Ahead of their slot on the Avalanche Stage at this year's Download Festival, Naomi Penn talks to WSTR frontman Sammy Clifford about the band's exciting new plansWritten by Naomi Penn on 26th May 2018
Redbrick Meets: Highly Suspect
Redbrick's Imogen Meller delves into Highly Suspect's musical influences with drummer Ryan Meyer, before attending the band's O2 Institute gig
On 2 February, the depths of Digbeth came alive with music, passion and noise. The O2 Institute housed Highly Suspect, a band of three extraordinary musicians, plus a good thousand of their fans as they danced, swayed and rocked to music that absorbed the masses. Working through a huge range of their own music and some bonus covers, they played out their hearts on that stage, and it was a sight to behold.
“The O2 Institute housed the three Highly Suspect members plus a good thousand of their fans dancing, swaying and rocking to music that absorbed the masses
However, before I go through some of my favourite moments of the night, I have to mention the opportunity the band gave me to send some interview questions to Ryan Meyer, the drummer and occasional vocalist from the band, which he was kind enough to answer:
Imogen: So, for those that might not know you music so well, how would you describe yourselves musically?
Ryan: Imagine if all your favourite artists from every genre did drugs and made a rock record together. chances are we probably listen to whoever you’re thinking of, and that’s who inspired our music. Some of it’s heavy, some of it’s softer. All of it is personal, intelligible, and very few sound the same.
Many fans know that before you were the band you are now, with multiple successful albums to your names, you were primarily a cover band. What was your favourite song to cover?
I always liked playing our music the best, but I’d have to go with ‘Hyper Music’ - Muse.
If you could recommend an album that you think everyone should listen to, what would it be?
THEY’s NÜ Religion: HYENA.
You’ve toured with quite a few bands by now, are there any that you want to tour with in the future?
Touring with friends is always best. When you tour together you live together. We’re looking forward to taking Palaye Royale out a bunch coming up this fall.
What do you guys think about sites like Genius where people almost take other people on the internet’s perspective on your lyrics as law? You would prefer people made their own meaning?
Coming from a guy who sings fart jokes over every song in the shower, I don’t think too much about it. People will always do what they do and believe what they believe, ain’t nothing wrong with it. The lyrics mean what they mean to Johnny when he writes them and then they become the world’s words. They can mean what they want to anyone really. Hopefully it make them feel something.
“The lyrics become the world’s words. They can mean what they want to anyone really
Really, if people on Genius make shit up and other people talk about it, that’s a good thing. It means the songs are getting played and people are talking about them and that’s the whole point of it all. However, if you wanna know what the song means to the writer you should probably hear what they have to say about it, not someone who had nothing to do with the making of it. Just my two cents.
After reading what Ryan said about their musical style being from such a spread of genres and artists, I couldn’t help but listen for this diversity during the gig, and from their performance it certainly became obvious how versatile the band are.
They played many a fan favourite, from their first tune ‘Bath Salts’, which was met by an instant mosh pit, to their encore of ‘Serotonia’, which had every fan singing their heart out with the band. Although these were expected and very well received by the fans, the most special part of the performance for me was seeing them play ‘Round and Round’, a bluesy track that really showed that although the band may be labelled as a rock group, they have a musical understanding far beyond just rock. Every song that the band has displays a new take and feeling on rock and roll, or pop, or any one of hundreds of other genres, and for me, that truly showed their musical ability.
“Although the band may be labelled as a rock group, they have a musical understanding far beyond just rock
Each of the band members had moments to show off and display their talent, from the previously mentioned ‘Round and Round’ with Rich’s smooth vocals, to Ryan’s intense drum solo at the close of the main set. Johnny showed amazing skill and talent throughout, singing and even playing a MIDI keyboard alongside his guitar without seeming to break a sweat.
The one criticism I might have with the performance came from the crowd more than anything. The band were playing to a group of fans who seemed a little tired, and when Johnny or the other band mates took some time to talk to the band or give a song a moment to breathe, the crowd would become a little restless and in some cases I saw, irritable. Highly Suspect absolutely did a lot to connect with the crowd but sometimes, as most British audiences are on a Friday night, they were resistant to enjoy anything more than the music. That being said, as soon as a familiar song like ‘F**k Me Up’ came on, they wanted nothing more than to dance and rock out to the band’s vibes.
“As soon as a familiar song like ‘F**k Me Up’ came on, they wanted nothing more than to dance and rock out to the band’s vibes
Overall, the night was a huge success in my eyes. They brought the house down with tracks from different eras of their work and the audience (myself included) loved to see them do what they do best. If you ever get the chance to see this band, I would absolutely jump at the chance. Their music and sentiments are strong statements and, as my interview implied, their music covers so many genres, themes and feelings that I am sure that there is something that you’ll love.