An interview with High & Lonely creator Matthew Steinke followed by a BURN THIS series incense review.
Hi Matt, welcome to this textual interview with Monk. Thanks for taking the time to do this.
So, you're out in Evertt, WA, the Pacific Northwest, and we're in Philadelphia. It was by chance, shortly after we debuted ALL CAPS STUDIO's collection 13, which included that awesome Centerpeak Ceramics collab baseball cap incense burner, that I caught ACS posting an Instagram story thanking you for sending over some of your High & Lonely incense. The size of your incense sticks seemed perfectly suited for the ballcap burner, and maybe a week passed before I (one of Omoi's many incense collectors) decided to order a couple fragrances from Petrikor Living out your way. After that, I brought them in to our weekly staff meeting and we all were basically like, wow yah these are real good, let's bring them on!
High & Lonely incense names are evocative, like Winona Forever and Dr. Venkman. The fragrances seem conceptually in service to their names, smelling like leather and iris or sage and green tea, and there's not a whole lot of people out there making stuff like it. (For those interested in know what some of our faves smell like, we have a Burn This review following this interview.) For that matter, there's also not a whole lot to be found on the internet about you or your practice. Enigmatic!
So, with that on our minds, please enjoy these questions we have for you:
What kind of environment did you come up in, and what kind of environment do you like to make for yourself today?
Had a pretty standard suburban come up. My folks are collectors, makers and gardeners so I think I carried that into my life. these days I keep things minimal and have a pretty solid routine daily.
What kind of stuff were you into when you were like, thirteen? Any advice for thirteen-year-olds today?
At thirteen I would have just started getting really into punk rock. The thought of being 13 nowadays gives me anxiety!
What's your stance on magic?
I’ve felt it on occasion. That shit is real....
Do you have any fragrance pet peeves or criticisms at the moment?
Ya know when you get into an Uber and they got 15 of those little smelly trees? No thanks.
What was the impetus to start making incense?
So for the past 18 years or so I've made a living as a touring guitar tech. (Roadie) so I travel a lot. I got really into incense a few years back and I started to bring them with me on the road. It brought some consistency and familiarity to hotel rooms and backstage... I started experimenting at making my own and made a few bangers my pals really liked. Lockdown happened. Tour stopped, so I had time to mess around and build up this little brand.
What's something you'll spend money on, and something you refuse to spend too much money on?
I’ll buy overpriced house plants and obsess about keeping them healthy but I refuse to water my lawn.
Area fashion trend you wish would come back?
The trucker hat is due for a comeback right???
Area fashion trend you wish would retire?
Too many breweries….
What's something you wish people engaged with more?
And, any shout outs?
Sabbath Vol. 4, Paul Rudd and the ALLCAPS studio crew ✌🏼
Burn This: High & Lonely Incense Review
For years Omoi customers were accustomed to our selection of Japanese incense—low smoke, compressed powder sticks and cones (lacking wooden cores), in fragrances ranging from Kayuragi classics like Sandalwood and Jasmine to more intriguing blends as seen in the Elemense and Scentsual lines.
High & Lonely marks a departure from our traditional offerings, making high-quality small-batch incense that's more layered and interesting than your usual run of the mill patchouli. Usually intriguing fragrance profiles like these are reserved for eau de parfums or high end candles, and often quite expensive as a result. In contrast, High & Lonely's range can be sampled and enjoyed without breaking the bank. Incense collectors rejoice.
Each 6" stick is made made from bamboo and white joss cedar, and hand-dipped in High & Lonely's own mindfully and painstakingly sourced oil blends, with no chemical cuts or additives. Vegan as well. Sounds great to us. Now the concern is, which one to start with?
The fragrance notes stamped on the back of this are "Palo Santo/Cedar", fitting considering how the crtl-alt-del keyboard command is used on Windows operating systems to abort a frozen function, and the smoke of Palo Santo wood and Cedar are both considered cleansing. A reset. I've long thought that Palo Santo resin in the unburned stick smelled ephemerally sweet. When burned, it transforms into a pungent, powerful fragrance, befitting a revered spiritual cleansing materia. Some say it smells a little too akin to burning rubber for their preferences, and yet I find that it inevitably settles down into that amazing resin sweetness before disappearing. The Cedar present in CRTL-ALT-DEL seems to balance, deepen, and prolong that end-of-burn moment. It's a lingering in the brisk woods and sweet wind, comforting and regenerative.
Here we encounter "Poppy/Iris/Fig" scent notes. Cracking open the package and smelling the stick before burn, the citrusy cocoa sweet aroma of Poppy is evident alongside Iris' alluring suede presence and Fig's sun-baked body. Upon burning, the notes play out as promised, making it a captivating and mysterious blend that will satisfy those who prefer sweeter, comforting fragrances that aren't cloying.
This one, named after Bill Murray's character in the 1984 Ghostbusters film franchise, is simply stated: "Sage/Green Tea". So far, High & Lonely fragrances smell amazing without knowing the scent notes, and their names are what really set the tone, in my opinion. Dr. Venkman is bright and resinous, and I like to burn it while I work or focused activities. It's very "green" in character—maybe that's me recalling Ghostbuster's Slimer and the ectoplasmic goo–either way, the presence in the room is undeniable.
"Peach/Cedar/Vanilla" is most fitting for this juicy sweetie pie of an incense. It's most certainly the sweetest of this review set—vanilla fans, we're looking at you. Here it seems the Cedar once again balances the blend from being too far gone into Vanilla candle land while still giving Vanilla lovers what they want. With the bright and slightly citrus Peach at the top of things, it's a playful, smile-inducing scent that gets me out of my head and into my body.
Leather! How Matt thought to capture the sensation of hugging someone wearing a leather jacket in the cold weather is unknown to me, but this blend of "Leather/Cedar/Iris" captures it expertly. I imagine Winona Ryder at her edgiest, pulling up on her ride and telling me to get in, loser. It's rare to come across a good leather based fragrance that isn't positively overpowering and "masculine". Here, the Cedar grounds and rounds out the leather into a greener, earthier depth, while the Iris contributes to that skin-close sentiment of being intoxicated by the thrill of getting into trouble. Whew.
Shop our selection of incense and burners and thanks for reading.