As the lead singer of High Waisted, Jessica Louise Dye creates sonic psychedelic lullabies while also acting as the vision and force behind some of most innovative punk rock dance parties in New York City. An authentic space cowgirl flown down from Planet Awesome with the sole mission to save Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dye is the mastermind behind unforgettable experiences like her annual Rock n’ Roll Booze Cruise: free booze, shaky waters, and synergy only the unicorn herself could have cultivated and conjured. With strong pop sensibility and feminist ideals, High Waisted are more than a surf rock band. They’ll release their much-anticipated sophomore album, Sick of Saying Sorry, on May 22.
Of the singles from the project so far, “Boys Can’t Dance” makes use of the band’s unbridled party spirit, while “Drive” captures the surrealist emotional undertone of Planet Earth from its opening lines: “We’re looking outward/Trying to decipher the code/The past repeats/Echoes of what once was and will be/We’re both guilty of editing what could harm the world.” The project will also include “8th Amendment,” recorded in 2018 for WNYC’s 27: The Most Perfect Album release, in which artists such as Dolly Parton, Adia Victoria, Devendra Banhart, Palehound, Torres, and more each contributed songs based on a different constitutional amendment. High Waisted tackled one designed to protect incarcerated individuals from excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
They just released an epic psychedelic video for their most recent single, “Modern Love,” directed by Jenni Yang & Logan Seaman. The directors met while working on Beyonce’s Made In America concert and created the High Waisted video in the midst of getting married. Yang, inspired by the quote “To love is to destroy and to be loved is to be destroyed,” created a visual story about love and power. “Jess would be the heroine in the story, not only because she looks badass on the stage, but because she represents many modern women. As her character lives a happy and love-filled life, she encounters situations where she needs to step out of her comfort zone in order to protect her love. It’s a metaphor for modern love. You can’t just live happily ever after like in the movies. There are moments in which we struggle. It’s a journey of learning to be yourself, and most importantly to be brave.”
I gave Dye a ring to discuss her anticipated sophomore album, Sick of Saying Sorry. Let’s just say her infectious charisma and charm had me playing the High Waisted musical repertoire on rotation for a week – and inspired me to practice guitar until my fingers bled.
AF: The dynamic single “Drive” that illustrates the breadth of your sound. Can you talk about your influences behind the track?
JLD: The idea came from waking up just before dawn in the passenger seat of the van on tour. Everyone silent, traveling over endless pavement as the sun slowly sets the horizon on fire. Chasing something we’ll never catch.
AF: The song echoes themes of agency, rebirth, and cyclical patterns. Was that inspired by a personal experience in a relationship – or a universal state of being?
JLD: It’s actually about the forbidden love story of the sun and the moon, obliged to never meet in order to keep the world alive.
AF: How would you describe your songwriting process?
JLD: I like to set little secret intentions within my lyrics, hoping those wishes will come true. Sometimes these premonitions become accidental realities.
AF: Can you discuss teaming up with Tad Kubler (The Hold Steady) and Arun Bali (Saves the Day), in the making of Sick of Saying Sorry?
JLD: Tad was a remarkable producer. I’ve never had anyone believe in me as a songwriter like he did. He had such empathy for the writing process. To be the recipient of that level of creative commitment is intoxicating. This album was born from scraps of paper scribbled while riding the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan at 4am. It came to life in a steamy apartment on an acoustic guitar played in my underwear because a broken radiator was blasting heat. I would walk through snow to Ludlow Street to play with Richey Rose (Wendy James, Tamaryn, Jennie Vee). We would stay up til dawn singing to each other at the top of our lungs. The music came easily. Nothing felt forced. We treated each song like a sovereign nation with its own set of rules, culture and history. The result is an album of many moods. We were lucky to have Arun lend his talents to mix. He had such a fresh perspective and patience when our ears were tired. Sometimes in order to discover what we liked, we had to first figure out what we didn’t. Mark Buzzard (The Format) has been nothing but a cheerleader as I started my own music career. I was so proud to share these creations with him and honored to have him play keys. I love that everyone left their mark on this record.
AF: When did the moment hit you that fronting a rock band was your calling?
JLD: Sitting behind a screen, fresh from a break-up, at the only 9 to 5 I’ve ever worked (lasted 8 months) while I was still living out of my ’99 Buick Century. It was the only future plan that gave me a will to live.
AF: In a world with no limits to magical realism, you have to go undercover for a spy mission and can only choose one disguise to carry out a secret mission: Disco Glitter Queen, Space Cowgirl, or Candy Raver Rocker – which would it be?
JLD: This is a no-brainer – Space Cowgirl, every time.
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