We caught up with alt-pop duo, HYYTS (it’s pronounced Heights), to hear how these cheeky chappies from Glasgow are turning up the volume on mental wellbeing through their music. They gave CALM the gossip on creating tunes over Zoom, turning stereotypical ideas of masculinity on their head, and why you can expect something totally different from their new EP.
Sam and Adam have known one another since they were ten years old, meeting at a football game, the pair hit it off straight away. Chatting to them, you’d think they were brothers and the two play off one another in a quickfire way. It’s no surprise that this tight friendship has led to them creating even tighter tracks.
Their music blends catchy electro hooks with sugary sweet vocals and HYYTS’ shape shifting melodies make their songs serious earworm material. But while their songs are undeniably poppy, their attitude is pretty punk.
Off their upcoming EP, Helluvatime, their latest release, Blue & White, interrogates the idea of masculinity. Shot by directors, Pip & Lib, the video for the track has a hazy 90s feel and looks at male emotion through a softer lens. Not to mention Adam got a pretty cool hairdo for the shoot, he says:
“Pip & Lib came forward with this idea about subverting the traditional male gaze. The way the lighting was done and the way they shot us was very soft, tender and loving. We were really happy with how it turned out and when they asked if I’d have cloud hair I was like, ‘oh god yes!’”
Sam and Adam grew up in Glasgow, a place they admit is sometimes known for its hard exterior. The duo weren’t sure how their music would be received by their hometown, with Glasgow known for carving out bands like Primal Scream and Biffy Clyro. Adam says:
“Despite being kind of old school, Glasgow is really accepting. You’re more likely to get ripped for the shirt you’re wearing than your sexuality or anything like that. But there’s still a whole era of men who think it’s only acceptable to feel things on football days and so all their emotions come out in really weird and violent ways.
“It’s quite a violent city and neither of us are particularly masculine people. We’re playing music in a city where normally you’re in a punk or rock band, so for us to go out and dance around and sing about other things that aren’t leather and cigarettes was quite hard and we experienced some backlash from that. Toxic masculinity is everywhere, you can’t get away from it.”
But HYYTS have been incredibly well received and the pair seem refreshingly down to earth despite airplay through BBC Introducing and recently winning the Best Pop Act Award at the Scottish Music Awards. Something Sam says came at the right time:
“We asked our team who slipped them a cheque…” Sam laughs. “But it came at quite a good time. It was in the middle of the first lockdown where everything had come to a standstill. We were questioning a lot of things and freaking out a lot, so to have that recognition and a little pat on the back to tell us we’re still on the right track was really important for us.”
“Yeah, we’re fragile egotists, so we just soak up any kind of validation!” Adam chuckles.
Getting into music in very different ways, the guys started getting drunk together and creating songs, since then they’ve never looked back. Blown away by his talent for tickling a tune on the keyboard, Adam convinced Sam to make the move from nightlife promotion in Edinburgh to writing songs together in Dundee.
The naturally more gregarious of the two, Adam studied at RCS and performed in musical theatre before working as a music therapist in a Scottish Prison, something he’s clearly passionate about and has played a big part in their music:
“Through my job I spoke to people with lots of different experiences and that really opened my eyes. I learned that people who’re in jail for horrible crimes are often just wee guys and most of the time, wee guys that have never been told they’re good at anything or that somebody loves them. Mental wellbeing can be traced back to pretty much every problem we have, especially living in a world designed by men who aren’t comfortable talking to each other or displaying emotion. It bleeds into everything.”
Sam and Adam’s music is eclectic and so is their inspiration, their influences range from Idles to George Micheal – who the pair agree is an endless inspiration to their sound.
“We find inspiration in all sorts of music,” says Sam. “But when it comes to songwriting we tend to go to more traditional songwriters, you know, the old smelly guys. Then we pair that with really modern production. What’s really interesting to us is to have a really great song at the core that you can play on guitar without all the bells and whistles of production, then you can put some really cool stuff on the back of it and have a mesh between the two.”
Beneath the pop veneer of their songs lies a more serious message about the mental health crisis. There’s a sincerity to their lyrics that’s sometimes missing in mainstream music, something which perhaps comes from their determination to write what they know.
“The songs that make it are the ones that are organic and that mean something,” Adam says. “When you’re churning out loads of songs you want to write about things you actually feel and as two people from a young male community, we’ve seen the effects of poor mental wellbeing on our friendship group. We realised that feeling like you don’t have something to say is the whole problem and if you don’t speak about emotional health, nothing changes.”
Stoked to be talking to CALM, the pair know the importance of support when someone is struggling. Sam says:
“Charities like CALM give people who are suffering a direct route to help. They’re happy to have these difficult conversations and that direct link will often create a community for people who’re feeling the same way. It’s such a complex thing and often with mental wellbeing you don’t know what you’re suffering from because you can’t see what’s physically going on. To have charities and services there that give people community and help support is so important.”
Understanding the difficulties the pandemic has thrown at people, HYYTS made much of their latest EP over Zoom during lockdown and despite this unconventional way of making music, Sam and Adam are set to release Helluvatime in June. So what can you expect from tethe release? Sam says:
“People can expect something they’ve never heard from us before. We used to be a very singles driven band and we were always trying to write the biggest, glossiest pop songs, but this liberated us to make more experimental tunes. It’s some of the stuff we’re most proud of, and some of the weirdest stuff we’ve ever made – a much wider and stranger array of music.”
Helluvatime is out on June 11, telling a love story in reverse, covering love, heartbreak and feeling ready to do it all over again. Fancy hearing it live? They’ll be playing an exclusive Lock-In session for CALM on Instagram on June 4 at 7pm.
If you need to talk we’re here to lend a listening ear, no matter what. CALM’s free, confidential helpline and webchat service is run by a trained team and is open every day from 5pm until midnight.
Photo by Cian McKenzie
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