Introducing… High Hazels

10 November, 2013 in Features, Interviews

High Hazels

A brand new four-piece guitar band from Sheffield. Influenced by local heroes Hawley and Cocker, and far-from-local Simon and Garfunkel

Name: James Leesley, Scott Howes, Paul Barlow and Anthony Barlow

Location: Sheffield, UK

Style: “We’re a guitar band”

Look out for: Their debut single Hearts Are Breaking out now on indie label Heist Or Hit Records


t’s super early days for this young guitar band from Sheffield, with debut single Hearts Are Breaking just out last month and their first album still work in progress. But, speaking to lead singer James Leelsey, taking a short break in songwriting for a “nice brew”, we soon discover High Hazels have been in gestation for quite a while. “Three of us were best mates at junior school when we started the band together, so we’ve known each other for the best part of 15 years really,” he reveals. “That helps with the songwriting process because it’s a social thing and we’re all on a similar wavelength.”

The band (consisting of Leesley’s vocal and guitar, Scott Howes on lead guitar, with brothers Paul and Anthony Barlow forming the rhythm section) don’t approach songwriting with any set formula, but each member has input in the lyrics and music. As James explains: “We’ll have the basis of the guitar and the lyrics separately, and we try and work out a melody based around a couple of lines. Once we’ve got some melodies and chords that we’re excited about, we’ll take it into the practice room and layer-up the instruments.”

Being born and bred in Sheffield, it’s unsurprising that their music offers more than a passing resemblance to Arctic Monkeys, and the band’s influences include local heroes Richard Hawley — “I really like his guitar playing” — and Jarvis Cocker — “his lyrics especially.” However, there’s also some songwriting homage paid to Simon & Garfunkel – “The way they stripped it down to just the guitar and vocals, and how big that can sound.” — with James revealing the debut single’s B-side Five Weirs was influenced by Paul Simon.

High Hazels are proudly “a guitar band” and the instrument is the foundation of their live act, and their songwriting process. “We usually write on an acoustic to start with, and try to spend as much time on guitars as we possibly can,” says James. However, it’s clear their ambitions lie beyond the six-strings as soon as they get into the studio, where he reveals the band have “all got a couple of basic chords on a keyboard and we’ll have a go on a glockenspiel.”

James goes on to tell us how 2012 was when it “started to get really serious”, with the band gathering a decent set of songs, honing their sound and getting a demo recording played by Steve Lamacq on Radio 6 Music. “Then we knew we were on the right track,” he says proudly.

And with that, we let Leesley finish his cup of tea and get back to songwriting, leaving us with the possibility that the High Hazels album may end up being a glockenspiel-driven collection somewhere between Jarvis Cocker and Simon & Garfunkel.


Watch the video for latest single Hearts Are Breaking here, featuring original 80s footage from High Hazels lead guitarist Scott’s parents’ wedding…

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