L'interview de Highly Suspect : Une discussion avec Richard Meyer

Highly Suspect

MisterAsylumEasily one of the biggest success stories of 2015, the boys in Hautement suspect have experienced what could easily be described as a meteoric rise to fame over the last few months.  Transplants from the picturesque beach town of Cape Cod, to the bustling city of Brooklyn, Highly Suspect sharpened their teeth in the unforgiving Brooklyn, NY rock scene, before making it big with their first two singles from Mister Asylum, “Lydia” and “Bloodfeather” which landed at 4th and 5th on the US Main Rock chart.

Now with an electrifying Grammy performance and multiple award nominations under their belt, Hautement suspect are fast becoming one of the hottest bands in the world, and one of the biggest breakout acts in recent memory.

We had a chance to speak to bassist Richard Meyer a few days after their appearance at the Grammy’s to discuss the band’s crazy year, and what lies ahead. Read what he had to say below:

AltWire [Derek Oswald]: Your rise over the last year is certainly something incredible. How does it feel to have just gotten off an insane year that saw you nominated for several awards, and which saw your single “Lydia” peak so highly on the charts?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a year, and we totally ended it with a smash. Well obviously the year ended, and then we did the Grammys, but still, that would be the peak. Touring in Europe and then flying straight from Europe into LA to perform at the Grammys, and meeting so many famous people. To be in the same category as Muse, Alabama Shakes, and Florence & the Machine, it was just an honor. It really was. None of us really expected to win, but we were all just glad to be up there and recognized by the music society.

AW: Being at such a big awards show, did you happen to meet any of your idols or favorite musicians while you were there?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: Yeah! I met Marcus Miller. He was standing in line to go down into the main event, and I was in line with my parents. I chatted with him for a good fifteen minutes about touring life, and we talked about bass guitars for a little bit. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Marcus Miller but he’s a solo bassist, and he’s great; I like his style a lot. So I got to hang out with him, and then he actually ended up sitting with us. So that was rad. That was really cool that I could sit with him and watch Adele sing, and Justin Bieber smash a guitar, and I got to watch Lady Gaga do her David Bowie impression. It was an incredible night. I’ll never forget it, and the fact that I got to bring my parents was really special. I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff, I’ve played in some pretty big places with some big people, but nothing compares to what I got to share with my parents the other day.

AW: How did you feel when the nominations first came through the wire, and it was revealed that you were nominated for not one, but two awards? What was that day like?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: Well to be honest with you, it wasn’t really a glorious moment at all. We were in Chicago and we were staying in a hotel outside of the city because the hotels in Chicago are insanely expensive. We had maybe gotten about 4 hours of sleep, it was about 730 in the morning, and I was trying to get my laundry done before we hit the road again because I didn’t have any clean clothes. So I was kind of like really miserably hovering over my coffee and my brother came down and gave me a hug and said ‘dude we just got nominated to the Grammys. I didn’t believe him so I had to look it up on the internet and it was true. I was in a daze and I had to finish doing the laundry, and pack up my stuff and get it put in the van to get back on the road again. We all just kind of sat in the van and laughed about it because of how crazy it was, and then we just went back to work, we had to get to the next spot.

That was a really grueling tour as well. We had a lot of driving to do, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to stop and invite our friends over to celebrate properly. It was just kind of like ‘Get back to work!’ [laughs]. ‘Congratulations but get back to work!’

AW: You released a few EPs and an eponymous debut album prior to your latest record. Do you consider Mister Asylum as a dividing line between your new and old music, or a continuation of everything you’ve built so far?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: It’s definitely a dividing line. The old music was music that we had played for the past ten years. It was music that we wrote back when we were in high school. I don’t feel like that was our freshman album. I feel like it was our growing up, juvenile, still learning how to be a band album. We then moved to New York City and we got all these companies to work with us, which was an incredible feeling to have these people helping us out. We had a management company, a record label and a worked with a wonderful producer named Joel Hamilton [on Mister Asylum]. By then we were finally ready. We were doing it for 6-7 years at that point and then we were finally ready to make our freshman album. That’s what Mister Asylum is. That’s our true first album. That’s the way we look at it.

