It’s easy to see why High Fade are tipped for greatness. Their music transcends genres. A rich cocktail of funk, rock, pop and disco, infused with ‘70s and ‘80s influences, it’s an irresistible and intoxicating libation.
The band notched up more than 30 million views and streams within six months of their first release, and their reputation has only grown since. The critics are salivating, and the fanbase includes such luminaries as Jack Black, Emili Sandé, Cypress Hill, Deep Purple's Glenn Hughes, and Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine, to name but a few.
High Fade: Oliver Sentance, Calvin Davidson, Harry Valentino
Equally at home playing intimate gigs, festival main stages, or busking in their native Edinburgh, the band's rise has been nothing short of meteoric since rebooting in the wake of Covid.
Comprised of guitarist, frontman and first among equals, Harry Valentino, drumming wunderkind Calvin Davidson, and groove god and master bassist Oliver Sentance, the band maintains a punishing gig schedule. Having just completed a tour of Ireland, the boys are now gigging their way across the UK as warm-up for their first and extensive (currently 32 shows and rising) US tour next month.
High Fade’s success is a testament to the enduring power of music to bring people together. Watching these boys on stage, clearly loving the musical magic they’re making, is a life-affirming pleasure. Trust us, this band is going to be massive!
We got to interview the High Fade boys before their Banbury gig. (Big thanks to the lovely folk at AKA for hooking us up.) Relaxed, friendly and funny, Harry, Oli, and Calvin were incredibly generous with their time, spending much of the afternoon with us.
It was a sunny day, so we grabbed a coffee and headed to the nearest green space – which happened to be a churchyard – for a nice long chat, only occasionally interrupted by squirrels and cigarette-toting lost souls in search of a light.
We know you like these longform interviews. This one’s longer than usual because High Fade had plenty of interesting stuff to say about the band, its history, gigging, record deals, managers and more. We think you’ll enjoy the extra inches. Get your funk on! ♣︎︎
Hello High Fade. Please introduce yourselves.
HARRY – Hello, I'm Harry Valentino. I play guitar and sing, and I’m the frontman of the band. That includes driving and being sensible, at times.
OLI – Hello, my name's Oli. I'm 32, I live in Edinburgh and play bass for High Fade, and maybe do a little bit of singing when the time's right.
CALVIN – I'm Calvin. I play drums, sing, and I am 20 years old.
Describe High Fade for anyone that hasn’t heard you yet.
CALVIN – We find that one hard. The umbrella term's probably funk rock.
OLI – But then you get people saying kinda Rush and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The melodies and stuff are kinda pop too.
HARRY – I understand the prog thing as well. I’d say classic rock, prog, old school funk. A lot of disco in there as well. Definitely some ‘70s and ‘80s jazz fusion kind of stuff as well.
It’s a musical smorgasbord. Things have really blown up for you this year. What’s your secret sauce?
OLI – It's just something new, man. I think people are getting bored of what's out there and it's something new. Real musicians playing real instruments.
HARRY – We're a band that you can show up and sing along to the tunes, you can just dance the night away, or you can stand there and go, what the fuck is this?
OLI – We get a mixed audience: young and old. We get people who love ‘70s funk and miss that kind of music, and we get people who are into classic rock. And the young ones who are into something that's born on the dance floor. It never stops.
It may never stop but tell us how it started.
HARRY – I started High Fade at the end of 2018. It was a different lineup then. It ran for about a year. We were gigging quite a lot, but it didn't really go anywhere as such. And then the lineup changed and I phoned Oli.
OLI – Random phone call, out of the blue, going like, hey, I need a bass player.
HARRY – Oli and I used to play in bands together when I was like 16, 17, playing in a couple of different projects. So, I phoned Oli, and then another drummer, called Pete. I managed to rope them in, and we started playing. I'd got gigs booked and I had to make them happen.
OLI – We rehearsed for two weeks straight, pretty much.
HARRY – We did the first show and that lineup continued for about another year until Covid happened. Then Pete had to go back home to Malta, so I was left looking for another drummer. Then Oli and I reached a point where we were like, we need some consistency.
And how did you find Calvin?
