“I drag my feet because it helps me see,” Hiscock sings, “Leaving behind lines connecting me / From where it is that I am and where I’ve been / But this geometry is incomplete.”
The song’s balance of serene music and yearning, troubled lyrics is a perfect example of Hiscock’s love of contrast and opposites.
“I love stuff that’s got some sort of duality to it where you can look at one side or the other side of it,” he said. “Those two things, they don’t seem like they’d go together. And they can totally fly under the radar unless you’re really looking for it, but then when you see it, you’re like, ‘Holy shit!’ I love that, especially if you can be smooth about it.”
Indeed, ESC’s beguiling music—which Hiscock creates using a sophisticated setup of guitar pedals, keyboards, and looping software that he developed himself—brings together two different sides of the man: The musician who spent years playing shows around Montana and Florida and the engineer who now works a full-time job at Micron Technology.
The path that led Hiscock to ESC was a long, roundabout one. Born and raised in Montana, he started playing in punk bands as a teenager. He studied music and philosophy in college but was more interested in concerts than coursework.
“I was in Bozeman, which is maybe 40,000 people—significantly smaller than here—and everything’s so spread out. There were some bands there, but… there wasn’t enough people. There wasn’t really a scene. Compared to Boise, there was nothing—Boise’s so much better than that. So I kind of was like, ‘I need to go somewhere where there’s more of this going on and focus more on that for a while.’”
Eventually, Hiscock decided on Jacksonville, Fla. (the girl he was seeing at the time was from there). He moved to the Sunshine State when he was 22 and spent five years there. For part of that time, he played guitar in the indie-rock band Trains Followed Us, whose ringing guitars, dreamy melodies, and wistful, pensive vibes sound like a warm-up of sorts for ESC.
“This is kind of a funny thing: One of the reasons I don’t want to start a band now is because that band was so good,” Hiscock said. “In terms of the relations and the friendships. I’ve been in so many bands where it’s not good, and once you get one where you really like each other and you’re really good friends… Ninety-five percent of the time, that’s not how lucky you are. And I don’t want to deal with it unless it’s like that.”
Hiscock’s time with Trains Followed Us helped spark his interest in electrical engineering.
“That band is when I started recording,” he recalled. “We recorded ourselves, and I was kind of the one who was really into that, leading that. And the more I got into that, the more I got into the tech behind it and the theories. Like, when you learn about acoustics and how waves and frequencies work and stuff like that—I was already dabbling in that.”
Hiscock moved back to Montana and enrolled at Montana State University in Bozeman. He earned a B.S. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in 2013.
In some ways, this represented a return to Hiscock’s roots. His father was a highly respected astrophysicist; he had been head of MSU’s physics department and served on President Obama’s transition team for NASA. Meanwhile, his mother had bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Biology as well as a master’s degree in Biology from Yale University.
“That’s probably actually part of why, when I went to college, I did philosophy and music and then dropped out,” Hiscock said with a chuckle. “Because in my youth, they were like, ‘Science.’ Pushing super hard—science, science, science. And I was like, ‘Unh-uh, no—gonna do the opposite.’ But then eventually, I was like, ‘That’s kind of what I’m good at. That makes sense.’ So I made my way back around, you know?”
Hiscock landed a job at Micron out of college, which brought him to Idaho. Not long after he moved to Boise, he met Amber Pollard and Ben Kirby from Sun Blood Stories.
“I just happened to move in across the street [from them]. I rented a house, and then Ben and Amber showed up one evening. I didn’t know them at all. There was a knock on the door, and I was like, ‘Who’s that? I don’t know anybody; I got here three days ago.’ And they were just standing there with a six-pack, and they were like, ‘Hey, we heard you’re a musician. Let’s be friends.’”
Hiscock ended up mixing SBS’s sophomore album Twilight Midnight Morning (2015) and mixing and mastering its follow-up, It Runs Around the Room with Us (2017). He’s currently working on mixing the band’s fourth album.
“I’m super stoked for that album,” Hiscock said. “It’s gonna be really cool. But it’s also interesting because it’s the first time that they’ve done a successive release without changing the lineup. I think that they’ve really got their feet under them. The other ones have all been great too, but they’ve really got time to develop the dynamics between the three of them and figure out how that works to the best of their abilities.”
Hiscock isn’t neglecting his own music, though. He plans to play local shows and tour the Northwest as ESC. It isn’t clear what might happen when or if Hiscock hits the road, but that uncertainty shouldn’t bother him too much.
“At least in my experience, I think it’s better to take a little bit of a circuitous route. Because when you end up where you’re going, you know maybe that’s where you want to be. If you just go straight there, you never know what those alternate avenues might have been.”
You can find ESC’s music on Bandcamp.