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The best kept secret in music


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Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Doctor’s debut album, High Is As High Gets, is a compelling study in rock’s essential contrasts.

It’s an aural presentation which strikes a balance between pastoral pop beauty and an outpouring of unleashed adrenalin. It’s a world-class recording made with an indie ethos. And it celebrates the artistic marriage of two musicians with distinct backgrounds who have come together in ways that may surprise the casual observer.

Doctor is the songwriting partnership of Daniel Greaves and Rob Higgins. From the outside looking in, Higgins is the ultimate indie musician, a bassist, guitarist and songwriter who has steadfastly and happily worked in the margins of the rock scene. Greaves is the archetypal melodicist, a singer and songwriter with an otherworldly voice who has always been all about hooks. But the making of High Is As High Gets has drawn each into the other’s world — to the point that they complement each other in symbiotic fashion.

“The difference for both of us is that he has someone like me to work with and I have someone like him,” says Greaves. “In the end it’s a real dynamic, a very exciting thing.”

Greaves and Higgins have known each other for ages but they truly connected only a couple of years back. Still-young veterans of several musical ventures, they spent dozens of coffee-fuelled mornings together — listening to music, talking about music, and playing each other their musical ideas. Collaboration was inevitable and it sparked new approaches to creativity in both men. Greaves confesses to learning to play stringed instruments at least well enough to write riffs for this project, while Higgins remarks on the melodic directions he has taken with his new partner.

Weight, which anchors the album, was the partnership’s first fully realized song.

“That was when we realized that doing rock music between the two of us would be really interesting,” says Higgins. “So we kept at it, writing songs and sharing ideas until we finally came to the decision that we should do a full album together.”

Quickly the pair gathered their material, pre-produced bass-and-vocal demos and solicited outside help in the form of seasoned producer, engineer and mixer John Whynot.

“Rob called me on Danny’s phone, explained what they were doing and before he could even really ask me, I just said ‘If it’s you two, I’m in,’” Whynot explains. “And away we went.”

They enlisted guitarist Jamie Edwards and drummer Dan Cornelius for the recording sessions and the quartet hit a Toronto studio for 15 days of tracking, followed by a week of mixing. The result is a dozen songs fuelled by the sort of energy that comes from the spark of musical discovery and the intensity of working within a tight deadline. In Whynot’s sure hands, the sounds were captured without sacrificing feel.

“It’s not an indie-sounding recording at all,” says the producer. “But it’s got an indie soul. And it would surprise people to know who did what in there. Rob’s got the indie background, but he was the one who was really into the parts and the breakdown, whereas Dan was really into the gestalt of the thing — the overall feel.”

Given its title, Balancing — the third track on High Is As High Gets — could be considered the overture for the entire project. It opens with a crunching riff before settling into the infectiously propulsive beat that drives the tune. As Greaves sings, “I’m out on a limb…” he’s certainly talking about taking chances. Though he’s describing personal relationships the refrain can be read as a metaphor for Doctor. Higgins and Greaves are laying themselves bare here — the song’s protagonist has “nothing to win,” but Rob and Daniel have nothing to lose, either.

Album opener What Makes You Think He’s Lucky? only underlines that point, then adds an exclamation mark — it’s an agitated raver with a screaming chorus, and it takes Doctor to the limit. Short, sharp and shocking it’s a full-on, punk-infused burst of energy and adrenalin that’ll pour lighter fluid on the mosh pits Doctor will inevitably ignite.

High Is As High Gets has its contemplative moments, too. Sweet U is, for the most part, a beautifully restrained reflection on love. Me and Nick Drake opens with the beginning of a childhood rhyme and goes on to describe how an adult, with child-like wonder, views a partner as “brighter than I ever thought I could be,” before hitting home with a driving lament about making the wrong impression. The aforementioned Weight is indeed this album’s emotional and musical heart. It captures Greaves’ soaring vocal range and describes a love relationship in poetic terms, yet it is also shot through with a roiling, swirling guitar riff that encapsulates the song’s emotional dynamic and Doctor’s overall sense of controlled tension.

It’s that sense of tension, the notion of making things happen that is embodied by the band’s name. Greaves says he views Doctor as a verb rather than a noun.

“It’s about things maybe no