HARRY – I showed up to the rehearsal room, about a week after that conversation. I’m standing outside and I hear someone playing in one of the rooms. I’m like, who’s that? Are they in there on their own? Because that was what I was looking for: someone that's just gonna show up on their own to a rehearsal room on a Tuesday afternoon and be doing it. I stick my head in and go, oh, it's you! See, I knew Calvin previously, from doing photography and stuff, and meeting him on the scene, but I didn't know he played drums. I'd only seen Calvin sing and play guitar.
OLI – The song he was playing was 'Bleed' by Meshuggah.
HARRY – That's when I was like, this is the guy we need. I come from a heavy metal background as well, and if you can play that you can probably play High Fade tunes.
Calvin passed the Meshuggah test. What happened next?
CALVIN – I think maybe like a week later, Harry sent me a message: a couple of laughing, crying emojis, and saying he’d got a proposition for me. That was June last year.
HARRY – Calvin came to a jam and we all really got on well.
CALVIN – That first jam was great. We genuinely, instantly just clicked.
HARRY – I remember at the start saying to Calvin, we’re going all in on this band. Oli and I had just sacked off our jobs. We need someone equally as committed. If this is what you want to do, fantastic. If not, then it’s not for you.
CALVIN – It was made very clear to me, and I was like, yeah, I want to be in this.
HARRY – Calvin joined and then played 14 shows back-to-back.
Talk about a baptism of fire!
HARRY – I remember saying to Oli at the time, the only way to do this is to give Calvin a crack at all these shows. That’s what you really want, to have that level of commitment. It shows so much. Calvin’s our guy and we’ve been on our way ever since.
Can you remember your first show together?
CALVIN – Yeah, 30th of September . It went really well. We’d had, I think, maybe only four rehearsals together, but it jelled instantly. You know if someone's right for a band, or if someone's not. Likewise, joining a band, you know if they're right for you as well. All these stars aligned. It was perfect.
HARRY – It was probably the most comfortable first gig. Oli and I both left that gig going that was actually sick. I didn't feel stressed at the gig. Usually when I had new lineups, I was having to hold someone's hand.
OLI – I think Calvin joining gave us motivation as well. That also helped me. It's like, yeah, this guy wants it; we've got to step our game up as well. This lineup's been a godsend, man.
HARRY – And that's when I feel like High Fade properly formed, because before that we’d chopped and changed so much.
In what ways did things change when Calvin joined.
HARRY – Until you have a committed lineup, it’s hard to write songs because people aren't there, they miss a rehearsal, they miss a gig, and you've changed the song, or you've done this or that, and it's hard to get them up to speed. When Calvin joined, we'd write a song and play it that week at a show. ‘Burnt Toast and Coffee’ we wrote in 15 minutes and played the next night.
CALVIN – We've written so many tunes since then. It's not even been a year and we've written tons of stuff. I think the first one we wrote together was ‘Dwee Ba Ba’.
HARRY – We were in a rehearsal room, we were in a rush, and an old lady comes in and she’s like, your time’s up, hurry up. I’m like, no, don’t interrupt because we’re finishing the song.
Don’t interrupt the muse, woman!
HARRY – Exactly. That day we said we don’t ever want to be rushed again writing tunes. That set us to rehearsing in our own space, because it takes time to warm up. We’ll show up at mine and have a coffee, and we’ll have a craic, and just a jam, and sometimes a tune will come out in 10 minutes, or you’ll spend three hours working on something. You need to have that time.
When it comes to songwriting, does someone take the lead?
HARRY – We all write the songs together. Every song is literally 33.3333%. We'll usually write the music first and then everyone will sit and brainstorm ideas for the lyrics and vocals.
CALVIN – I've always said there should be no hierarchy in a band. At least in the process of writing songs.
HARRY – If you’re a band, you write tunes together. Otherwise, you’re not a band, you’re one guy and a few musicians. I hate this frontman separation shit. I never do stuff alone. We did an interview with BBC Scotland and I refused to do it unless Calvin and Oli were with me. You can't pick us for Track of the Week – a track that was written by the three of us – and then turn round and go, oh, but only you.
