Have you ever locked yourself away with an album, volume turned all the way up in order to drown out all the noises in your head? We all have that band. The one that always makes you feel better. The one whose logo is worn proudly so you can instantly connect with others who do the same as a knowing part of the same club or culture of understanding. That understanding that we’ve all had it a bit rough but this music that both explains and heals your soul will always be there for you and thus, you have a new favorite band. Enter: Highly Suspect.
Hard rock trio Highly Suspect was born out of the cover band scene of Cape Cod, MA and refined in their current hometown of Brooklyn, NY. 2015 saw Johnny Stevens and brothers Ryan and Richard Meyer release a new album, Mister Asylum, which struck an instant chord with music fans and critics alike, even garnering two Grammy nominations in the rock category. The band is known for their ardent fan base and high octane shows that can get a little sweaty, so it makes sense that we caught up with drummer, Ryan Meyer, while he was in the middle of a run down the iconic Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
If you go to a Highly Suspect show, one of the first things you’ll notice is a bunch of letters on Ryan’s kit. Ryan explained the most decodable, ‘BK’ and ‘CC’, as referring to the two towns that shaped the band: Brooklyn and Cape Cod. When it comes to the band’s origins, Ryan reflected, “We were a cover band which is well suited to Cape Cod. It’s a sports town. We had a blast doing it. We got paid. Beers are free. There are pretty girls in Connecticut and when you’re in your twenties, that’s great!” As for what sparked the move to the bigger city Ryan continued, “We just realized watching the other people that were doing it [playing in cover bands], that were in their later time in life, they were still making the same money, still doing the same thing, same people. We realized that we wanted to make a real legitimate go at it instead of playing covers for the rest of our lives. We could always go back to that. We took like six grand I think we saved up and we went to New York and gave it a shot. And here we are!”
The other letters on Ryan’s kit read ‘MCID’ which is slightly more difficult to decode, but stands for ‘My Crew Is Dope.’ Ryan gets a bit wrapped up describing the importance of that slogan exclaiming, “We’re creating a family. People have really taken to that. They want to feel like they are part of something. I want to feel like I’m a part of something. So why can’t we just make something that we can all be a part of?” As cheesy a sentiment Ryan pointed that out to be, the concept of MCID clearly resonates strongly with him as well as the fans. More and more you can find the letters on jackets, t-shirts, and even homemade items as an emblem of identification and support.
The intense level of fan devotion is most noticeable in the passionate and often raucous way people connect with the songs at shows. On their breakout hit, “Lydia,” Ryan said, “I like playing it because everyone knows it and that does not get old, people singing along to your music. You have 500 people in a room screaming, ‘I can’t fucking breathe’. That’s pretty cool.” Ryan singles out a show in North Carolina, a place where the band went from playing for 100-200 people to closer to 600 thanks to regional radio airplay, as where he began to notice a shift in Highly Suspect’s popularity.
As audiences continue to grow, it becomes more of a challenge to talk to each and every fan. “There is no easy way to do it if there is that mob of people. I’m struggling to talk to them too. We’re all just struggling here!” Ryan admits. His attitude on the more intense fans is just to take things in stride and keep in mind what it’s all about. “Some people don’t necessarily have the best people skills. I try to just be supportive of what they’re actually trying to get at and not be a dick to them because they’re just excited to get at you.”
There really isn’t a game plan for dealing with this increase in autograph seekers and well-wishers. “We’re just going to wing it!” Ryan claims. Winging it does seem to be the band’s MO and it’s worked for them thus far, creating an environment of the unexpected both on and off the stage. “Every show is different.” Ryan explained, “And we’re just pawns in the show.” Instead of going into detail about any particular experience, Ryan laughs saying that he wouldn’t be able to explain it quite right. But if you come to a show, you’ll probably see something. “Something always happens.” he chuckles.
Ryan remains reluctant to talk details and gets slightly exasperated on the topic of the band’s Grammy experience in February, suggesting to just read about it in other publications. “A lot of people have already asked about that.” He adds. But what does excite him is chatting about some of the bands Highly Suspect has been touring with. Earlier this year the guys hit the road with AudioDamn!, an Austrian/German band who brings a funky and danceable twist to rock and roll. Ryan also mentions the “sweet and funny” women of And the Kids (hint: listen to them with your headphones on) and Highly Suspect “homies” Slothrust, whose music Ryan describes as “super different and not afraid to be so, but also very palatable stuff.”
Speaking of these other bands (as well as other tour mates with a warmth and love typically reserved for close family), Ryan explains that the people that they tour with are “our chosen family.” If you see Highly Suspect out on tour, be sure to say hello to Kylie on merch, road manager Tim, and new tour mate Jimmy who Ryan actually used to babysit. He’s the brother of Kyle from the “Bath Salts” lyric “pour me another one, Kyle” who had to take some time off from touring with the band after having a baby.
It is now that part of the Highly Suspect program where Johnny, Richard and Ryan shift to the next phase of their career: the sophomore album and tour. As the band meets more of the world and the people in it, expect them to continue to evolve and be influenced by their new experiences. Ryan was particularly excited about venturing down to Bogota, Columbia to do some recording. Why Columbia? “We’ve heard good things.” Ryan explained. “The food is great, the women are beautiful, the landscape is just breathtaking. We wanted to go there and be influenced by that.” That sophomore album, The Boy Who Died Wolf is officially due out on November 18th and its supporting tour is officially underway.
“We’re basically on tour for the rest of our lives here!” Ryan enthused.
Ryan gives you the sense that, despite the recent rise in level of success, what really matters to the guys of Highly Suspect hasn’t much changed. It’s all about playing high intensity shows and spending time with their family which extends to their tour mates, long-time fans, and anyone really who connects to the music and comes to the shows. So come to a show, but be prepared to give it your all and sweat it out because the band will certainly be doing the same and delivering their all to you.
Check out the first single from The Boy Who Died Wolf: “My Name Is Human.”
Header Photo: Bob Good