Jimmy Wizard is ready to go home. The frontman of Leeds, England, hardcore quintet Higher Power has just spent more than a month trekking across the U.S. on the Life & Death Tour with No Warning, Terror and Backtrack. It's been a veritable dream come true for an English kid raised on American punk records and skateboarding videos, but now that the tour is wrapping up, Wizard admits to feeling kinda homesick.
"I just wanna see my dog, Harley," he says. "It's been five weeks, and I miss him so much!"
A photo of Harley — named, Wizard says, for both Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan and Harley-Davidson motorcycles — can be seen at the center of the vinyl pressing of Soul Structure, Higher Power's first full-length album. Released this May, the album has garnered ample praise for its dynamic thrash/crossover sound, Wizard's melodic vocals and the angry-yet-uplifting nature of songs like "Balance," "Looking Inward" and "Between Concrete and Sky."
"You can call it spiritual, if you like," says Wizard of the positive energy that radiates from Higher Power's music. "None of us are religious, but we all definitely have a spiritual side. We love hardcore, we love playing hardcore shows and we can't find anything close to the experience that live hardcore music brings us. Hardcore's the only place where you can take people from so many different backgrounds and we can connect over this one thing — the music, and how we respond to that music. And that's something positive, for sure!"
Higher Power initially began in 2014 as a one-off project involving Wizard and his drummer brother Alex, who merely wanted to throw down a little clean-vocal hardcore in a manner influenced by such New York crossover stalwarts as Leeway and Merauder. "It was just going to be a small project, where we were going to write a demo with a certain sound that no one else was trying," Jimmy Wizard explains. "We were like, 'No one's gonna like this but us, but let's just do it. What else have we got to do?'"
When other friends — guitarists Louis Hardy and Max Harper, and bassist Ethan Wilkinson — offered to pitch in and help out with the demo, a band was born. Higher Power released their self-titled three-song demo in early 2015; word of the group quickly spread throughout England's close-knit hardcore scene, and the band's euphoric live shows soon won them a devoted following. Space to Breathe, a three-song 7-inch, followed in August 2015, and Higher Power made their first landfall in the U.S. in March 2016, when they played some East Coast dates leading up to an appearance at the United Blood Fest. "From just a small idea for a project, it's just grown so much," Wizard marvels. "We're all sort of super-stoked that it's come this far."
Wizard says that while he was raised on classic British hard rock, it was American punk that ultimately had the deepest influence upon him: "Sabbath and Zeppelin was the first rock I was introduced to, through my dad. But I was super into punk growing up, bands like Rancid, Pennywise, Offspring. I'd see a lot of that stuff on skate videos, and a lot of that whole skate culture was imported to England. That was very influential on me growing up, seeing that culture. So it's cool to come to America and see some of the places I'd always heard of, or seen in films, or whatever. It's a bit surreal sometimes!"
Wizard identifies the Life & Death dates at Berkeley's legendary DIY venue 924 Gilman Street and Tampa's Transitions Art Gallery as being the two most "surreal" events of the tour. "If someone had told me when I was 14 that I would play a show at Gilman Street, it just wouldn't have seemed possible. And we got a really good reaction there, and that just blows my mind," he enthuses. "And then the show in Tampa was really cool, because it was in the Skatepark of Tampa, which I'd been seeing my whole life in skate videos. To actually get to go there and play a show, that was, like, the coolest thing ever!"
A fine artist by education and a tattoo artist by trade, Wizard says he loves the creative possibilities of Higher Power's music as much as he loves performing onstage. "We're all super active in writing," he says. "Soul Structure is really, like, the beginning — we were like, 'Let's put some things in there that we want to hear' — but there's room to expand from there, and add all these other elements that we love …
"The first LP is a really important thing, but you should never be content with it. You always know you can do better and progress. We've really not been a band that long, so there's still so much more to explore."