We had a chance to talk with Highly Suspect drummer, Ryan Meyer. We discussed the details of their newest song and the video for Serotonia. He commented on the direction the band were heading musically, gave insight on their unique way of creating new music and the benefit of sharing previously unreleased songs in front of a live audience. He shared how Rich and Johnny make him a better musician, his thoughts on success, his experience at the Grammys and more.
The band just released a video for the new song Serotonia. When was the song written, who had the initial idea and why was now a good time to release it?
I can’t pinpoint exactly when the song was written because it usually takes us a little while to write the song. It’s kind of hard to put a date exactly. But it was written, the lyrics and the general riff were written by Johnny, he was expressing his true feelings about how he fell in love with California and the lifestyle. We spent some time over there. Johnny actually spent a month out in L.A. just writing after our last tour, during all the holidays and whatnot, and kind of just fell in love with it. The music video was just something to go along with all of that. He wanted to express himself in the video the way he expressed himself lyrically, so he kind of just took the reins and did the whole thing himself. He directed the whole thing. It was his idea and everything. It was his art project. We dropped it when we dropped it because, well, shit, we just got some great accolades from the Grammys, and performed and had a lot of attention and we wanted to put that out when we had the most eyes on us and show people kind of like a direction we’re headed. You know, we’re moving in a different direction as a band.
Personally I think it’s a beautiful song and for me the video is pretty haunting and slightly disturbing. While watching it I feel like we’re looking deep into Johnny’s psyche. So, I think his mission is accomplished with the video.
Yeah. I think it makes you feel something, right? I think that’s the whole point of art. To make you feel something, whatever this thing is, is up to your interpretation.
Did you or Rich have any input with the video or was it solely all him?
He asked if we wanted to be a part of it and Rich and I both agreed that, we felt like at the time, that he kind of had the vision and he’s just a very creative person and I felt like he needed to own something. He needed to do something. We’ve been creating art together for a long time and he needed to do something completely his own so we stepped back and let him just kind of run the whole thing. I’m glad we did because it came out great and he’s really happy with it. He got that off his chest. He needed to do that.
I saw your show in Chicago recently and I realize that the intro for Serotonia was a little different. There were some extra verses. So my question is, was that part of the initial song that was scrapped or is that something that you guys are just doing in the live show?
That’s a great question. It’s actually two separate songs. We have a tendency to play our ideas live. That’s one of the reasons why we ask people in the crowd to put their cellphones down and enjoy it because a lot of times we’re working out ideas, you know, kind of just on the spot and to see how people react to it. I think we do that for the audience and we do it for ourselves. The song that you heard, that you thought were additional verses, is actually a different song that Johnny’s working on. It’s kind of a beautiful melody and I’m not sure exactly where he’s going with it but he’s kind of figuring that out.
Not that my opinion means anything, but I really hope that does become a full blown song because it’s pretty awesome.
Your opinion matters. I wouldn’t denounce that. I hope so too. I really like where it’s headed and I feel like, so something like that where he’s working that out in front of the crowd and kind of getting a firm grasp on where he wants to go with it, a lot of people ask us how we write songs and that’s one of the ways., where he’ll have a firm idea that he will bring to the table and then once he is comfortable laying it out then we all start collaborating on it. There’s also other ways we write music, like a jam or there will be a drum beat that we just have to work around, you know what I mean, but that specifically is one of the ways that we do things.
That puts you in a, I would think, almost a vulnerable situation because you’re exposing yourself to fans that obviously have never heard this so do you find that overall you get a good reaction or are people like, “Okay, what was that?”
I think it’s both. I think that’s why we put ourselves in that situation, to be vulnerable, I think a lot of people are afraid of being vulnerable, but allowing yourself to do that, you can reap great benefits from being vulnerable. If we play something that we’re not sure of and the crowd thinks it’s totally whack and we try it like five or six times in front of five or six different crowds, and everyone thinks it’s whack, then it’s definitely whack, you know? But generally you kind of get a fix on where, how people react to one part or another or, I think just playing off the energy in the room helps the creative process. I think this is the only way we could ever really write music, is just kind of on the fly, and being true to the creative element in the room because you feel a different way when you go onto a studio and it’s kind of sterile, not like a hospital sterile, but it’s just, if you’re in the studio you feel one way, you feel a different way than you would if you’re in a live venue and you’ve had a couple of beers and there’s screaming fans in front of you and the bass is loud. In a studio you’ve had a cup of coffee and you’re relaxing, so to work out the songs live, transitions better in the studio and then that transitions even better when you’ve worked out all the kinks in the studio and then you bring it back out. It’s something you created live, perfected in the studio and then it really hits home when you bring it back to the stage.
That’s an interesting way to, I think, create music and obviously it’s working, you know, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, kind of thing. With the release of the new single, or whatever you’re calling it, does that mean you have a plan for some sort of EP or another full length for 2016 or are you just playing it by ear now?
