INTERVIEW WITH HIGHLY SUSPECT
Highly Suspect consists of three best friends who have fed off the energy of Brooklyn, NY to produce Mister Asylum, a 2015 full length album that is just as unrestrained as it is suave. At the moment, the rock band is touring the United States, adding on to their already hefty fan base everywhere they go. Johnny Stevens and brothers Rich and Ryan Meyer compose music that reflects their current realities as men, artists, and New Yorkers, infusing their work with authenticity, allure, and the conviction that rock n’ roll hasn’t departed the realm just yet. We were able to catch up with Johnny for a quick interview where he gives us an inside look at the Highly Suspect tour life.
ANITA (HIGHLARK): So Johnny, how is the tour going?
JOHNNY STEVENS (HIGHLY SUSPECT): It’s amazing. It’s always amazing. Having a lot of fun with this one in particular because we’re hitting a lot of market’s that we’ve never been in… yet, but we’re also hitting markets we have been in and it’s interesting to see how that grows when we come back. Now that we’re doing a headlining tour, it’s just been amazing. It’s been really fun.
ANITA: I want to ask you a little but about day to day life on tour. What are some of your essential tour items?
JOHNNY: We always have to have weed, booze and knives. That’s for sure. We also have to have a crew, and our crew is made up of our friends. We don’t like to use outsiders so we bring our friends. That’s essential to have, people we know. We always have to have gluten-free bread because Ryan is a celiac and a lot of those states in the midwest don’t really recognize that as an actual ‘thing’, so we stop and get food that he can put in between his gluten-free bread. And you know, a skateboard and a BMX bike. Those are our tour essentials.
ANITA: What kind of things do you guys listen to, or read, or do for fun while traveling between shows?
JOHNNY: Um, a whole lot of shit. We’re really into Spotify because you can go anywhere with it. We listen to a lot of electronic stuff, we listen to St. Vincent, we listen to a lot of hip-hop. Not a whole lot of rock. Maybe some older stuff, we like 90s rock or we like some of the newer stuff like Queens of the Stone Age. We listen to a lot of soul too, a lot of James Brown, a lot of Daptone‘s records like Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Menahan Street Band, all that sort of stuff.
ANITA: What do you guys usually do on your days off from tour?
JOHNNY: Let’s see, today I worked out, we usually do laundry but I don’t have to do it today. We’re going to the science museum in a little bit. There’s a science museum here in St. Paul (Minnesota), we’re gonna go check it out. One of the big ones if we have a day off is we try to hit up a Wal-Mart and a Denny’s because back where we’re from we’d never go to Wal-Mart or Denny’s you know? We’re not going to do that shit in New York but when we’re out here there’s not a lot, so when we need vitamins, tooth brushes, underwear and socks and warm food, you can find them at Wal-Mart and Denny’s. So that’s one thing we try to do on our day off. Or raging pool parties we love pool parties.
ANITA: Now that you guys have all this buzz, how did you choose your team, like your manager, booking agent or label?
JOHNNY: Well, without getting into a 5 hour response what I can tell you is that it’s super important to choose the right team. We said no to a lot of offers when it came to management and help, and you constantly have to be aware of who you’re working with because unfortunately, there are people that are in it for themselves. We are super picky about who we choose to work with, it was almost 6 years as a band before we accepted anyone else but us, it was so DIY. But basically we found our team through… I think the easiest way to put it is moving to New York, you start to meet a lot of people and you can start to filter out who’s the real deal and who’s slimy and we just don’t work with slimy people. Right now our team is slime proof, we have the best team ever.
ANITA: Glad to hear that! This is unrelated, but we have a section on our site where we feature tattoo artists. I was wondering if you have any favorite artists or shops in New York?
JOHNNY: There’s a lot of great artists you know? I need a shop that’s clean and…. sterile? I guess that’s important, but also vibe is important. I don’t want to walk into like a doctor’s office so I try to find a tattoo shop where I walk in and the first thing I hear is a dirty joke. There’s a really cool shop on St. Mark’s, I mean I would never go to the shops on St. Mark’s with the $40 specials you know what I mean? I won’t go to those but there is one shop in St.Mark’s at the bottom of it close to Alphabet City, it’s called Fun City Tattoo.
ANITA: Yeah! I recently wrote an article about an artist from there (Mina Aoki).
JOHNNY: You know that shop? Yeah, that shop’s legit. I mean Mina and Big Steve they are legit. It’s too bad they’re on St. Mark’s because St. Mark’s has a terrible rep, but they’re actually really awesome. I had them do my face and Richard actually got some work there too. I also like Kings Ave, I mean it’s just so legit. Mike Rubendall’s shop is one of the most legit shops in the world, they’re the real deal. I got my throat and neck done there because the artists there are amazing.
ANITA: Would you ever consider moving your base or is New York working out for you guys?
JOHNNY: We love New York and we don’t want to give up our fun in New York. But we are looking into setting up kind of a base on the west coast in southern California so we can have new inspiration for the second album. We write about our experiences and I feel like we just did New York so I don’t want to do the second one there. Right now I feel like “What’s the point?” since we’re on the road 24-7 and we will be for a long time, but when we’re off the road I think we’re going to try and set up a base in California and do some writing.
ANITA: Is there a direction you’re going with for the next album?
JOHNNY: Nope, hell no, I’ll never put that kind of limitation on myself. It’s going to come out how it comes out.
ANITA: Thank you so much for your time! It’s been really great getting your insight.
JOHNNY: No doubt, thanks for having me!