We played like Jera On Air and we’ve got a bunch this summer. We are doing most of the big European festivals.
So far, I’ve seen Download?
Yeah, and Hell Fest! There is a lot coming.
Maybe someday Rock im Park!
That would be cool. I used to watch the Rock Am Ring sets on YouTube of Deftones. We just announced that we are doing the Slipknot cruise! I think that is the coolest show we will ever play.
That is going to be huge. What was the biggest arena you already played?
I think these shows are the biggest indoor shows we have ever played. This whole tour. We have been playing festivals in front of a couple thousand people outdoors but this tour is definitely the biggest.
And it is also all these people coming for these three bands.
Yeah, usually when we play a headline tour, we have a couple hundred people. This tour to us is giant.
Yes, the Tonhalle here in Munich is already huge.
It just felt like the natural thing to do. It was the song that came the easiest to everyone.
I actually wanted to ask you about your debut album 27 Miles Underwater. Why did you choose Seamless as you first single?
It was the last song we wrote. So, we were in the studio and we wrote that and it just felt like the freshest .. We would be writing and had all these ideas, so the last song we write is obviously going to be the one where we are the most in tune on what we want to do. We spend a month or two writing, so this song was the last song and we all just played it. It came out so naturally. It came so quickly because we were all in tune and focused on what we wanted to sound like by that point. We connected and listened to each other a lot more. It just came together literally so quickly and it came so naturally. It just felt like the natural thing to do. It was the song that came the easiest to everyone.
You just felt it: That is the one!
Yeah, we just knew. We just played it and the first time I sang that chorus and it was like: “This is the one. This is our first single.” We just knew because it felt so natural to us. That’s it. There was no doubt in our minds. And like I said it was the last one a couple days before we actually started recording the record. Everyone just felt it. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts.
Seamless seams to be a really good choice for your album.
That one felt like a wild card in a way. I think it sounds very different to any song we did on Soul Structure. It felt good to do a song that people wouldn’t expect.
It even has a lot of clean vocals which is not usual for Soul Structure.
Yeah, it has the big chorus and even the heavy vocals are heavier than we did it before. You know the chords in the guitar, we never played riffs like that. So, we were like let’s go with this one, it seems like the one that would be the best. It just felt right basically.
Is there anything you want to try out in the future? Maybe even on tour like the pyro technique of Beartooth?
I’d liked to have a light show with projectors. We have the song Lost In Static and it has this kind of space theme, it would be cool to have lights like stars that would go around. Some projections that fit the theme of the song. That would be pretty cool. Just switch up the lights and what is being projected into different songs and their themes. Yeah, working on the visual aspects. Not so much pyro technique. It is cool and looks cool but they are just flames. They are just there. I’d like to do something that ties into the theme of the song and use the visuals.
After this show just go and ask for projections haha
Haha, yeah, I feel like this would be the next step when we can afford to use that kind of production. I think on the level we want to do it, it’s going to be quite expensive but we will find a way to do it. We are very DIY-people. We’ll figure it out. That’s my next goal. Bring some kind of lights and visuals. Maybe even some screens in the background that play different things.
I’ve seen some artists doing it themselves on a budget. Maybe it’ll work for you guys in the future.
Yeah, that’s cool!
So, we have been already through a lot of topics. A thing I wanted to ask you: What was the most embarrassing thing that happened on tour?
My knee is a problem at the moment. Mid-Set I was jumping around and it was literally the last three songs when my knee just popped out and I can’t move so I was just stuck in one place.
Oh damn, but I didn’t notice anything.
I find that quite embarrassing ‘cause I’m stuck and I can’t move but I want to be animating. I feel like I’m limping around.
But it didn’t look like that.
Sometimes you just have to force yourself through the pain to move. So, know I can’t walk right now and I’m limping. That’s my thing at the moment.
But did it happen before this show already?
Yes, I hurt myself skating three or four years ago but it is only in the last year that it came back and keeps popping out. Like in America I was crouched down and people were singing along into the mic and they knocked me over so my knee popped out. The next day people were singing along again while I stood there and people fell on the stage which was about my knee high and they knocked me again but they knocked it back into place! I could walk normally again. I’m hoping it just clicks back in.
You said that your fans can get on stage with you. Are your venues normally a lot smaller?
Yeah, usually we play places without barriers so the people can sing along, jump on the stage and stage-dive.
On the tour with Beartooth you have a lot of space between the stage and the barriers.
Yeah, they are big but it is fun because people actually come to the front. These are the shows where people are there early and wait at the barrier. It’s not like people stood far back. They are engaged at the front.
Do you think that the shows without barriers are heavier with the crowd?
I think they are more fun. People can sing along, you know, Higher Power is a really hands-on band so you can give the mic out and people can sing along. It’s as much their show as it is ours. We feed of their energy and they feed of ours. There is no barrier between us, it is just this whole energy. You know, both are cool, but if I would have to choose for a headliner tour I would try to do shows without barriers. But if you get to Beartooth size you have to have barriers because of the security.
Okay, I am at my end. Do you want to say anything to Away From Life?
Thanks to everyone that supports us! This is what we want to do. We don’t make any money; we sleep on people’s floors. This is what we love to do so we are grateful to everyone that keeps us out here doing it and keeps us progressing. We give up literally everything in the world and it is nice to know that people care! Thanks to everyone.