To be specific, we didn’t release a single, we’re actually going to be releasing a single, technically a single, very soon from the album [Mister Asylum]. This [Serotonia] is more of just an art project. Pretty sure Noisy put it out, and we’re just going to release it to our fans but it’s not going to be a blast on the radio, it’s not going to get a major push. It’s just something that we wanted to put out. Johnny really wanted to do this video. You know, it doesn’t have to be all business. We’re in this to just make stuff so we just wanted to make something and put it out, you know? In terms of our next move, we’re going to do another album very soon. We’re writing a lot of music, like we talked about writing a lot of stuff live. We don’t have any dates in the studio yet but we have a time frame we’re looking at and we want to put out something sooner than later. We don’t want to sit around and wait and I think it’s going to be a full length album.
Have you guys ever entertained the idea of maybe re-working or re-releasing anything from your back catalog [early EP stuff]?
I think we can entertain the idea but I really like the idea of moving forward and I think all the other guys agree. We really like the stuff that we’ve been coming up with and the general direction we’re going. It’s refreshing to us and we’re different people than we were when we wrote the older stuff and to stay true to the music is being true to yourself and being different people means you’re going to write different music so I think we’re just going to move forward and just make some new stuff.
For you personally, can you tell me about some of your musical influences and how they impact your contribution to creating new songs and playing live?
Sure. I think musically early on I was really influenced by any rock ‘n’ roll or R&B that came out of the 90’s. Anything from Nirvana and [Red Hot] Chili Peppers to Everclear or Eve 6, Spin Doctors, the catalog goes and goes and goes. I listened to everything. I went through phases, but I think a lot of the 90’s rock like Soundgarden or Audioslave and Incubus and stuff like that, that really influenced what I played on the Mister Asylum album but lately I’ve been getting into the Menahan Street Band. It’s a fantastic band that backs Charles Bradley. I’m really into bands like Lettuce, or the new Mark Ronson album is really good. So I’ve just been getting more into, I think it’s just a more mature type sound and less crazy and fanatic. I think just maturing as a person is going to change my taste in music.
So the three of you have been in a band for a while now. Can you tell me one thing musically about Rich and one thing about Johnny that make you a better musician?
I think one thing about Rich that makes me a better musician is that he is so goddamn reliable. He’s a really solid bass player and he makes it really easy to stick to him because I know what he’s going to do. I know that he’s going to be, he never screws up his timing. His timing is impeccable. And one thing about Johnny that makes me a better musician is that he is the polar opposite. Not that he’s musically uncoordinated but that he is more of a wild card and I never know what he is going to come up with but it’s always interesting. I think that makes me a better musician because I can stick to Rich like glue and then Johnny will just always paint over something, something crazy over it, and it will make sense.
With the ever changing music industry and all of its ups and downs, how do you define success these days?
Well, that’s kind of an open question. Success can be defined many different ways depending on how you want to look at it. In a career standpoint I think you can have markers in time like getting a tour bus, or getting a record deal or selling out a theater, but I think just generally, success is just being happy and being comfortable and liking the life that you live. So really, you could have success and you could be a homeless person. It doesn’t matter.
Can you share a little bit about your experience attending the Grammys?
Sure. A lot of my experience at the Grammys sort of turns into a blur. There was a lot of what you could imagine was going on after the Grammys but the parts that I do remember were very, very meaningful. Playing it and leading up to it I was nervous as hell. You’re always scared of the unknown. The greatest fear is fear itself, or whatever the quote is. Yeah, I was really nervous about what I was going to wear, how the performance was going to go and once I showed up, we had a great team around us, a great stylist, I felt confident and everything was kind of taken care of and the performance went really well and my parents were there and they were super proud. I was just living off that vibe from them. Going to the televised portion of the Grammys, that was really cool. We had great seats and I look over and all of a sudden I’m standing next to Adele and then James Bay is waving at me. We sat next to Marcus Miller and his wife. Do you know how Marcus Miller is?
It doesn’t ring a bell.
He’s a really famous, well established bass player and he’s one of the best. One of the best bass players ever, so of course Rich was kind of freaking out a little bit because he was excited to meet him. It was just a great time. My parents were in bed by 9:30 p.m. so after the Grammys we all had a really emotional goodbye and it was awesome, a lot of laughs and then they went back to their hotel room and Rich and I went to the liquor store and went out.
Awesome. So you currently have dates through May. What does the rest of the year look like for Highly Suspect?
Well, that’s a good question and one I’m still asking. I’m not totally sure. We’re trying to work in where we’re going to record or when we’re going to record, and get some cool tours going. We definitely want to get back overseas. Besides the things that we’ve already announced that are scheduled, everything else is sort of up in the air and until it lands and is confirmed, we can’t really speak on it.
Alright, well I look forward to some more info, hopefully coming back through the Chicago area later this year.
Oh hell yeah. By the way, we love Chicago and we always have a blast coming through Chicago so we’ll be back soon. We don’t have anything to announce yet but be rest assured I want to get back to Chicago as soon as possible.
Great. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and best of luck with everything.