Dante High Makes Music to Swing Hammers To

Their debut is as much a killer as Leatherface.

Dante High is the latest project of North Carolina’s Ari Picker, the former frontman to moody and self-reflective indie rock band Lost In The Trees. With Dante High, Picker crafts a ‘90s boy band ballad vibe. His new music is danceable and catchy, with punchy choruses of layered multi-part vocal harmonies. It’s so easy to fall immediately in love with these melodies, that its indie rock edge might pass you by.

“I wanted to do like lots of Disney-sounding ‘90s ballads—I do a lot of construction out here, so I just like writing music that’s fun to swing a hammer to,” Picker tells BTRtoday. Don’t let this charming description fool you however. Though these tunes make tool-swinging easy, there’s a whole world of darkness hiding under the surface.

“Green Swamp” is pulsing synth pop perfect for an epic dance-off. But eerie lyrics about shadows passing in the night and spiders coming down your window hide behind the song’s high energy hooks. Its video brings the darkness to the fore, featuring a shirtless madman racing down a country dirt road waving a chainsaw around chasing a bloodied man in a tie.

Dante High “Green Swamp”

Picker says the video happened while he was hanging out drinking with friends. “[We] picked up shit that was lying around my yard and was like ‘alright let’s make a scene outta this’—a lawnmower, a chainsaw and setting shit on fire.”

The spooky music video isn’t Dante High’s only ode to horror movies. Their flyers use imagery from classic horror films like Friday the 13th and Halloween.

“I love horror movies—not gore though, I like more classic horror stuff,” he says, adding that he likes to use typical horror movie props in his music videos that have a lot of “energy” (hence the chainsaw). “I think I like the idea of Friday the 13th better than any of the actual movies—I’m a huge fan of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that’s a little more thriller.”

His secluded home deep in the country (that he built himself) is the perfect setup for a scary movie. But he hasn’t always been a country boy. Though born and raised in North Carolina, he spent over eight years bouncing around different cities along the east coast before embracing his love for the country.

“There’s a certain freedom when living out in the country [and] you can pee anywhere,” he says, laughing. “And I don’t really mind not seeing anybody—it feels off the grid.”

Dante High “Frustrated” 

Picker says the album was heavily influenced by his childhood in the country. “I think I definitely just picked up on a lot of memories from growing up in a small town,” he says. “I mean, one songs about some friends that got hit by a car on Halloween and how fucking crazy that was.”

Picker has a kid on the way, so the project will probably stay local for a while. But he still intends to continue making music and videos and getting his art out to the world via the Internet.

Hear the entire debut album by Dante High and the full interview with frontman Ari Picker on this week’s The Music Meetup.