The Highest Order w/Cactus Flower, Laura Sauvage, The Barr Brothers Saturday, October 22, 10pm The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street
"It's the most 'party' record I've ever made," The Highest Order's Simone Schmidt says of the band's second album, Still Holding, released this past June. Three-quarters comprised of former members of country group $100 (Schmidt, Paul Mortimer and Kyle Porter), along with drummer Simone TB, The Highest Order has a more psychedelic and electric country sound (one that also crops up in Schmidt's solo project Fiver) than the old-timey feel of $100.
"On our second album, we wanted to jam together," Schmidt says, which is what they did, recording over a two-year period. The lyrics were written to "leave room for the musicians to play within—structurally, there's a lot of room for jamming."
Yet nobody will mistake this group for a one-dimensional party band. Schmidt gets political in her lyrics, but she's quick to clarify that her songwriting isn't to boast about her politics—rather, she expresses genuine frustration with the injustice of our laws and processes. "Keep a Window Open," for instance, looks at migrant detention and ongoing hunger strikes in southern Ontario.
"It's part of what it is to live here...to see how some of us have freedom of movement across borders and some of us don't; it's white supremacy," Schmidt says casually. "I write about what I see.
"I think people coming across that within music that they're partying to is probably more effective than the record being framed as a political statement.
So while The Highest Order's idea of a party may seem peculiar to some, for Schmidt, it makes sense not to decontextualize the music. "You can throw [the album] on and not be assaulted by this deep, deep sadness, but I don't exist in the context where this sadness doesn't exist, even when there's feast or celebration," she says. "I don't know how you can disconnect the good times from the bad times any more."