Mic Harrison was still a member of Knoxville indie rock outfit Superdrag in 2004 when he set out to record his second proper solo album, Pallbearer’s Shoes, a winsome 12-song effort that reestablished Harrison’s presence in the Americana world after the break-up of the V-roys in 1999.
Little did he suspect that the project would also cement his relationship with the band that would be the longest-running of his musical career, in the form of local truckstop-rockers the High Score. Mic Harrison and the High Score will celebrate their 10th anniversary together Friday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. at Scruffy City Hall.
“Once the record was done, Don [Coffey, Superdrag drummer] and I started going out and playing with [guitarist] Robbie Trosper,” says Harrison, reclining on an old sofa in the living room of High Score drummer Brad Henderson. “Then he introduced me to Brad and Vance [Hillard, High Score bassist]. Now I couldn’t imagine playing with anybody else.”
“I’ve told Mic that I wouldn’t be playing with him if he wrote crappy songs,” Trosper says. “But every time he brings in a new batch, it’s like, damn, these are good. It’s so cliché, but he’s like family to me. Not to get all cheesy, but there’s a special connection with all the guys in this band.”
That connection is writ large in the music MHATHS has recorded over the course of a decade: since Superdrag went on an indefinite hiatus, and Pallbearer’s Shoes ran its course, Mic Harrison and the High Score have produced four increasingly confident full-length albums, plus an odd 45-inch single and an EP.
And Harrison is justified in looking back on that output with considerable pride, as the High Score have honed to a fine point their signature sound, a bright-but-lived-in brand of roots music mixed with punchy, pop-savvy rock.
Yet Harrison believes that he and the band have only begun to scratch the surface of their potential. “There have been nuggets on every record,” Harrison says. “I’d say we started to hit our stride on The Great Commotion . That’s where we gelled together and became a badass band. And it’s gotten better since.” That MCATHS has survived 10 years of touring and recording together says a good deal about the band members’ chemistry, musical and otherwise. Take drummer Henderson’s entrance into the band: Before taking a seat behind the drum kit with Mic and the High Score, Henderson had auditioned to play bass in Harrison’s Pallbearer’s touring band.
“We played and drank together one night,” Henderson remembers. “At the end of the night he said, ‘You can’t play bass for shit, but I sure like hanging out with you.’ He was just speaking the truth; I think I hit two right damn notes all night long.”
But the easy personal connection he felt with Henderson over the course of that single night-long jam session remained with Harrison, and when Trosper reintroduced him as a drummer in 2004, he was quickly welcomed into the fold. “The thing is, you have to have to get along with the people you’re in a band with,” Harison says. “And I knew that Brad was a fit.”
Over the years, the band has both enjoyed and endured all manner of strange, terrible, and wonderful adventures. They’ve played Bonnaroo and opened for ZZ Top; they’ve traveled hundreds of miles in beater cars to play shows that nobody saw.
Recently, Harrison and another member of the Score were rousted by cops at a Sevierville music theater after a geriatric usher accused them of shooting heroin in the downstairs men’s room.
“Sometimes being in this band is like being in a David Lynch movie,” Trosper chuckles. “One night you show up at a club, and there’s only two microphones and no sound man. The next week, you’re opening for ZZ Top at the Tennessee Theatre. You have some extreme highs, and some very confusing lows.”
But Harrison notes that the High Score have backed off their touring schedule in recent years. “I’m dating myself, but I miss when Bill Clinton was president,” he says. “People had money, and they went to clubs. In the ‘90s, you could say, ‘We’re going to put a live turd on stage,’ and 1,000 people would show up. Times are changing, and we’re still trying to figure it out.”
Nonetheless, Harrison plans on putting out another record in 2015—the follow-up to the High Score’s highwater 2012 full-length release Still Wanna Fight, and their recent one-off in the studio with Con Hunley.
“Our legitimate goal has always been to have 10 or 15 cities we could pound about three or four times a year,” Harrison says. “But our main goal is to make good records. And make good music. And to enjoy being with the guys that we play next to.”
Mic Harrison and the High Score: Friday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. Scruffy City Hall