So, for High Fide, songwriting's an organic rather than a regimented process?
HARRY – Yeah, we don't force ourselves to write. What we do is, somehow, we all just get the urge to write tunes, and it just comes out. This is why we have our own label, because we don't want people breathing down our necks.
OLI – No one saying, if you release this you can’t release it like that.
HARRY – We have a manager called Simon. From the start, he’s been like, set up your own thing, do what you want, because whatever you're doing seems to be working. He’s more like an advisor or mentor, rather than a manager telling us what to do.
Sounds perfect. How did you find Simon?
HARRY – Simon reached out to me. He was like, I think what you’re doing is really cool. He works for a company called LabelWorx which helps you set up your own label. They’re a fantastic company. Easy to work with. They set you up in no time. No dodgy deals. They really, really help their artists.
Were you ever tempted by established labels?
HARRY – No. After looking at all the options, and turning down labels, Simon reached out in a way that was like, I just want to help you release your own music. Simon helped us get a release schedule together, and the marketing side. That’s his bag. He’s head of A&R there.
OLI – He’s been managing us since February. After that is when it started to really go in terms of the Spotify side and the monthly listeners all going up.
CALVIN – And more mainstream media as well: PR, getting us on radio and doing interviews. He's very good at, you know, funneling the right things that come down, especially as there’s more going on now.
HARRY – Calvin and Oli know this, but for the last six months I've been an absolute stress head, but that's because you're trying to make this thing succeed. And now that it's going, really going, it's actually getting easier. I've spent four years building and pushing, and now we've got a great team of people around us. We've got our artwork people, we've got our engineer, we've got our mastering guy, we've got Simon, we've got two agents. We've got everyone we need.
The dream team. So, no regrets about going it alone?
HARRY – None. I feel like so many independent artists are getting absolutely screwed over. They're signing these shit deals. You're better releasing your own tunes. Keep a hold of your publishing. I don’t care how much they’re giving you, it’s not worth it. Keep it. Find other ways of making money. Make cool merch, do touring, go busking.
OLI – Don't give your music away!
CALVIN – It literally takes 15 seconds to google what a label strategy is for music. Why do that if you can literally google it?
HARRY – A lot of these deals are dodgy. Someone telling you when to put a song out or saying, ‘Oh, I don’t like this new single you’ve got. No, we need you to wait three months.’ If you wait three months to release a song, you die. Your career's dead. If they park your songs, you can't go to anyone else; you can't go to another label to release it.
Wise words. Things are really moving for High Fade now. Was there a moment that gave you the push you needed?
OLI – I guess what really set things off the last few months is we went and done three festivals in a row. We played Kendal Calling, Green Man, and Shambala.
HARRY – Shambala was sick, man. What a festival! What a vibe on the stage. It was nice because we closed the festival. And it was a killer gig. It was kind of like a wrap on the festival season, because we were going between [Edinburgh] Fringe Festival and other festivals at the weekend.
OLI – Doing four gigs on weekdays and more at the weekends.
HARRY – Going away for three days, back home on the Monday for a gig on Monday night. Then playing straight through the week until we're away again. We've done 40 nights on the bounce essentially.
OLI – The hardest-working band in funk.
HARRY – Any other band in this genre, you’d be lucky if they're doing one show a week. Sometimes we’re doing 30 shows a month. And that's not because we're better or anything; it's because we want to play the shows. Earlier in the year we were gigging every night and busking during the day.
CALVIN – We were busking in January and February in minus two degrees. Brutal, but so much fun. That's the thing, if we didn't get on, we wouldn’t want to do that.
HARRY – You wouldn't catch me out in the street in January, bro. The only reason I was doing it is I wanted to spend time with these fellas.
You really are best mates.
HARRY – We are. We make sure that we do stuff as mates when we're not gigging, even if it’s just going to a coffee shop or something. It’s not just gigs, gigs, gigs.
Do you ever get on each other’s tits? Any irritating habits?
OLI – I guess you two would probably say my tone. Not my bass tone – my tone of voice. Hopefully you guys love my bass tone. It's just sometimes I'm quite blunt in the way I speak.
