“Basically, we’re just a bunch of friends that really enjoy hanging out together,” says guitar player and vocalist Vince Herman. “You know, we see each other at festivals and all that stuff.”
Herman is best known as one of the founding members of Boulder County bluegrass jam band Leftover Salmon. Here he’s joined by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, Chad Staehly of Hard Working Americans, Adam Greuel of Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Brian Adams of DeadPhish Orchestra, and Will Trask of Great American Taxi. Most of the bandmembers have deep ties to Colorado’s bluegrass scene, and Herman, Staehly and Greuel all currently live in the state.
Several members of the band played together in Great American Taxi, including Trask, Adams, Staehly and Herman, though Herman left the group in 2014 because the band’s schedule conflicted with Leftover Salmon's. It’s safe to say that one of the biggest obstacles the High Hawks face is that the bandmembers’ time and attention are divided among other projects.
“You know, we can always find a day here and there to do some shows. It just might mean not ever having a weekend off,” says Herman.
The band recorded The High Hawks early in 2020 at Todd Divel’s Silo Sound studio, which singer-songwriter Brent Cowles once described as “the Abbey Road of Denver.” It was one of the last records produced in the space. Divel’s landlord has since raised the rent, so he decided to set up a studio in his garage rather than endure the city’s heinous rental rates.
Before recording, the group convened at Herman’s house, which is up Sugarloaf Road, for a few days. Carbone, Greuel, Staehly and Herman all wrote songs for the record. The tracks share a laid-back vibe, though the subject matter ranges from simple grooves about “singing all night long,” in “Singing a Mountain Song,” to Donald Trump in “Bad Bad Man.”
“The record was recorded during the Trump era,” says Herman. "We really wanted to address some of the unreality going on in that rising time of misinformation. That was really one of the goals of the group — to speak the truth. To put it all on the table, because music’s important like that.”
Since recording the record, the group has played a handful of shows, all of which took place during the pandemic. Over a year later, the record still feels relevant.
“Our misinformation problem is still pretty prominent,” adds Herman. “The algorithms on social media feed on conflict, because it generates engagement. That business model has brought us to this point. I have no idea how we’re going to get out of this.”
Herman’s best solution is to sing. And he and his High Hawks brothers plan on doing so in Colorado to support their record this fall.
“Playing music together is really the most fun we know how to have,” Herman says. “I don’t know — maybe we’ll make another record. It’s certainly fun to write with these cats... Yeah, I see some more High-Hawking going on in the future.”
The High Hawks comes out on LoHi Records on June 11. Pre-order it here.