High Vis talk Flow Festival, new music and covering Oasis: “I’m fully unwilling to compromise”
In partnership with Flow Festival
On the weekend before NME speaks to High Vis frontman Graham Sayle, the London-based hardcore band have played three festival shows that illustrate the length and breadth of their continued rise.
On the Friday, the band opened Glasgow’s TRNSMT Festival, with headliners including Sam Fender and The 1975, before returning somewhat closer to their roots the following day at Cheltenham’s rock-focused 2000trees. On Sunday, they headed to the Ieper Hardcore Fest in Ypres, Belgium alongside the likes of recent NME cover stars Militarie Gun and One Step Closer, playing with bands from the scene that birthed them at the world’s longest-running hardcore festival.
Since the release of their second album ‘Blending’ in the second half of 2023, High Vis have crossed boundaries from hardcore to indie rock and beyond with their unique and thrilling mix of gruff vocals and hazy, Britpop-inspired melodies. Almost instantly upon its release, the band built on the hype from 2019 debut ‘No Sense No Feeling’ and started selling out shows to a mix of hardcore kids, indie fans and beyond, all bonded through a vital sense of community and connection.
This summer, they’ll head out on their second US tour, with dates including a coveted slot at the Los Angeles hardcore mecca Sound & Fury, and play alongside Blur, Lorde, WizKid and more at Helsinki’s Flow Festival.
Ahead of their Finland debut, NME speaks to Sayle about connecting with his audience through music, progress on a third High Vis album and covering Oasis at Outbreak Fest.
NME: This summer, you’re playing a lot of festivals to non-hardcore crowds. Do you feel like you need to be a different kind of frontman for these shows?
Graham Sayle: “Fuck no! I don’t ever want to adapt or change, necessarily, or feel like I have to be different. That expectation is put onto you by other people. It’s the idea that if you ever have any sort of success, you have to compromise in order to accommodate less niche audiences and change your style. I guess it happens naturally to a lot of people, but I’m fully unwilling to compromise.”
Have you enjoyed the process of playing to new people, after coming from such a tight-knit hardcore community?
“I’m having a really nice time, and it’s all been so different, especially this weekend. There were a couple of hardcore kids at TRNSMT who must’ve known us from the past, but then there was one 60-year-old fella who drove 200 miles to see us because his son had got him into the band. That was the coolest thing.”
And did you see the same range of audiences on your recent debut US tour?
“I’d say it was about half and half between hardcore kids and people who have discovered us other ways. There is just more people, and it’s weird because you’re in your bubble for years and suddenly there are other people there. It’s hard to measure however far-reaching this stuff is, because I only ever really want to see my peers. If you start to zoom out a little bit more, it gets quite overwhelming.”
At these shows, people really seem to be opening up to you and relating with your lyrics. What’s it like to hear these stories?
“All I’ve really done is talked about experiences in my life in whatever terms, as an exercise for myself, and then I talk to people who have these really profound connections to the songs and will talk to me about their relationships to them. It really opened my eyes to – and it sounds grandiose – the power of music.
“It’s such a cool thing – you put this song out and then it’s not yours anymore, and people can take what they want from it and connect to it in certain ways. It’s mad to hear people’s personal experiences and how certain songs remind them of certain things, and a lot of them are quite heavy subjects. It’s been an exercise of letting things go for me.”
The song that seems to be resonating most is ‘Trauma Bonds’, which is probably also your most personal. Do you think it’s no coincidence that this is the one connecting most with people?
“What I’m talking about in that song, and the actual human experiences I had, are so different to a lot of other people’s experiences and their relationships to that song. But it’s all just wobbly air really – it’s all just noises! It’s so funny that it can have this strong, emotive connection with people. I think it’s amazing.”
Have you started work on a third album during all this touring?
“Yeah, we’ve been writing a lot. I’m consistently writing lyrics, and in the last year a lot has changed in my life so I’m writing about those big changes. We’ve probably got an album’s worth of material – it feels like we haven’t stopped moving. We’re not putting any pressure on us to like ourselves to write an album, but a lot has happened. There’s a lot [on the new songs] about working out how to negotiate life without resorting to shitty escapist techniques. I’m trying my best not to just get fucked, and to enjoy the thing and deal with the pressure of it.”
One of your biggest shows of the year came at Manchester’s Outbreak Fest, where you opened your set with Oasis’ ‘Morning Glory’. Wow did the idea come about?
“I don’t normally feel pressure or nerves, but I did here. At Outbreak last year, we opened with the Dirty Money [an old hardcore band of Graham’s] intro, and didn’t tell anyone about it. Then we thought: what the hell do we do this year? We were trying to think of some hardcore intros we could do, and then I just thought, ‘Let’s just hit it right on the nose and go for Oasis!’. We did the start of ‘Morning Glory’ to open the set, and I was shitting myself as everyone looked so confused. Then it went off and it was cool, people were stagediving and singing along.”
You’re making your debut in Finland at August’s Flow Festival – have you been before, and what are you expecting?
“I’ve never been to Finland! Everyone’s been telling us about it and it sounds like it’s gonna be fucking sick. I think we’re going to be able to hang around after the set too. I’m excited to see Blur!”
Flow Festival takes place between August 11 – 13. Tickets are on sale now