Mark Dmowski – vocal, drums, programming
Ajit Menon – bass, harmonica
Ron Black – guitar
Higher Love is a post-rock band based in London, taking their name from one of Depeche Mode classic songs, they play music that is inspired by the classic bands like Queen, The Doors but also by 80s rock/new wave groups such as U2, Depeche Mode, Venus Fly Trap, Killing Joke and The Cure.
The most important features in the band are strong rhythm section, melodically layered guitar/ keyboard and powerful vocals, in their usually quite simple songs.
They have played more than 80 gigs in London and Europe, inc. ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Surface Festival’. In their catalogue they have gloomy version of Johnny Cash’s classic ‘Ring of Fire’. Higher Love has been featured on radio stations in Scotland, England, Macedonia, Poland, Northern Ireland and US. In July 2009 they have been chosen to take a part in special EMI/Roundhouse studios project called 30/30.
Also during one of the Indian summer weekends, they have completed their first official video for the romantic ballad called ‘French Song’, which can be found at www.youtube.com/higherloveband
Piotr Balkus: I wonder how important Depeche Mode “Higher Love” song must be for you that you decided to name the band after her…
Mark Dmowski: Depeche Mode’s ‘Higher Love’ belongs to my personal Top 10 of life-changing songs. Both elements are important music and lyrics. Without good music, good lyrics are just good poem. Good music can save the song but understanding and identifying yourself with lyrics can help to establish some kind of stronger emotional relation with the tune. ‘Higher Love’ belongs to that category. When I decided to name the band after this song, there were also some pragmatic motives behind it. It should sound good, original and outstanding. I always liked names like Nirvana or The Doors. Both names symbolise different, better states of mind and soul. That also inspired me to name a band like that.
PB: I found words describing your music: post-rock, alternative, cold-wave, gothic-punk and elements of pop music, sing-alongish, punky, onirical, nihilistic, balladish. Does you music need any description and boxes?
MD: It is not for me or for the music. It is for the people. There are so many creators around us, that even listeners who do not consider music as some radio buzzing during work and have time to search for sound they love can really lose themselves in all this chaos. Answering your question I can ask you rhetorically – do we need tags in the 21st Century?
PB: You started your band in Poland, but you moved to London in 2005 to “restart the project with a fresh impetus”. What was the reason of this relocation? And how has it changed your musical perspectives?
MD: We existed as a band for quite a long time in Poland. We have played a lot, we recorded something, we have been on the radio, but I think we reached that moment that there was nothing more waiting for us, no further progress and also I knew that with my approach I am not gonna achieve anything more with my music. Music industry and people’s mentality in Poland is pre-dominated with all those horrible bands like Budka Suflera, Bajm, Dzem or Perfect which I hate. You can not jump over them. There was one song from Polish punk rock band Dezerter about that and it is still actual.
There are some new top artists but musicians in Poland always try to follow recent Western fashion.The more successful fashion,more blind followers follow that. Artists are credited when they imitate and even plagiarise, not when they try to take a risk and break rules. Imagine something like ‘Musique Concrete’ in Poland or successful bands constantly changing on every album like Queen or U2. When I moved to London, I also tried to escape from describing Higher Love as a Polish band. Firstly, we are a music band, you can name it ‘post rock’ ‘gothic’ or ‘pop’ but we are not a ‘local folk’ group. People from all over the world can identify themselves with our music, no matter if they are Japanese, English, Columbian or… Polish.
Since beginning in 1998 I always wanted to write my lyrics in English not because it can be recognised internationally but English bands had made a much bigger emotional impact on me, than those from the country where I came from. Relocation to London has not changed much my music perspectives, because even in Poland I lived in my own world. In England I just discovered few underground young artists but it has not dramatically changed me as an artist.
PB: Listening to your music is like a one way journey in a time machine to 80’s of XX-th century… Do you think it’s good comparison?
MD: Probably. Many people say that, you are not the only one. I am inspired by all this 80’s stuff but I try to avoid being a ‘retro artist’-someone who wants to turn back time. I think technology now gives us even better tools than then but my heart still belongs to that era.
PB: I found in description that Higher Love is “searching for new, darker sound”. Is there any limit of the darkness in music? Could anything be darker than Depeche Mode’s “Songs of Faith And Devotion” album?
MD: ‘Ultra’ is even more darker (laughter). ‘SOFAD’ is very uplifting album at least for me, there is a lot of optimism in songs on that album. It is sometimes twisted, ironic or desperate optimism but still shows the listener a way out and not through suicide. Limit of darkness? It is like talking about black holes. I don’t think about that. Feeling just comes to me and needs to be released out. I have many songs which are not so traditional, like the ones we released on our EP ‘Folk Songs’ or even ‘The Further From You The Less To Speak’. New songs are more atmospheric and driven by electronic arrangements and they sound a bit colder and darker than the ones we recorded in the past. First example of that new sound is song called ‘Mindcheater’ from our ‘Mindcheater PROMO’ containing title track plus 3 instrumental compositions (can be found at higherlove.bandcamp.com).
PB: You play lot of gigs around Europe. Do people still like this electronic kind of 80’s sound? Do you think it’s just a sentimental journey or something more?
MD: We are surrounded by electronic equipment and music plays descriptive role in that. Music we listen and play helps us to understand the world and familiarize with its quick progress. It is not just some sentimental journey but sound of the times we live now. It all became popular in 80’s with new romantic but started tiny bit earlier with music from Kraftwerk. The foundations of electro sound remain in that era.
PB: Tell me, please, about EMI 30/30 project you were involved in few years ago… And – what I’m in treat to find about – how you met Nick Mason.
MD: Our bassist found that ’30/30′ advert. EMI with cooperation with Roundhouse were searching for unsigned artists for that special compilation. They asked bands to send them applications and after few months they contacted us to tell that we are the choosen ones among those 30. We have been offered free studio session at Roundhouse Studios with producers from Abbey Road and we have recorded there new song called ‘Stars At Night’. Day after we attended a special meeting with all those ‘big fishes’ from record labels and we met Nick Mason there. We considered that as a special moment because apart from being musicians we are also fans. Disappointing was that Nick Mason seemed to be more concerned on possible Pink Floyd reunion than on helping or advising younger artists.
PB: You are inspired by Queen, U2, Depeche Mode, Killing Joke and many many more bands from the 70’s and 80’s. You also recorded Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’. Do you think your music can be inspirational as much as these bands?
MD: I hope so. I think good melody always wins over fashions, ‘new sounds’ and ‘new eras’. I try to focus on melody first in my songs. Good melody can be played on guitar, keyboard or by brass band and still remains recognisable. All those bands you mentioned went through various periods, were quite eclectic but they never lost that talent for writing simply good songs.
PB: You recorded EP in 2011. Are you working on a full-length album?
MD: That EP called ‘Mindcheater’ is a new beginning for Higher Love. It completely overturns the old, more classical approach. Higher Love is no longer slave of rehearsal rooms or playing everything in ‘real time’. Band is working on full-length album and very soon you will hear the results.
PB: Thank you very much for the interview.
MD: Thank you.