Inspired by Australia’s surfing beaches, Melbourne summer nights and the all-around laid-back attitude so characteristic for Down Under, the German indie rock band highcoast have recently released their second EP, ‘Sunnies, Cones and Choppy Waves’. The four sunshiny tunes with a buzzy vintage sound are available on CD, Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Deezer and Soundcloud. In 2016, Florian Lehmann and Anton Kollewe, “two lads doing less with more”, as their self-deprecating band description on Bandcamp states, released their debut ‘Sunbleached’. Whilst retaining their signature warm and fuzzy sound, highcoast prove their vision of unique hemisphere-defying surf rock has evolved into a distinct and recognisable modern-yet-oldschool sound and the successful musical interpretation of dreamy summer times, mad big-city party nights and a hearty portion of good old escapism and wanderlust. Before having a chat with Lehmann, singer and guitarist of the two-piece band from German’s port city Hamburg, let’s give the EP a spin!
Originally meant to be called Little Fat Lambs, Goon Bag is a catchy as tune with a soft yet raspy sound – think in terms of turning on a radio in an old-timer cabriolet, driving down a coastal freeway in the sunshine. This song is all about living in the moment and feeling reckless and free: “I’m never gonna die”. According to Lehmann, the band also produced their own DIY music video for which they invested in a green screen – and repurposed apple-juice casks: “The hardest thing about the video production was probably finding proper goon bags in Germany. We ended up filling up ordering apple-juice casks and filling them up ourselves. It’s impossible to get goon anywhere around here.”
The next tune of the record is Scared of Sharks, successfully manoeuvring the listener into a different, more bittersweet mood instantly while retaining the warm sound and the signature play with vocals dancing up and down scales. There’s gritty energy in the bridge, though, and the song convincingly takes its time to quiet down and trickle out in soft guitar strokes and more rustic bass notes. The somewhat open end leaves us feeling as if floating into space, “so far away”, so to speak. Definitely a love declaration, especially to warm nights in Australia that Hamburg winters don’t seem to be able to quite compete with.
No Surf brings back forward-thrashing and optimistic energy. We get a bit of a slow-down once the vocals set in, creating a hint of a stoner vibe. This tune is a crowd banger true to the lyrics: When you’re keen to surf but there’s no surf you may as well chill out, slow down and enjoy life.
At last, the final track, Torquay, sounds all smooth with its soft guitar twang. It evokes the EP cover, telling a story of hitchhike surf adventures escaping the city. For guitarist and singer Lehmann, “there is something magical and spiritual about this place and I try to spend as much time as possible in the swell whenever I’m around. Torquay is a confession of love to the most laid back place in the world.”
So what inspired the two German lads to write indie music that certainly plays with its Aussie influence and surf aesthetics? A look at the album cover definitely shows off a dreamy Australian surf beach scene with lots of thought-through detail and Aussie references such as a sign pointing out the ‘Dangerous cu(rre)nt’, goon casks tied to a camping bus and beach boxes reminiscent of those in Brighton, Victoria, while at the same time framing everything in more tropical vegetation.
Lehmann emphasises that, even though Australian music inspires the two musicians who have known each other since childhood, highcoast works with “a fusion of various musical backgrounds”. To name a few, various genres ranging from alternative rock over garage and stoner rock to even jazz and psychedelic get the creative juices of the German surf rockers flowing. Sound-wise, the genre surf rock comes closest to the band’s sound aesthetic – or as Lehmann puts it: “Imagine Blink-182 and the Beach Boys having a booze-fuelled kid. That’s us.” Bands like the Dune Rats, The Bennies and DZ Deathrays count to Australian musical influences that Florian got to know during his gap year and studies in Australia.
“I’m super fascinated by the Australian indie scene and how all the bands support each other, matter how well-known they are and which genre they play. It feels as if there is a super strong bond between bands in the scene. Everyone is watching out for each other.” He goes on to add: “Also, I feel like Australian music heads are more open-minded towards various genres than they are in Germany. It’s not at all weird to see the loudest punk band followed by the softest pop electro band at a live gig.” Inspired by this eclectic and open-minded music scene, Lehmann introduced his Australian musical favourites to drummer Anton who even has a background of classical music education, playing the violin and piano. Having played music together for years, highcoast was born and the first EP ‘sunbleached’ followed soon after.
The new record, ‘Sunnies, Cones and Choppy Waves’, was mostly written in Australia and recorded in Kollewe and Lehmann’s hometown of Hamburg. Lehmann speaks highly of Hannes Haindl who recorded the four new tracks in the renowned Schalltona studio: “He wanted the record to sound as good as we wanted it to be. It was pretty hard to find someone who can connect to surf rock and its sound aesthetics.” No praise would be complete with a bit of tongue-in-cheek understatement: “Also, he made us sound way better than we actually are.”
So what are the self-declared “two c***s playing shit music” planning for the future? Lehmann ponders: “We’re probably disbanding very soon. Nah just kidding, we just really hope people enjoy listening to our tunes, maybe once they’ve sunk a few tinnies, and that we’ll maybe get the chance to tour the Australian East Coast in the future. For now we are just focusing on playing shows in Germany, opening for other bands and writing material for our next record. Also it would be sick to get played on Triple J one day.”
You can purchase the new EP here.