There’s something magical about finding a new friend through an online forum on a music site. You may find that you both have similar music tastes, love the same type of movies, or in rare cases, form a cool pop-punk band remotely. That’s exactly what happened with Harsh Lights, a pop-punk band comprised of Kyle Simons (Patterns In Traffic) and Eva Driessen. Kyle and Eva met on this website and decided to pursue making music together, albeit in different parts of the world: Kyle lives in Maryland, while Eva lives in the Netherlands. This distance never distracts from the quality of music found on Watch The World Divide, a fun debut LP that pays direct homage to great pop-punk bands like Blink-182, Fenix Tx, and Mae, but with a modern twist and sheen to it that makes it a rewarding listening experience.
One of the first songs to be released from the set, “Stay Inside” kicks things into gear after the brief introductory track (“Overture), and rocks along with purpose. The great energy between Driessen and Simons is felt immediately on this single, and their band chemistry is top notch. Simons croons over the frenetic pace with anthemic vocals that match the mood of the lyrics. “One Out of Five” follows with a sound reminiscent of Blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket album, and hits its intended target more often than not. It remains one of my favorite songs I’ve discovered this year, and is a great starting point for those unfamiliar with this band.
Other standout songs like “I Was A Rope” features guest vocals from Chase Tremaine, and the vocal harmonies between him and Simons are really pretty remarkable to hear. Being a fan of both artists, it was a nice treat to see the Chorus community thrive in a different way in this musical offering. It also features a great guitar solo towards the tail end of the song to complement the overall structure of the track. “Good Patriot” is the other song with a collaboration, as it features some guest vocals from Benny Phoelich to punch along with great punk rock/hardcore energy. It’s a song that sounds different from most of the material on Watch the World Divide, so it makes sense to wedge it into the middle of the tracklisting.
”Masochists” paints with vivid colors by starting off with vibrant synths paired with a dreamy guitar riff, reminiscent of Angels & Airwaves, to power the pop-rock track to notoriety. Heavier songs like “Red Eye to New York” reminded me a bit of early New Found Glory, with equally pleasing results, while “Nice To Meet You” gets the energy to an all-time high with its fast-paced punk rock energy. The closing duo of the power pop found on “One Last Conversation” complemented with the sprawling, near-five minute ballad “More To You” showcases the talent that Harsh Lights have on their debut full-length record. The band are at their best when they hone in on their pop-punk influences that they wear proudly on their sleeves and add something new that makes their music sound familiar, yet refreshing. The future for Harsh Lights looks incredibly bright.