Ten High are a fuzzy psychedelic garage rock project based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The band has recently played Norman Music Festival in Oklahoma and SXSW in Austin, and are set to play Gonerfest in Memphis at the end of this month.
Today, we’re premiering a new song from Ten High: “No Waves.” This song is off of the band’s upcoming 7″, which will be out on September 28th via What’s For Breakfast? Records. Give it a listen at the bottom of the post!
Devan, the drummer of Ten High, took some time to talk about the origins of Ten High, the music scene in Fayetteville, and some stories from their recent tour.
Who’s all in the band and who does what?
Cat Owens plays guitar and does most of the lead vocals. Matt Thornton plays guitar and some vocals. Aaron Smith is bass dude. I play drums and do vocals.
How did you all meet and decide to start making music?
Cat and I met working at a music store in like 2013. He had just moved back to Fayetteville from Tulsa, and I had just moved to Fayetteville from Memphis. We became friends right away. I was messing around on the drums after close one night, and Cat was like, “Hey! Let’s start a band.” And I thought he was joking because I really had no clue how to play drums and was just screwing around, doing some very childish stuff on the kit. He kept bringing it up, so eventually we decided to do it. I had started to really get into the idea of playing drums, so it worked out well. I ordered this 1976 Butcher Block Ludwig offline and we just started jamming in a storage unit.
It was just us two for months and months, so Ten High kinda started as a two piece, but we wanted a bass player before we started playing shows. We got a bass player and played a few, and then added Matt on guitar. He brought along his friend Aaron one night to try playing bass with us, we liked it a lot. Got rid of our other bass player. Matt and Aaron had both played in some pretty big bands in Northwest Arkansas – Pagiins, Taifas, and I think a few others.
What is the music scene like in Fayetteville? Are you the only ones playing music in this type of genre?
There’s an amazing DIY scene in Fayetteville, not much of a bar scene for music, but it’s okay because the DIY scene rules. There’s a spot called Backspace and it holds the best shows in town, in my opinion. There’s another cool spot called lalaland that holds great shows, too. The DIY scene reigns over Fayetteville as far as I’m concerned. DIY shows are dirty, sweaty, and passionate. People come to them because they care about music and experiencing it a very raw, intimate way. People running the DIY shows are bringing amazing bands through that have never played Arkansas before.
We’ve had some big bands come through the spots here: Bleached, Audacity, Pujol, White Mystery. Some other incredible bands that have come through are bands like Hartle Road, Nmandi, Salty, Kool 100s, the list goes on. They’re all killer.
There are bands here making music similar to our genre: Bambi’s, The Wirms, Phlegms, The Gebharts. But we’re all still very different from another. No two of the bands I named sound anything alike, but they all fall under the punk/garage/psych genres, I guess.
Has everyone always been located in Fayetteville?
I’m the only one not from Arkansas. I was born and raised in Memphis, TN and lived there until I was 21. Cat was born and raised in Fayetteville, but he lived in Tulsa for 4 years. Matt and Aaron are both from Ft. Smith, which is about 50 miles from Fayetteville.
Any big inspirations for the new 7”?
Our biggest inspirations are just interactions that we have with people at our shows, people we experience everyday. People that we’re friends with, people that we don’t like, people that we love, awkward situations. We practice all of the time, so our sound just keeps evolving and we like that. It kinda keeps us excited about this.
We recorded 5 songs in Memphis earlier this year with Alyssa Moore. We had just written the songs right before we recorded them. I don’t think we’re the best band around, but I do think that one thing we’re really good at is improvement. We like this one a lot more than our last one, and I think that’s important. The two songs that WFB? Records picked are a bit different from one another. I think that we’ve created some songs that are kinda classic sounding punk meets modern psych/garage.
Photo courtesy of Rival Colors
You’ve played a few music festivals recently – Norman Music Festival and SXSW. What were your favorite parts about playing those fests?
Fests are exciting to play. There’s tons of people everywhere, they’re all into music and want to see what’s going on. There’s lots of noise and excitement.
Norman was super rad. We played at Opolis, it’s a really cool bar in Norman that kinda caters to indie music – pretty much the coolest bar to get to play at. Lots of people were there. I remember being blown away by how much people kept yelling after our set was over. We played kind of an imperfect set but it was still one of the most gratifying shows we’ve played. Afterwards, we walked right across the street and watched Parquet Courts! That was a great time.
