Highly Suspect’s “Mister Asylum” was one of my favorite records of 2015. I still have it on my stereo constantly.
The Brooklyn trio – guitarist and singer Johnny Stevens, and brothers Rich and Ryan Meyer on bass and drums respectively – created an album that not only had the thunderous riff power of classic greats like Montrose, but also all that is good in the modern rock revival with bands like Kings of Leon.
There’s a thunderstorm of high-octane instrumentation with the benefit of Stevens’ smoky sensuality to his voice. That is right before he lets loose in a primal scream that’s right up alongside Sammy Hagar.
Highly Suspect was nominated for two Grammys and I’m kicking myself for not catching the band’s set at Edgefest in 2015. The band returns to perform in the intimate setting of the Waiting Room on Sept. 9. As a preview to that show, Ryan Meyer took the time to discuss the band’s process and its future.
Question: What sort of different emotions did you pour into your new upcoming album as opposed to “Mister Asylum?”
Answer: I can tell you that we were in a much more positive place. We were actually in Bogota, Colombia, during the recording of this album, so it was this sort of out-of-world experience. We literally were in a Third World when we made it. We had money in our pocket and had some success and it makes you feel better to be going in with all of that. I think we’re definitely different people from when we made “Mister Asylum.” We’ve grown and experienced a lot more now.
Q: How does the band look at the success you’ve had and your run to the Grammys after such a small amount of time?
A: To be honest with you, we really don’t even think about it. It happened, and it’s an amazing milestone in my life and I look at the plaques on the wall when I’m home and remember it. But life moves forward and if you dwell on the past, you’re going to miss the boat. We just wanted to do the best we could and make a good album and not dwell too much on the previous album.
Q: Where and how do you come up with the idea for and craft your riffs?
A: Basically, if you make the music you like in the moment, then you’re being real. We just use instruments that we liked, and things obviously changed over the years. With the new record, it sounds a lot bigger than the old one. There are a lot more layers to it for sure.
Q: With the release of the next album on the horizon, where do you think this album will take you? How do you anticipate the reaction?
A: I think we’re going to lose some people. I also think we’re going to gain more. It’s got a broader palette, and it’s more mature. I think it’s all around a better album, but I feel a lot of people are going to be expecting “Mister Asylum” again, and then when they don’t get it, they’ll be upset. But the people who can accept the change and enjoy us for who we are now, they’ll love it.
Q: What do you think the most misunderstood thing about your band is? What’s one thing you want to set straight that you feel needs to be?
A: I think our general image as these three guys covered in tattoos in this heavy rock band lends itself to people seeing us as one sided. But if you get to know us, we’re multisided individuals who have a lot of different interests, and each one of us is unique in our own way. We all listen to tons of different kinds of music and we enjoy art. There’s just more to us than three guys playing rock music, drinking whiskey and riding motorcycles.
Who: Highly Suspect with Haybaby, the Naturalists
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 9
Where: The Waiting Room, 334 Delaware Ave.
Tickets: $18 (ticketfly.com)