AW: how difficult would you say it was breaking into the Brooklyn music scene coming from Cape Cod?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: It’s impossible basically! The competition is huge and we didn’t really know anybody in the city, and that’s a big thing here in Brooklyn. It’s very cliquey, it’s very niche-y, like people love to show up with their friends and watch their friends play. We didn’t even really have a scene until recently, because of all the recognition we had gotten and because of the fact we live in Brooklyn, so that makes it easier. People were like ‘oh a Brooklyn band! I’ll check ’em out’, you know?  We’re doing a lot better in places like St. Louis, MO, and Australia then we are in Brooklyn. We never really developed a substantial scene here in Brooklyn, we just kind of got involved with the music industry and that was the way we did it.

AW: Your band has said in the past that experiences affect your music. For example, when you were in Cape Cod, your music was more reggae-like. In Brooklyn, you became more gritty and bluesy. Having now seen so many new places, including the UK, and having met these new bands, where do you think your musical direction is going?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: The music that we were playing on the Cape, that was Cape Cod music. Then we moved to New York and made a New York album. We’re like sponges, we soak up the environment that we’re in and the music that comes out is a direct result of that. So this album to me is a New York album and it’s all inspired and written about New York experiences. I feel like the new direction is going to be headed West and we’re going to be talking about touring the country, and spending a lot of time on the West Coast because we all love Los Angeles. We feel drawn to it. So that’s kind of the direction I see it heading. More alternative, and we’re trying to be more creative with our stuff. Not to say that Mister Asylum is not creative, but we kind of had to be more congruent with ourselves making that album because it’s a debut, and you have to try as hard as you can to get something to have traction. Once you get something that has traction, hopefully all the other songs on the album are similar enough that you can really cement your new fans into listening to the whole album, and not just that one song they picked up. With the new album we’re going to have a little more license to be creative, and a little more diversity from song to song.


“We’re going to go down to South America and do some recording, and we’re going to try and get some new music out to you guys as soon as possible!”


AW: I must say that I don’t think I’ve really ever met a band that originated from the Cape Cod area. Perhaps if I may take a fun detour and pay tribute to your hometown, anyone who’s been to or grown up in the Cape typically knows a place where they can find the best ice cream. After all, one could say the area is practically known for its little ice cream parlors, shops and creameries. What’s your place of choice?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: That’s a really good question! I’m going to say that The Village Store on Main St in Yarmouth Port has the best ice cream. That’s the store I grew up riding my bicycle to when I wanted to get candy, or soda, or any kind of crap that a six year old kid would be consuming [laughs]. I would ride my bike to The Village Store right down the street from my house, and that’s my favorite place to go to get ice cream. If I was to go any place on The Cape to go get ice cream, that would be it for sure.

They actually added a section to the store, and they dedicated it just to the ice cream and it’s called CJ’s. It’s kind of a sad story because CJ was a kid that I knew who died on a motorcycle when he was 21 and I think I was like 25, and he was a really fun kid, a wonderful, wonderful kid. I was still riding bikes a lot at the time and he died tragically, and it helped me to realize that I needed to cool it with the bikes, because I was doing a lot of stupid stuff. In a way he might have saved my life because it was a huge wake up call. So now the place that I grew up by, getting all my ice cream, and soda and candy and what not is called CJ’s and they have the best ice cream around.

[Editorial Note: While transcribing, our ears lead us to believe that Rich was saying ‘The Village Store’ in our recorded audio, but it’s possible that he may have been actually referring to Hallet’s Store as they are on Yarmouth Port and serve CJ’s Ice Cream in the summertime.]

AW: You guys recently said goodbye to your touring van, a vehicle you lovingly sent off with a tour you referred to in hashtag as the #GoodbyeVanTour. Be honest: Was it a reliable van, or a total piece of shit? Also what’s the craziest thing that ever happened in that van?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]:  Well, it was totally reliable up until the day that it died! It was a great van, and we had just gotten the transmission rebuilt because it was making some funny noises. We spent a lot of money getting the thing fixed up so that we could take it on tour, and we spent a lot more money than the van was even worth really. So we did all that, got all the stuff in the van and got packed up, and headed out for the first night…this was in Cincinnati, Ohio. We’re driving through Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Jimbo is at the wheel. About Jim, there’s this song we have called Bath Salts and one of the lyrics are ‘pour me another one Kyle’, and that reference is because Kyle was a bartender that hung with us in New York City and he’s been my best friend for like fifteen years. We’ve known Kyle forever – I love that guy, he’s a whirlwind of talking and whiskey whenever he comes around. He’s so much fun.

