2005 releases 2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2009 digital downloads guitar music Under The Radar

High On Stress… Under The Radar.

Under The Radar is a column inspired by material sent in by the readers of Burgo’s Blog, alerting me to music that I may not have otherwise heard. If you’d like to let me know about some of your favourite tunes that I may not know about, then drop a line to the email address listed on the “About” page.


In the course of doing this gig (and by “doing” I mean “writing”, and by “gig” I mean “blog”), I come across a lot of new music, and a large percentage of that is via suggestions that come in from my readers… whether it’s an email, or a comment left here or there, the readers of this blog have turned me on to some great tunes.
As I’ve said before – in fact, in my last “Under the Radar” post – some of the suggestions are… well, ok. Some are good. Some are great. And some are special.
One of those special ones recently landed in my inbox, and inspired me to bring the “Under the Radar” category back out of the closet. A gold nugget of a band called “High On Stress”.


High On Stress - Under The Radar…


When I first heard “High On Stress”, a smile spread across my face within the first few seconds of the song starting. There’s this undeniable influence from The Replacements in their tunes, and a Paul Westerberg-like croon always reminds me of better days. Honestly, the songs I heard off their 2005 “Moonlight Girls” album sounded to me like it should have been placed on the “Can’t Hardly Wait” soundtrack, alongside Westerberg and Co. and Matthew Sweet… with a little of Uncle Tupelo thrown in for good measure. A more innocent time, for me at least; when anything was possible, and music was the frikkin’ saviour of the world.
In other words… it was extremely good times.

After spinning the disc a few times, I decided to ask lead vocalist/songwriter Nick Leet some questions, to find out more about the band. So, here you go…


Nick, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. So, first things first… I’ve been listening to “Moonlight Girls” on some pretty serious rotation for the last few days, and I’m absolutely loving it. Obviously, I’m hearing a pretty strong “Replacements” rock influence in your tunes, some Soul Asylum, and there’s also some newer tinges ala Whiskeytown in there. Do you think you could talk a little about the band’s influences, and what sort of role those influences played in the formation of the band?

Nick:  Thanks Matt.  I really appreciate that.  All of the bands you listed are influences.  We wear them on our sleeve I guess you could say.  We all are into a lot of different music but because of that I don’t think we sound like a cheap knockoff of anyone but more-so hopefully a buffet of goodness.

Burgo: Minneapolis – your current base – has always had a pretty strong music scene. Did that make it harder or easier to get your name out there?

Nick:  Minneapolis is a great place to be in a rock band.  There are so many cool bands here.  Many people that I know only buy local CDs because they feel like they get what they need from what they see around town.  I think in some aspects it makes it harder to get noticed because there ARE so many great bands but on the other hand everyone is so accepting and excited for new music that you can’t beat it.  I would highly recommend checking out MPLS bands like Romantica, the Hard Left, the Red Flags and Six Mile Grove.
(Ed’s note: Actually, check out my past post about Romantica here)

Burgo: Related to that, after listening to the scathing “Minot”, it’s pretty clear that you’re originally from North Dakota, right? How did you guys all meet up in Minneapolis?

Nick Indeed I am.  Ha.  Some things about it I have begun to appreciate but mostly it was pretty stifling to play music in that town unless you were playing punk rock or in a cover band.  Let’s just put it this way, I wouldn’t go back.  I met Mark through a “band wanted” sign I posted.  Jim was a co-worker and songwriter friend of mine and Chad is originally from Minot as well.


High on Stress
High on Stress are: Nick Leet, Mark Devaraj, Jim Soule & Chad Wheeling
(Image credit: Steve Cohen)


Burgo: One of the reasons I really enjoy listening to High On Stress is the way that you guys obviously value lyrics that make you think, that actually say something (in particular, the wry “Gold Star” gets me). Are there any authors/other sources that you draw inspiration from when it comes to getting the lyrics down?

Nick:  My favorite lyricist is Blake Schwartzenbach.  He was the singer and guitarist of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil.  He’s currently not making music which is very sad.  The dude could make simple words sound like a goldmine.  As far as sources, my inspirations stem back to whatever is going on with me.  Some advice I got awhile back is to “write what you know.”  If you do that people can relate to it and in the process I can get it out of my system as well.  Everyone wins…unless you think we suck.

Burgo: So most of what I’ve heard so far is based on your 2005 release, “Moonlight Girls“, but I’ve also heard the single entitled “Cop Light Parade“… the title track from your upcoming album, due out in September I believe? So let’s move on to that… first off, “Cop Light Parade” is a cracking tune, and it bodes well for the release. Care to tell us a bit more about the album? Has it been wrapped already, what should we expect?

