Interviews

Former Apples in Stereo Drummer Hilarie Sidney on Denver and the New High Water Marks Album

The High Water Marks just released the single "Jenny" from their upcoming album.
The High Water Marks just released the single "Jenny" from their upcoming album. Self-portraits; illustration by Per Ole Bratset
click to enlarge The High Water Marks just released the single "Jenny" from their upcoming album. - SELF-PORTRAITS; ILLUSTRATION BY PER OLE BRATSET
The High Water Marks just released the single "Jenny" from their upcoming album.
Self-portraits; illustration by Per Ole Bratset
Hilarie Sidney has spent the past six years living in the small village of Grøa, Norway, with her husband and High Water Marks bandmate, Per Ole Bratset. But nearly three decades ago, she co-founded both The Apples in Stereo and the Elephant 6 collective.

When Robert Schneider, Jim McIntyre and Chris Parfitt initially formed the Apples (later changed to the Apples in Stereo) in Denver in the early ’90s, they were considering another drummer, she recalls. Sidney, who'd played guitar as a teenager, begged the guys to let her be the band's drummer, even though she didn’t know how to play.

Schneider showed her a few simple beats, and she eventually learned her way around the kit, taking a few cues from Velvet Underground drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker. She remembers the night that the Apples played their first show; it was during an open mic at the now-defunct dive club Cricket on the Hill, on East 13th Avenue. (The Cricket, a legend in Denver's music scene, closed in 2008.)

“I played with a toy drum set,” Sidney recalls. “I think people just didn't understand us, because at that time in Denver, everything was really slick and produced.”


For their part, she and the other members of the Apples were listening to the Beach Boys and the Beatles and reading Beatles recording notes.

“We of kind of sat there and let our minds be blown constantly,” Sidney realls.

The origins of the Elephant 6 collective date back to the late ’80s in Ruston, Louisiana. Schneider and high school buddies Bill Doss, Will Cullen Hart and Jeff Mangum (who would later form Olivia Tremor Control) made home recordings under the moniker. But Elephant 6 took on another life in the early ’90s, when it became a record label and began inviting bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, Of Montreal, Dressy Bessy and others to join the collective.

Sidney says that most of the Elephant 6 acts shared a fondness for the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground and the Kinks, among others. “We wanted it to be a movement, like a manifesto,” she explains. “We wanted this to be everything that we loved, like everything that's great about the music that we loved. And we wanted to create that and have people feel what we were feeling. But it also became a collective, because we sort of split up a little bit: Will and Jeff and Bill moved back to Athens, and Robert and I stayed in Denver.

"Robert and I tried to run it more like our record label after those guys left; they didn't have that much to do with the label side of it," she continues. "Then the whole thing became a collective after a while because it was just all of us who were really super-excited about all the same types of things, but everybody had different takes on it."

Sidney and Schneider were married for a time and had a son, Max, in 2000; a year later, they moved from Denver to Lexington, Kentucky, in search of more affordable housing and in order to be closer to family, but they divorced a few years later.

While touring in Norway with the Apples in the early 2000s, Sidney met Bratset, who was playing with the band Palermo at the time. The two musicians became friends and formed their own band, the High Water Marks. They wrote, recorded and demoed songs via long-distance mail that ended up on the band’s 2004 debut, Songs About the Ocean. They eventually married, and Sidney moved to rural Norway in 2014. She reports that in Grøa, which is between Bergen and Trondheim, they live on a fjord in the middle of some very tall mountains with their son, and they can see Europe’s tallest waterfall from their window.

Sidney officially left the Apples in 2006, a year after the couple's son was born. After that, she wanted to take a break from the music business, and she did for a while. But in the past few years, she’s been busy writing material for the High Water Marks. And last year, the High Water Marks released Ecstasy Rhymes, the band’s first album in thirteen years, on the Minty Fresh label.

“Over the last couple of years, I've written so many songs that we could probably do a couple more albums really soon,” she says.

At least one has already come to fruition: Proclaimer of Things is set to be released on February 4, 2022. As with previous High Water Marks projects, Sidney and Bratset co-wrote the album's songs. For the lead single, “Jenny,” Sidney wrote the verses and Bratset wrote the chorus.

“A lot of times I'll have a part and I'm struggling to find a chorus, or I have a chorus and I'm struggling to find a verse, and he comes up with the other part," says Sidney. "So it's a really nice collaboration.”

While a lot of the music that comes from the High Water Marks is sunny and catchy pop, Sidney notes that there are a couple of songs on Proclaimer of Things that are slower and more on the psychedelic side.

“I felt like I second-guessed some of that stuff a little more, because it's not something that I usually come up with,” she says. “I think I spent a little more time stressing over that than I needed to, because I liked the songs but I was just really unsure.”

The High Water Marks recorded Ecstasy Rhymes all in the same room in Kentucky, where bassist Logan Miller is based. In contrast, Proclaimer of Things was made in the middle of a pandemic. Drummer and keyboardist Øystein Megård lives in Trondheim, which is about three hours away from where Sidney and Bratset live, and the couple didn’t see him much during that period. They started the album with scratch drum and guitar tracks and had Logan and Megård add parts and build on the songs remotely.

But even if the bandmates weren't playing together in the same room at the same time, Sidney says they were still able to "put some excitement in there."

“I found that it was a good way for us to work, too,” she concludes.

For more on the band, visit thehighwatermarks.bandcamp.com.
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon