Luke Mitchell and Kevin Early knew each other long before they decided to join forces with Mary Alice Connor and Julius DeAngelis to form the High Divers, local throwback rock ‘n’ rollers who released their debut album on Hearts & Plugs last week.
“My first memory of Kevin is when he found out I had a trampoline,” Mitchell says. “And he was like, ‘Ah, man, we gotta be buds now.’ So we just kept anteing up the trampoline skills, and we started hosing down the trampoline, because it thickens the fibers and makes them expand so you can bounce even higher. And if you add soap it’s even thicker, so then you’re like jumping so much higher than you ever thought you’d be able to jump. And then we jumped off my dad’s roof onto the trampoline, and it was great.”
Believe it or not, that’s not why they’re called the High Divers. “No, but that would be a good reason,” Mitchell says. “I actually tried to go on a high dive once in Michigan, but I couldn’t do it. I had to crawl back down in shame.”
The band name was eventually chosen after eliminating a slew of seemingly original titles that were oddly already scooped up. “Literally everything else was taken,” Mitchell says. “We started coming up with a lot of ridiculous names. We were like, ‘All right, we’re gonna be Road Soda. And that was taken. It’s insane.”
The High Divers are relatively new to the Charleston scene but have been causing quite the stir of late. They landed in Charleston from Hilton Head a year ago and quickly found their feet in the city’s inviting music community. That’s partly thanks to a few connections — like Brave Baby’s Wolfgang Ryan Zimmerman, who Mitchell met in college on the drummer/producer’s 21st birthday, and singer-songwriter and SUSTO guitarist Johnny Delaware. Mitchell and Delaware met on Craigslist and lived together for a stint in Austin a few years ago.
“I was actually just thinking Johnny was probably also the catalyst for us moving back here, because I sent him on this wild goose chase to Charleston to see if he could make it and, like, infiltrate the scene.” Mitchell remembers. “And he totally did. He was kind of like this guinea pig. I wasn’t thinking of it like that at the time, of course, but then I saw how well he did, and everybody took him seriously.”
“[Mitchell] came here and started playing with Johnny and realized this is a beautiful music community, this is definitely where we should be,” recalls keyboardist/vocalist Connor, who is also Mitchell’s girlfriend.
The band was welcomed by and signed to Hearts & Plugs earlier this year, and though they’re unlike most of the label’s underground-indie roster, the High Divers are certainly as likeable. Only 30 or so seconds into Riverlust‘s opening track, “Rising Water,” and you get the distinct feeling you’re in for something great, because you are. Blending classic rock ‘n’ roll that exercises but doesn’t wear out its Southern muscle, tracks like “Give it Up” are reminiscent of something the Band would’ve come up if they were still kicking around.
Riverlust can be anthemic yet down-to-earth — accessible but beautifully complex, mixing harmonies, horns, melody, and rollicking chorus lines with a joyous energy the band readily applies to their craft. We’ve seen firsthand the kind of effect such a combination has on the High Divers’ live audience, and it’s no wonder the city has embraced the band so earnestly. Sorry ’bout that, Hilton Head.
“We’re super grateful for everything that happened there, but there’s no music scene, and they don’t really care what you’re doing musically or artistically, so it’s been really refreshing being here,” Mitchell says. “It’s incredible for there to be a good hotbed of music where people aren’t like looking down their nose at you. In Austin, everyone was like that — it was like turf wars.”
The promise Charleston would hold for the High Divers even came to Mitchell in a dream, and that’s what the last song, “Lines,” on Riverlust is about.
“It’s like a dream inside a dream, and the dream is partly about Ryan,” Mitchell says of Zimmerman, who produced the record. “Ryan was on a boat with me in this dream. And it was sinking, and we were like, ‘What are we gonna do?’ And I took that to mean he was gonna get us out of this sinking ship when we came to Charleston. That’s what I got out of it.”
Saturday’s Royal American show is the Riverlust release party, with additional performances from local act Faline and Caitlin Harnett, an Australian folk singer who will also tour with the High Divers for the next few weeks.