Nick:  The album is in the can and will be released into the abyss on September 2nd.  We’ve worked really hard on this record and feel it’s a step forward from “Moonlight Girls.”  There are a few more guitar solos (without going on a wankfest) and some really great harmonies from bassist, Jim Soule.  If you liked “Moonlight Girls” you will probably like “Cop Light Parade” as well.

Burgo: “Cop Light Parade” seems to have some major Whiskeytown influences in it… that sweeping chorus, in particular, recalls hints of Whiskeytown’s “Crazy About You” for me. Did Adams et al. play a part in the formation of the record?

Nick I’m a fan of the music of Ryan Adams.  Sometimes his antics overshadow what he is trying to do which I think hampers him in a lot of ways.  His self promotional machine I think is detrimental to his career.  With that said, we like his songs but we really weren’t thinking “let’s write a Whiskeytown sounding song.”  We’ll take it though.  :)

Burgo: Finally, want to pimp any of your upcoming shows?

Nick September 5th at the Fine Line in Minneapolis we are having our CD release show for “Cop Light Parade.”  We’ve got a great line-up.  Romantica (Top 100 albums of 2007 – Paste Magazine), the Snaps (featuring members of the Flamin’ Ohs – Mn Rock Hall of Famers) and Slim Dunlap (former guitarist of the Replacements)

(Ed’s note: With a line up like that, you’d be pretty brain dead not to head across to the Fine Line on September 5th for High On Stress’s CD release. Check out their calender item for more info about the night, but whatever you do… get there)


I’ve included three “High On Stress” songs below. The first two are taken from their 2005 release,  “Moonlight Girls; the brilliant “You Have Conversations With Jesus“, and – perhaps my favourite – “Gold Star“. The third, and final tune, is the title track from their upcoming album, “Cop Light Parade“. If I wasn’t slightly disadvantaged by way of being based in Australia, I’d definitely try and check these guys out live… and you should too.

Listen. Love. Support.


Listen: High On Stress – You Have Conversations With Jesus
Listen: High On Stress – Gold Star
Listen: High On Stress – Cop Light Parade

2007 Releases artists artists to watch for in 2009 digital downloads guitar music Under The Radar

Nathaniel Hoho… Under The Radar.

So quite often, people will email me about an artist that I “absolutely need to hear”. Some are… well, ok. Some are good. Some are great. And some are special. And if it wasn’t for the fans emailing me, I might have missed out and never heard these tunes.
So that’s the reason why I’m starting a new column today on this blog: “Under The Radar”.

Under The Radar

“Under The Radar” is a column for those treasures that might have somehow passed unknown, were it not for the fans and their emails alerting me to their favourite artists. In other words… keep those emails coming!
Today, for the inaugeral column, we’ll be featuring the – quite frankly – fantastic Nathaniel Hoho.

Nathaniel Hoho
Nathaniel Hoho (Image Credit: Rachel Leah)

Nathaniel Hoho is doing it the old-fashioned way, and paying his dues. Constantly gigging for pretty much two years now – packed in a tiny car with suitcases on the road – he’s spreading the good word about his tunes to anyone who will listen; and it’s obviously working, as evidenced by this post.

The first thing I noticed when I was exposed to Nathaniel’s music is the sheer versatility; not only as a songwriter, but also as a performer. As Nathaniel himself said:

“I’ve been playing music since I’ve been about 10 years old. As a musician I can always recreate who I am and how the world perceives me.”

Nathaniel has the type of voice that seems to be comfortable with whatever you can throw at it. Sometimes soft and tender; sometimes manic and desperate; there really is a strength to his voice that pulls you in and holds you. The songs themselves have a habit of sinking deep under your skin… the more you listen to them, the more they connect, slowly but surely becoming “must-haves” on your playlists.

I had some major troubles trying to decide on which songs of his to showcase in this post, as pretty much all of the ones I heard, I fell in love with. So eventually, I decided to settle on three songs; each very different in terms of style and feel, but with one common factor… they absolutely kickass. After getting in touch with Nathaniel, I asked him for a bit of a background on each of the songs…

Listen. Love. Support.