CALVIN – I don't really have any, what would you say, foibles. I think we're all quite proud of what we do individually. We're very good at communicating any issues like that. Like, after a rehearsal, we’ll have a little powwow of anything that’s maybe individually bothering us.
HARRY – We'll literally sit like this, have a chat, drink coffee, and we’ll ask, ‘Are you good, man?’ And if you have to ask twice, you’ll ask twice. There’s brutal honesty. Having those conversations is so important.
Oli - That's the best way to be though. There's no point pissing around.
Who’s the band diva? Who’s the organiser?
CALVIN – Oh, probably all of us, diva-wise, anyway. All of us, for sure.
OLI – I like organising things. Whether or not I'm good at it is a different story. I want to know where we're going, when, what, kind of stuff like that.
HARRY – We all choose where the direction goes, but when it comes to execution, what’s the next move in order to unlock such and such, that's where Simon's helping us a lot.
Now, to really get to know you, we’re going to hit you with some random, quickfire questions. Here goes. What's something you think everyone should do at least once in their life?
OLI – Masturbate.
HARRY – Quit your job and chase your dream.
CALVIN – Take psychedelics.
For legal reasons we should probably say at this point that the views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of TEN OF CLUBS. What’s something you’ll never do again?
CALVIN – Masturbate.
HARRY – A normal job.
Aliens: real or bullshit?
ALL – Real!
You're the condemned man on Death Row. What are you having for your last meal?
OLI – Steak bake. From Greggs.
HARRY – For me it’s a double bacon cheeseburger and Korean barbecue wings from this place in Edinburgh called Down the Hatch. That and a fat Biscoff milkshake.
CALVIN – I'd have a cheese-less pizza from Domino's. I'd have pepperoni, sweetcorn and no cheese. And extra sauce. I'm not weird, I promise. If you go to Italy, you'll find a marinara pizza on any real Italian menu.
What’s your favourite smell?
OLI – I like patchouli. Or sugar waffles. Delicious.
CALVIN – A cheese-less pizza.
What's the best way to start the day?
OLI – Coffee! And a cigarette.
HARRY – Or a Berocca.
CALVIN – Waking up and seeing Oli and Harry's faces in bed. [Awkward silence.] What's the next question?
What's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to you?
OLI – I walked past this thrift shop with a Fender P bass in the window. Price was £250. I’m like, nah, can’t be real. The shop was closed but I went back early the next day. I’m worried someone’s gonna get to it before me. I go in, check out the bass. It looks old. Okay, this could be legit. What you’re best price? Bloke gives me 10% off and I got a 1978 Fender P bass – that's like a two grand bass – for £225!
HARRY – Hearing Calvin play drums in the practice room.
What's the dumbest thing you've ever done?
HARRY – I chopped my pinky off as a kid. Shut it in a door. Took my pinky finger on my right hand clean off. I remember picking it up and taking it to my mum. They put it back on. It works okay now, but that’s why I play with my pinky out: it won’t stay curled up.
OLI – Broke my dick. And then almost got arrested in the hospital for being drunk, disorderly, shouting about my penis.
Sounds like quite a night. What’s been the band’s biggest ‘pinch me’ moment so far?
OLI – Going to America! It's still not real yet. As soon as we book those flights, and when we get to the airport to get on that plane, that's when it's going to be real. Kansas City, 9th October.
Knowing what you know now, what’s your advice for someone starting a life in music?
OLI – Take anything and everything you can: every opportunity. Immerse yourself in music
CALVIN – Play with many different people as well. Figure out what works.
HARRY – And play with people better than you. Then you have to get better. If you're the best player in the room or the band, you're not in the right band.
TOC x High Fade (Oli, Matt, Calvin, Skev, Harry)
Thanks so much for your time today, guys. That was a lot of fun. We can’t wait for the gig tonight. Any final words for your fans?
OLI – Thank you guys for all the support. Stream the tunes. Stream the music.
CALVIN - Peace and love. Love everyone.
HARRY – Without you we wouldn't be able to do this for a job, living, whatever you want to call it. It doesn't feel like a job when you have this many people enjoying it. Thank you.
OLI – We'll see you in America!
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