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January 30, 2012  | by: Addie Stuber

The Boys of High Hearts

I have been a guest at many parties in Lambertville, NJ. Reoccurring invitations have caused me to associate the area with stellar conversation, good food and the occasional hangover. The night I met High Hearts was no different. Candy Rot, a neighborhood boutique, had opened its doors to the band in support of their record’s release. I sat on a floor pillow, beer in hand, waiting for the show to begin. At first glance, High Hearts struck me as a bit of a rag-tag group, one that fit in well with the room’s carefully mismatched furniture and madcap decorative accents. However, when the intro notes of a harmony quieted the crowd, a subtle cohesiveness flooded the foursome. The music and the men that were playing it made sense. All that was left to do was bow your head, tap your foot and listen.

John Coursey (left) and Matt Pillscher (right)

At the center of High Hearts is collaboration with a generous dose of passion. The group was founded by Shaun Ellis and Matt Pillscher in 2005. Shaun had a mandolin, Matt had a guitar. Both were people who appreciated the sound and social consciousness of Folk music. Four years later, with an arsenal of songs under their belt, Pillscher and Ellis added two new members – John Coursey and Justin Pope. Coursey was a fiddle player who had already established himself in the East Coast experimental music scene. Pope knew the bass and the elements of record producing. Together, High Hearts went on to be finalists in Beta Hi Fi’s Emerging Talent Festival at World Café.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist

Since then, High Hearts has been frequenting sound booths, setting aside their day to day responsibilities for the sake of their very first album. The result is Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist. Your Heart (for short) was mastered by Andrew Weiss, a local legend that has assisted Ween and Aderbat. Prior to the record’s May 31st release, “No Moon,” one of the popular tracks featured on the album, has had radio time on WPRB, WDVR and WRSU.

High Hearts cites the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Fleet Foxes among their influences. As I take in Your Heart, I am reminded of The Band – a group that got its start performing with Bob Dylan and later achieved solo fame. The comparison resides in High Heart’s emphasis on vocals. What could be sung by one is instead sung by three varying ranges. There is a richness that comes with being offered more than what is expected; an effect that heightens songs and gives life to even old-timey throwbacks like “Boneyard Train.”

Similar to The Band, High Hearts also carries a Weight. The title of Your Heart refers to a paradoxical organ, made of mush and strength, nestled inside of our chests.

High Hearts

According to Ellis, “Maintaining our hearts is a responsibility. Our capacity for deep love should manifest itself as a concern for the welfare of others on a political, social and familial level.”

Themes are interesting but take a backseat to experience. High Hearts make me feel something important: a sense of community. As they played their set, I inched closer to my friends, basking in the buzz that comes from being near people you care about. Relationships begin with a connection. So do movements. High Hearts asks us to consider them in the same breath.

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