Nathaniel Hoho – Nightmares

The first song is Nathaniel’s “Nightmares”. Written in 2005, “Nightmares” has possibly my favourite progression of any of Nathaniel Hoho’s music that I’ve heard to date. I defy you to listen to this song and then not be humming that chorus later in the day. It truly is an infectious tune. In Nathaniel’s words:

Nightmares was written in 2005 . I lived with a photographer, screen writer and another musician at the time. People were always creating and the air was filled with inspiration and art. I couldn’t sleep so I rolled out of bed and started playing the progression on my guitar. I wrote down the first two verses and a chorus and went back to sleep. When I woke up i saw my note book lying beside me with the song written. I finished the song that day and it’s been a favorite of mine since […] That night I played it for a party of people. A cop showed up because the window was open. Everyone who was underage split. I was standing in the back letting the owner of the house resolve the issue… the officer said he wanted to talk to the kid that was playing the guitar… I walked out nervously. He
shook my hand and told me to keep up the good work that i had a great voice. Then he walked out the door and left. Talk about relief.

Listen: Nathaniel Hoho – Nightmares

Nathaniel Hoho & Rachel Leah – What’s On Your Mind?

Nathaniel Hoho and Rachel Leah
Nathaniel Hoho and Rachel Leah

The second song, “What’s On Your Mind?”, is a duet with Rachel Leah. A sultry song that hearkens back to smoky jazz clubs – the kind where the barman knows your name and choice of poison – there is a chemistry in this song that is impossible to ignore.
The first time I heard the tune, I thought to myself that Nathaniel and Rachel must have some history, at least. Chemistry like that you simply can’t fake, no matter how good you are at performing. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that I was actually right…


Aside from being an amazing songwriter Rachel Leah is also my girlfriend.
I had been playing the progression and humming the melody over and over in my head. I wanted the song to reflect the early 1900’s , I thought it would be cool to base the lyrics off of what could be a scene in Citizen Kane. It was perfect… Rachel and I could each sing and tell a story through hearing our banter, just like a scene in a movie. I told her the idea and she was really excited… a few weeks later we sat down and wrote the song straight through. A few weeks from that point we made a video. The song has yet to be offically released and may just remain a B-side. For now we the song and video are available at both her and my myspace.

I sincerely hope that “What’s On Your Mind” gets an official release one day. A song as hot as this one needs to be heard. Tell me that you aren’t snapping your fingers when you listen to this.

Listen: Nathaniel Hoho – What’s On Your Mind? (with Rachel Leah)

Nathaniel Hoho – Sir William

The third and final song is again completely different to the previous two. “Sir William”, penned in 2006, sounds like a track that would be comfortable on a Fall Out Boy or Panic at the Disco release. An angry song, it’s one that I really connect with. So what was it inspired by?


Sir William was written in the Summer of ’06. I had been playing in a band, and they kicked me out. I was fighting with my girlfriend. That’s where the first two verses came from.

“Alexiandra, Queen of Freedom play me your piano song.
Criminal Cravings Creeping Conniving to get whatever you want.
You’re such a pretty girl.”

… being my girlfriend troubles and then…

“Sell me sir William, you can use us we are all just thieves at heart.
I once was chasing, now you’re trailing me along side of your gentle knights .
You’re such a lazy boy.”

I lived with the guy ( sir william)… I was in the band with him and two other guys. I took the band really seriously and was pretty worked up when they threw me out. It was my way of saying, “You’ll regret this. I’ll show you I’m going to do more with my music.
The rest of the song is a reflection of me feeling like they did something wrong and that what comes around goes around. I kind of masked this with the metaphor of a king and queen who treated their people badly and were then taken over and justice was served. “Freedom is Free”

Listen: Nathaniel Hoho – Sir William

Nathaniel Hoho
Nathaniel Hoho (credit Jess Davis)

So, what’s the “Under The Radar” wrap-up then? Well…

There are times in this gig when I hear a cat’s music, and I just know he’s going to go places. I get that feeling about Nathaniel Hoho. There’s a sincerity to his tunes that you don’t often hear these days. While it’s still early days for him – and I have no doubt that he’ll only continue to grow – I have a feeling that there’s still potential unleashed here. I’m not sure that he’s quite reached “that point” yet… but he’s certainly well on his way.

So I have no doubt that his songs will be given major releases one day. Major releases. Until that time, however, I’m happy to keep spreading the word about him one-by-one, the old-fashioned way.
After all, that’s the way it should be. Nathaniel Hoho is paying his dues. And, let’s be honest…. One day I’m going to be able to look back at this post, and say, “I told you so”.

Nathaniel’s debut EP, “Wait Until The Story Ends” is now available (check out the link for a list of retailers, and don’t forget to hear and download more of his songs at his Myspace page), and he’s currently working on his full-length debut album. Needless to say, I’m definitely going to be waiting for that with much anticipation.