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Vista, CA sits just miles north of San Diego. Living up to its name, there’s a certain perspective from the area informing Hell Or Highwater’s second full-length album the aptly titled, Vista [Spinefarm Records]. The band—Brandon Saller [vocals], Kyle Rosa [drums], Joey Bradford [guitar], Jon Hoover [guitar], and Nick Maldonado [bass, synth]—tap into their hometown’s energy.
“Most of the band is from here,” says Brandon. “It’s not just a place to live; it’s a vibe. There’s a certain lifestyle that makes it a very chill and positive location. We want to put it on the map as more of a mindset. Everything about the record is this town.”
That sun-soaked limitless possibility and galvanizing Southern California spirit define the group’s approach. In the midst of a hiatus from Atreyu, Brandon first introduced the robust, raucous, and real hard rock of Hell Or Highwater in 2011 with the independent full-length debut, Begin Again. Arriving with a bang, the group supported Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, The Used and The Darkness on tour, while album standout “Go Alone” [feat. M. Shadows] cracked one million Spotify streams. The follow-up 2013 EP, The Other Side, earned a 4-out-of-5-star rating from Alternative Press as well as praise from Revolver, Loudwire, and more. Simultaneously, they ignited audiences on the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival.
As early as 2013, ideas began gestating for what would become Vista.
“We had been writing for about six to eight months and recording demos,” recalls Brandon. “When Atreyu got back together, we put Hell On Highwater on hold to do so. It was a blessing. We definitely had a lot of time to think about this one. I don’t think the record would be what it is without that timeframe. We welcomed Nick and Jon during this period and ended up writing about 80 songs. They were a good indication of where we were at. Then we took our time to make them perfect.”
In 2016, Hell Or Highwater wrote at Joey’s “family compound with a beautiful view of the hills in Vista.” They brought those ideas to Sonic Ranch in El Paso, TX at the urging of producer and longtime collaborator Fred Archambault [Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu]. The seclusion of the border locale proved immediately inspiring.
“It’s miles off the highway in its own magical niche of a world,” says Brandon. “Fred brought up the idea of wanting to change the environment. He understood the gravity of what we were doing and thought Sonic Ranch was the best studio to accomplish that. After the experience, I would make every record I could there forever!”
As a result, a hypnotic spatial expanse courses through the album’s anthemic arena-ready hooks and explosive riffing. The first single “I Want It All” bobs and weaves over a bombastic beat before culminating on a magnetic chant carried by Brandon.
“The song ponders success, and the idea of whether it’s deserved or not,” he explains. “You get fed up, feel it’s your time, and go for it. That’s how we look at music. Think of it like the, ‘If you build it, they will come’ philosophy. You’re saying, ‘It’s my time to Shine.’”
“Walk Out In The Rain” pours down a hummable refrain that’s impossible to shake over a powerful sonic backdrop. “A lot of my lyrics have a silver lining to them, and that song has a message about being down in the dumps,” he continues. “If you have friends and people who love you, you don’t need much more. It’s a reminder that life is never going to be easy, and there will be positives and negatives.”
Ultimately, Hell Or Highwater bring a new energy to rock music rooted in Vista. “I feel like this album has songs for you to have fun, to feel and to drive you wild,” he leaves off. “I want people to feel all of that.”