The reason I said all that is to give you an idea of the relationship Jimbo has with this band, because Jim is Kyle’s little brother. I remember being around 14 and smoking pot in Kyle’s backyard, and him scolding me because I might’ve let his younger brother smell the pot that we were smoking. He was very protective and he didn’t want his brother to begin smoking pot, or drinking or anything like that. Now he’s like the biggest pothead ever [laughs].

So anyways, its Jimmy’s first day on the job, we had him behind the wheel and he was driving the van, and then the motor just died. Right in the middle of Pennsylvania, and it was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing around. So we pulled over to the side of the road and we had to wait around for two hours to see the tow truck driver, just to tow us to the hotel that was close by. Then we had to leave the van at the hotel for a few weeks. We didn’t have any credit cards on us, so we had to rent a U-Haul and then we just packed all of our stuff into the U-Haul along with our gear. We had to pack all the stuff into the U-Haul, and ourselves because there were 6 of us, so we rode in the back of a U-Haul. We drove from Cincinnati to Michigan, and then to Chicago in the back of a U-Haul. But then we finally managed to get a van. So that was Jimmy’s first day on the job!

AW: Being a bassist myself, I’m quite fond of both your style of play and your tone. Who would you say are your biggest influences musically, and what is your preferred go to gear to get your desired sound?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: I’m a huge Flea fan. Even though I don’t play anything like him, I’ve always just really enjoyed listening to him. Paul McCartney is an incredible bass player and John Paul Jones too. The way I get the sound I have is that I use an Aguilar Tonehammer as a DI Box and that’s how I get the gain up before it even hits the amp. I also send that signal directly to the PA system in the house because they use a lot of distortion, and I make sure that the PA system gets a nice clean signal. A nice box, clean signal before the bass gets distorted because a lot of times it sounds cool on stage, but when I have the distortion pedal , all the bottom end drops out when you’re standing out in the crowd. The distortion makes the sound larger but you lose all the foundation. You lose the definition, and you lose the good vibration that you get from a clean bass tone, and you don’t feel it as much. You can hear it more, but you can’t feel it as much.

So what I do is make sure that the PA system and the house is getting a clean signal, like a nice hot workable tone instead of just sending a cold DI signal to the PA, which kind of sounds like crap I think. Just sending the DI signal to the PA system sounds kind of campy, you know what I mean? But if you get a nice hot DI box, and send that down to the PA system before you distort into the amp – and of course you’ll want to put a microphone on the amp so you can get the tone from the amp as well. That’s the biggest piece of advice I could give to any bass player. If you’re going to use distortion pedals, make sure that the house is giving a clean signal before you send it fully distorted.

My pedals change. Right now what I’m rocking is an OCD pedal and a Boss Bass Overdrive and a POG2 Pedal which is fun to mess around with. But yeah the Aguilar Tonehammer is a big part of the whole puzzle. Right now my touring is a Fender Super Bassman, which is nice, I like it. But my favorite and what I rent for big events like playing at the Grammy’s is an Ampeg SVT. Just the classic Ampeg head from the mid-90’s, the 810 cabinet, you know…the 200 pound refrigerator. You can’t beat that sound.  The new Neo cabs are cool because they don’t weigh as much, so if you’re gigging a lot and doing a lot of the work yourselves, it’s nice to have. But it just doesn’t have the punch that the old SVT’s got.

AW: In one of your band’s most recent posts on your Facebook, you guys said to stay tuned for presents being delivered real soon. Can you tell us anything about that or spill any details?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: We have two incredible music videos in the works; we’re very excited about them! You guys will be seeing them really soon.

AW: Lastly, now that you have the world’s attention, what do you plan to do with it? What can we expect from Highly Suspect in 2016?

Rich Meyer [Highly Suspect]: We’re going to tour the States for the next couple of weeks, and then we’re going to Australia, and then we’re going to come back and tour again for a couple of months. Then we’re going to go down to South America and do some recording, and we’re going to try and get some new music out to you guys as soon as possible!

Highly Suspect – Mister Asylum (Full Album Playlist):

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