SXSW was NUTS. I’ve never been down there before and it’s just as insane, fun, and stressful as everyone described. What I mean by stressful is that the traffic is out of control, and you really should give yourself an hour and a half to get to your next show, regardless of how far away your GPS says the place is. We got to meet Harry Portnof who runs Greenway Records out of Brooklyn, NY. He’s the one that put out our first 7” in 2016. It was fun meeting him after working with him for so long, he’s so cool.
We played two shows at SXSW and they were both a blast. Harry invited us to what he described as some regular type after party thing. We decided to stop by, but it was not a regular party. It ended up being a huge, private party at the castle that Robert Plant lived in a few years ago. There was a wall surrounding this place and a guard at the wall door, and you could only get in if you knew someone. Harry came and let us in, and there was a huge line of people trying to get in behind us. We were shocked by this place, it was a real castle and everything was extravagant. There was a full, legit bar in there with bartenders. There was a spiral staircase, the upstairs had a see through floor that you could look down through and see everyone in the bar below. There were watchtowers and secret rooms. There was liquor everywhere. I could go on and on. There were tons of ritzy people there, and there had to have been a few hundred people at this party. The people were kinda looking at us like “Who the F are these guys?”, but luckily there were other Greenway bands there so we weren’t the only degenerates. That castle party was the highlight of SXSW!
You also recently toured a few months ago. Who’d you play with and where did you go? Any crazy moments?
We toured with our buds in Brain Bagz. We went to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
We had a few crazy moments on tour. Salt Lake City was nuts. We pulled up on a crackhead taking a shit in front of a gas station in the middle of the day, nonchalantly. When we were leaving there, we were driving down a busy street and suddenly the back door of the van opened because someone didn’t close it all the way. Nice one. Happy no gear fell out!
San Fran was NUTS. So many interesting people there. We played two shows in one day in San Francisco. One was at this rad record store on Mission called Thrillhouse Records, we played in a kitchen in the back of the store. It was packed in tight and no one could move. People were having to stand on the staircase, including the musicians that were playing. Then we went right down the street and played an insane house show. I thought the floor was going to cave.
Video courtesy of Bailey Thorpe
We played another intense show in Hollywood – it was a birthday party! It was at Three Clubs which is a really rad, super nice, older bar. Anyway, there was old jazz playing when we went in there, and everyone was dressed up in costumes from the 30s, tons of people. This bar was super classy and everyone seemed classy. We had to go first, and we were just like, “Oh fuck, here we go! Everyone is going to walk out!”. But it was cool because no one walked out, everyone was into it. We were so thrown off. So, not too many crazy moments, mostly a lot of surprising ones.
Gonerfest 15 is coming up! You played last year’s, correct? Any bands you’re looking forward to playing with at this years? Tell me a little bit about that fest – where it’s located, what’s so cool about it, etc.
Gonerfest takes place every year in Memphis, TN, last weekend of September. Goner Records invites around 35 bands from all of the place (lots of Aussies!) to come for 3 days of music and partying. We were overjoyed to play last year, it was great. We all kinda dreamed of playing Gonerfest for a long time, so to get to play last year was amazing.
When we got invited to play again this year, we were shocked and overjoyed all over again. The people running Goner are really amazing people, and having their support has meant a lot to us. This year’s lineup is stacked. So stoked to see and play with Oblivians, Deaf Wish, Cobra Man, Amyl and The Sniffers, Gino and the Goons, and Carbonas! So many others, too.
Gonerfest is cool because everyone there loves rock n roll, they love music, they want to eat a ton of BBQ and spend 3 days partying with bands from all over the place. It’s a big fest but still small enough to keep a really good sense of intimacy going. There are shows all day and night, then there are after parties until the sun comes up. Nonstop music. It’s insane, it’s the best time.
I know there’s a whiskey called Ten High – allegedly it’s not very good. What is the band’s choice of drink?
That’s a horrible whiskey. We had no idea about the whiskey when we named the band! I’d say Ozark APA since I see that in the practice space a lot. Along with lots of low quality beer like PBR or Miller High Life. I’m a tequila gal myself – Hornitos!
Today is the premiere for Ten High’s new single, “No Waves” – give it a listen below:
The full 7″ will be released on September 28th via Chicago-based label, What’s For Breakfast? Records. Preorder is available here.
If you like what you hear above, be sure to check out the band’s “Self Entitled,” released earlier this year:
Tickets to Gonerfest are available here.
Stay up to date with Ten High through the following social links:
THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY