Local Band Spotlight: Great Highway

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?
We wanted a name that had energy and intensity to it, and that would also immediately place us as a San Francisco band. Back in the day, when we were first starting out, we would write songs at a friend’s house at 48th & Balboa, just a couple blocks from the beach. You could look out over the water and see the big road that runs the length of San Francisco on the west side, which is called Great Highway. We did our first photo shoot out there and held our first rehearsals.

How would you describe your sound?
Lush and intricate electronic pop that ranges from moody and soft to gritty and edgy. We often get compared to Stars and The xx. Since we do all our own production, over the years we’ve challenged ourselves to stretch the limits of what the average self-produced band would do, including arranging 5 part vocal harmonies, and adding live violin and saxophone.

When did you first become interested in playing music?
Music has been in our blood since birth.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
When we were first starting out we accepted any and all gigs to “get exposure.” This one time we accepted an invite off Craigslist to play a Halloween gig at this formerly-popular nightclub in West Oakland. So we all dressed up as pirates (for Halloween, of course) and hauled our gear out to the East Bay. When we got there we discovered the club was completely dilapidated, the only other bands were high school metal bands, and there were zero people in the audience. When we learned that our set was being pushed back over 2 hours, we decided to take a band picture for the heck of it and then leave without playing. As an apology, the owner gave us free shots of Fireball on our way out, haha.

What are you listening to these days?
Marian Hill, Claptone, Janelle Monae, Nathaniel Rateliff

What’s your take on why so many musicians are leaving San Francisco for Oakland?
Everything is just too damn expensive. All of our friends who are full-time musicians can barely scrape by enough to get by, even if they are busting their ass constantly.

What are some of your favorites hangs in the Bay Area and why?
Our guitarist (Sean) had a hot tub for a while. Enough said.

What does music mean to you?
Music isn’t just a hobby, it’s what we live and breathe. It’s how we relate to the world. I personally have a song or artist associated with every major period of my life, and I can be transported back to that time just by hearing a few chords. When I hear Alice in Chains, I find myself in my family room with my brother at age 14, and when I hear any song off of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, I remember falling in love with my first boyfriend.

How’d you guys first get together to play music?
Most of us came in through Craigslist, though Meredith and Sarah originally met as co-workers and bonded over their favorite female electro-pop artists.

What inspires you to write?
Most things. Going to see a great show and getting inspired. Having a bad day. Having a good day. Joy. Pain. Injustice. Heartbreak.

What’s your favorite neighborhood in the city and why?
The Panhandle has extra significance for us — it’s where we first started rehearsing in Jason’s bedroom, where we recorded our early albums, and where we filmed our first low-budget music videos.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
This past year has been extra challenging and unusual for our band. In 2017 our singer/producer Jason was diagnosed with stage II lymphoma. After going through remission once, the cancer came back and he’s having to go through a second round of treatments. Most bands wouldn’t have kept going through a tough time like this, but we’ve taken this as an opportunity to push harder on our upcoming album and keep creativity and inspiration alive for Jason while he fights this battle. Friends and fans are always surprised that we are still actively playing shows and recording even when Jason is in and out of the hospital, and we always say that music is just that important to us.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?
I’m glad you asked! We are releasing our first full-length album RISE on Tuesday, June 5. This album had a very long road to see the light of day, and we are so proud of the final product. Please check it out and give these songs their due!

Having released albums under Digital Nations, a label founded by Steve Vai, music critic Louis Raphael has remained deeply connected to the pulse of the San Francisco music scene. Following his tenure as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he embarked on creating Music in SF® to authentically highlight the vibrant offerings of the city's music scene.

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