Highly Suspect | Just in Time

live tame-impala“I think all of us in the room that night are gonna make a special memory. Without a doubt.”




For most people, me included, the song “Lydia” or the album it’s featured on, Mr. Asylum, has been their first introduction to Highly Suspect. A little searching and a person can get the basic info on the band, but do talented and creative musicians, who are also highly spirited, just materialize out of thin air in Brooklyn, or in this case, Brooklyn by way of Cape Cod? It sure seems like it. As far as three-piece rock bands go, Johnny Stevens (vocals, guitar, synths) and twin brothers Ryan and Rich Meyer on drums and vocals and bass and vocals, respectively, are as sharp as they come. They sound light years ahead of bands who have been putting out records for years, and in comparison sound like amateurs, or like they’ve lost their mojo. Now I know exactly where it went.

I had to find out if “Lydia” was a one-off epiphany. I sought out “Bath Salts,” followed by “Round and Round,” shortly after being hooked by “Lydia” on local radio this spring. I took those songs in, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Highly Suspect have range stylistically that few bands have the guts, skill, and natural ability to pull off. “Lydia” and “Bath Salts” sound like songs that could have been hits any time in the last 20 years, or 20 years from now; “Round and Round” sounds timeless, up there with some of the wickedest hard backbeat lovelorn blues serenades I can think of like Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving you,” or my personal favorite, “Tea for One.” It’s like their rehearsal space has a hot tub time machine in it. After more searching, I was no closer to discovering how they arrived at their sound than when I started. Sometimes the only way to find out how they come up with this stuff is to ask. I wasn’t in a position to do so, and then, one day, representatives for the band reached out to us at PLAYBACK:stl. It’s like they knew.

That said, Johnny Stevens from Highly Suspect made time for an interview, which went a little something like this.


Five years ago, where would we have found Highly Suspect, or each of you individually? What were you up to? What were you listening to?


Five years ago, we were two years deep into being a band. You would have found us all living in Cape Cod, playing cover shows five nights a week and working day jobs, saving up enough money to move to New York. We were listening to everything, I mean, everything. Always have, always will.


You all are very transparent in you excitement and humility about the success you’re having with the buildup to Mr. Asylum. As impressed and shocked as it seems to make you guys feel, your music merits that success. Of your influences, whose career path is the one you’d like to model yours after as a band? Have you considered the possibility you might eclipse it?


I don’t like to think in those terms, eclipsing. I don’t want to eclipse anyone; we just want to have our own career path. I guess, hopefully, it’s a long and adventurous one. I admire bands that go the distance and continue to grow, but at the same time, I don’t want to see some tragically old guys trying to be 20, either. I imagine as we grow the music will evolve; in fact, I hope it does. I think we’ve got as good a chance as any to go the distance. There is nothing novel about us, so as long as we keep it real, we should be out here for a long time.


If you could go back in time to tour with any act at any stage in their career, who would you play with, and at what point in their career? Why that artist at that time? What aspect of your band do you think it would amp up?


I’d like to play with No Doubt from the late ’80s/early ’90s in Anaheim, California. I always dream about being able to be a part of that scene. I just think an early No Doubt/Highly Suspect show would have been hype.


OK, let’s get back to the future. Five years from now, where do you imagine the band will be, careerwise? Is it easier to wing it moment by moment at this stage, or are you at the point where your dreams and imagination about rock n roll success seem possible and now a clearer path is laid out?


We pretty much set up goals and knock them down. It’s crazy when you realize that dreams aren’t dreams so much as they are hard work. It’s simple, really: Work for what you want and you’ll have it. So, I guess I’d like to be on album three, touring the world, headlining festivals, and able to have vacation time. Right now, we have to work every single day. No breaks. I’d like to get to a point where we can tour for a few months and then disappear for a few months, but still have enough money to keep the hot water on, so to speak. In the meantime, touring is still a blast. Nothing beats the touring life. It’s fun work.


What do you want to have accomplished by the year 2025? The 10-year mark from a major debut or breakthrough album is a milestone for so many bands; deluxe box sets; reunion tours of the album front to back—you gotta plan ahead these days. Can you sense the moments from now that are going to stay with you in that timespan as making the strongest impressions?


I’ve answered too many future questions; I don’t want to be pegged anymore and held accountable. [Laughs] I just want to be happy in 10 years…however that transpires.


Right on. I can relate to that 100%, but I still have one more question, and it’s about the immediate future. In all your touring and gigging, what’s your game plan for playing a town like St. Louis, where there is a tendency for audiences to be a bit standoffish and meek when it comes to new artists they aren’t as familiar with?


I don’t think it’s gonna be an issue. We live in New York; that’s the hardest place in the world to get bodies moving. If we can get it going there, we can get it going in St. Louis. Besides, I’ve heard the opposite. I think all of us in the room that night are gonna make a special memory. Without a doubt. | Willie E. Smith


Highly Suspect plays 105.7 the Point’s new music showcase at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room on Saturday, August 8, 2015.

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