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Now Hear This: High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes

The Elephant 6 co-founder makes a welcome, winsome return after 13 long years.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I am so lucky to have been a musician throughout my life,” says Hilarie Sidney of The High Water Marks. The band — which she fronts out of her adopted home town of Grøa, Norway — just released Ecstasy Rhymes, their first album in 13 years.

You probably know Sidney best for what she got up to during her time in Denver. Sidney is the co-founder of one of the most influential musical collectives of the past, oh, forever amount of years: Elephant 6, the storied and now legendary musical collective. Sidney was at its nucleus as a founding member of The Apples In Stereo. It was a “boys club,” Sidney confesses. She was the only woman among her band and the other two acts — Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control — that were the most visible members of Elephant 6, and as the umbrella opened to international recognition and acclaim, and to seemingly dozens of other bands that wanted to be a part, Sidney’s enthusiasm drifted.

Her passion for songwriting never wavered, however. “Having been in the Apples and on the road since 1993, I started to have many more songs than could ever be released on an Apples record. I was piling up songs, and being surrounded by a group of men for so many years, one can lose oneself,” she confides. Sidney eventually found new love, and a new musical partnership, when she formed The High Water Marks, releasing a debut album (Songs About The Ocean) in 2003. The record was written and demoed through the mail with her now-husband and bandmate, Per Ole Bratset, whom she initially met at an Apples gig in Norway in 2002. A follow-up album (Polar) arrived in 2007. By that time, Sidney and Bratset were an item. “Per and I had our son in 2005,” Sidney says of becoming a mother for the second time (Sidney also has a son from their marriage.) “I realized I wanted a break from touring. That whole life had begun to wear me out.”

The fallout from Sidney’s divorce, and life as a mom with two boys, led her to officially leave the Apples in 2006 and to put the music business on the back burner soon after. “Still writing songs, always writing songs…” With that, Sidney attempted to clean out the closet in 2011, leading to some recording sessions that eventually had to be scrapped, and leaving her to feel “kind of hopeless,” she remembers. But drummers are tough! Sidney picked herself up and headed in another direction by beginning to finish up a Bachelor’s degree, which led to her being awarded a prestigious study abroad scholarship at the University of Oslo. “Moving was everything I had hoped it would be,” she explains. “In Norway, we have a work-life balance, health care, a living wage, five weeks of vacation, and freedom for our youngest son to roam without constant supervision.” Perhaps most importantly, she started playing music again. Thirteen years after releasing her last album as The High Water Marks, the band has completed a new album that reflects the maturity, perseverance, songwriting, and performing talent that made Sidney’s contributions to Elephant 6 and the Apples so integral.

If she was marginalized at the time, those notions are blown out by Ecstasy Rhymes, 38 minutes of perfect power pop, one song after another that will take any fan of the songs that Sidney contributed to Apples recordings — her voice is instantly recognizable — right back to the most potent days of that band’s career. As he did on previous releases, Bratset also contributes lead vocals on several songs, all of which were co-written with Sidney. In addition to Sidney on vocals, guitars, keyboards and drums, and Bratset on vocals and guitars, the band includes Logan Miller on bass, guitar and drums, along with Øystein Megård on drums, keyboards, and backing vocals. “I feel like for the first time ever, we have a dream team,” Sidney says. “I have my partner in crime by my side, like always, but we managed to also find these two other fantastic people who we can work with so well. We finally have the best band we’ve ever had and a great record.”

Seems Sidney’s luck as a musician hasn’t run out yet.”