When the four members of what is now called The Hightides – Eric Skinner, Luke Waterbury, Luke Fultz and Thomas Wells – first got together at Wolfville’s Acadia University three years ago, they called themselves Pop Therapy. At the time, they knew it would only be a placeholder.
“We needed a name for all these little gigs that we had at Acadia, but once we decided to write our own original music, we knew we had to change our name,” says the band’s drummer and vocalist Eric Skinner.
The foursome agreed that the new name needed to reflect something from nature and the area in which they lived at the time.
“There’s a little waterfront park in Wolfville that we take a stroll by sometimes in the morning on a Tim Horton’s run that has low and high tides,” continues Skinner. “We debated calling ourselves The Lowtides for a bit, but we ended up with The Hightides.”
A self-confessed band nerd, while Skinner says he didn’t grow up in a musical household, his father did have a connection to music. “My dad was a DJ way back in the day using cassette tapes,” he says.
Taking piano lessons as a kid, it wouldn’t be until he joined the high school band as a percussionist and taught himself guitar that his musical trajectory took off. It would eventually lead him to Acadia to study music. “I worked my musical path throughout my public education,” he says.
For the band’s bass guitarist and vocalist, Luke Waterbury, the guitar has always been part of his life.
“I took lessons briefly in grade three, but I stopped doing it until grade seven when I was introduced to classic rock,” he says. “So I started getting into guitar again, and I’ve been playing ever since.”
It would be his dad’s introduction to the guitar for the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist, Thomas Wells, to help lay his musical foundation.
“My dad taught me a few basic chords, and I remember getting obsessed with the band Nirvana at the time,” says Wells. “Then I got right into metal bands and learning Iron Maiden riffs and things like that.”
For The Hightides’ rhythm guitarist Luke Fultz, his base came from growing up listening to different types of music. Guitarists like Jimmy Hendrix and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante would eventually lead him to the guitar.
“I didn’t start learning guitar until I was nineteen, so I was very late to the game,” he says. “I really wanted to learn some of those songs that those two guitarists played but teaching yourself is never easy so I quit a few times before taking it seriously and started practicing every day.”
With their varied musical backgrounds, it is no surprise that the quartet’s music has evolved over the three years they’ve been together.
“When we formed in 2019, we didn’t know what we wanted to do; we just knew we wanted to play shows,” says Waterbury. “So we started off as a run-of-the-mill university cover band playing what people wanted to hear.”
The group would eventually find their niche as a self-described “surf-influenced indie rock” band.
“We thought that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ‘surfesque’ stuff going on right now, especially in the Nova Scotian scene,” says Waterbury. “Most of us believe that if you put reverb on something, it usually sounds cooler, so I guess that’s where the surf comes in.”
The recent release of the band’s latest single, Never Know, marks a new chapter for The Hightides. The first song off their debut EP House Party, the album will release on July 7 with a show at The Carleton in Halifax.
“Up to this point, I’m not sure we’ve ever been totally happy with the songs we’ve released or felt that there’s been a coherent sound or style,” says Waterbury. “Never Know, and the other songs on our EP are much more coherent while keeping our stylistic differences.”
The band’s contrasting musical styles are evident in their writing process.
“I don’t think there’s ever fights, but there are definitely differences of opinion on certain songs,” says Fultz. “The way it happens is one person will come up with an idea, and then everybody else will suggest changes or rewrite some lyrics. There are always three different suggestions or competing opinions, but it’s never really an argument.”
The six-track House Party is a culmination of the work the four have put into their music together and cultivating a following. “The vibe is like we are trying to put on a house party for our fans into a record,” says Skinner.
“Our second to last show before COVID came to Canada was actually a house party, and it was insane,” adds Waterbury.
With House Party now under their belts, the new recording is helping to set the stage for the band’s future.
“It’s really cool that we’ve recorded some songs now, and that feels like a great resource,” says Wells. “Now we’re more comfortable with going into the studio and getting songs out there.”
“I’m hoping we can gain some fame locally and be part of the scene here,” adds Skinner.
With a busy summer ahead with shows, the guys are also looking forward to eventually heading back into the studio with at least three songs ready to release as their next singles.
“We want to write more, but with recording the EP, the single and some of our gigs, we haven’t had time to sit down and write and flesh out new ideas,” says Waterbury. “We also have a big back catalogue of old songs we want to get out of the way and record.”