Highly Suspect returns with a new record “MCID”, that transcends genres and divides the critics. In the wake of their concert at Le Nouveau Casino, the three founding members shared their vision of the album.
The new record “MCID” features lots of electronic beats. Were you involved in the composition of these beats? Did you get bored during the recording process?
Ryan Meyer (drums/vocals): Actually, I was going though a break up. I was involved in the early stages, the creation. When we got to New York to record everything I was done with my part in a week. Then I left, I had to handle what I was going through. I like playing the new stuff like “Freakstreets” for example. Johnny made all the drums, and when I was in the studio, I had to learn to play it. It made me a better drummer because it was outside the box. Things that I would never have created.
Will you play everything live?
Ryan: Yes, I play everything live except for “Fly”. It’s a personal song. Johnny performs it with a spotlight on him.
The album starts with “Fly”, a very personal song that deals with mental illness. It’s a bold move to start the album with such a song. It sets a dark tone for the rest of the album. How did you react when you heard the song?
Ryan: When I first heard the song, I cried. Johnny has always been a little crazy and he knows it. I’ve always wanted him to start fixing the things that are wrong. To have him get better. Say you’re an alcoholic, the first step is to acknowledge you’re an alcoholic. I was happy to hear him saying the things he says. It’s a way for him to hold the public accountable. It was therapeutic.
(ed. Rich joins Rich in the room)
Rich, you composed “Arizona”. The title is stripped down in a musical point of view, it leaves room for your interpretation. Could you tell us more about it?
Rich Meyer (bass/vocals): It’s about how difficult its is to go through multiple relationships while traveling a lot. How to maintain a relationship when you’re never around. It’s called “Arizona” cause that where I was when I started writing it. It’s open to interpretation, it’s not one specific scenario.
Ryan: It’s tough, my relationship failed.
Rich: Mine too!
Ryan: You know what’s hard too? Trying to record an album while breaking up with someone. My relationship was failing, and I was trying to fix it. Obviously if you have to work really hard to fix a relationship it’s dead. But I was trying to fix it while being in the studio. Having arguments with her, stress in my head and then trying to be creative and perform under the gun. The studio is very expensive, we have a certain amount of time with the producer. There’s a lot of pressure. It was too much. That’s why when it was done, I had to leave.
So, what did you do to get some relief?
Ryan: I went back to Los Angeles; we broke up and I took a plane to go to Hawaii. I stayed at my friend’s house. He had an extra room and a motorcycle he wasn’t using. I drove a motorcycle at full speed without helmet in Hawaii. Tears streaming passed my eyes. Totally crazy. (laughs)
I think it worked. It was my birthday and I had some friends, but they all had to work. I was by myself, in a strange tropical beautiful place, on a very fast bike. No helmet, just sunglasses. When I was at full speed, I felt like I was ok, then I slowed down and it was bad again.
Maybe there’s a song right here?
Ryan: Maybe yes. The art is the expression of what you’re living. The problem is that I can’t compose good melodies and write the right word.
Rich: But you like humming!
Ryan: Yes, but off key. (laughs) When we reach a chorus, the emotion is strong and I’m so much in it. I make all these weird noises that I don’t usually hear cause the drums are so loud. The other day I took a GoPro and I put the straps on my chest. It’s got a microphone in it but it’s right on my chest. The only thing I’ve heard, loud and clear, over everything was me doing weird humming noises. (laughs)
“MCID” is a cross genre record. Is it something that came up naturally or was it like an intentional direction?
Rich: I would say it was very natural. We have always wanted to make that kind of music. The one that is not restricted to a genre. It sounds cool and we like it. It’s the only reason it’s on the record. Not because it fits some style of music. The last two records were trying had to maintain some kind of congruency. For this record we just said, “Fuck off, we’re going to do what we like!”.
It’s what the new generation seems to be doing. Artists like Post Malone does rock music, rap music.
Rich: Yeah, and he’s awesome!
Ryan: Bring Me The Horizon has a new record with Grimes. Music is an art that makes you feel an emotion. People rely on you to make a certain emotion. They get mad when you don’t give them that anymore. They don’t accept that you’re progressing as a human being, and that’s what human being do. They evolve.
(ed. Johnny joins the rest of the group)
It felt very natural to hear you evolve and include hip hop sounds. It gives you Johnny the opportunity to rap. It also gives you more words to express yourself. When did you start writing hip hop song?
Johnny Stevens (vocals/guitar): When I was a teenager, a long time ago. I’ve been listening to hip hop my whole life. It’s not 1950. Hip hop was born from rock n’roll, rock n’roll was born from black music, from blues. Hip hop is rock n’roll, rock n’roll is hip hop, it’s art. It’s all the same. I have a better time writing hip hop songs because I can say more. With rock n’roll you have a certain number of lyrics that you can fit. With hip hop I can say a lot with a small amount of time.
Lyrics wise, in this record you are open to what you’ve been through. It’s like raw honesty. It’s heartbreaking. How can you feel comfortable enough to share as much with the public? To put it all out there?
Johnny: I have great friends, who keep me supported. Great band members, great people around me who keep me strong, because it is scary.
Ryan: It was really scary to release “Viper Strike”. At the time we hadn’t pushed the barriers yet. Johnny wrote the lyrics and he showed us first because he was scared to put it out. We were scared cause he would have a target on his back. We were worried for him first and for ourselves as well. He’s first and foremost but we’re all in this together.
Johnny: We share a common belief, and it’s time for white straight men to say the things we say. There’s just not enough of it and it’s really weird world.
“Canals” is one of the most rock song on the record, the lyrics are political and against Trump.
Johnny: At the price of dividing our fan base. People don’t want to hear that shit. People are very different in their opinion. They don’t agree with us. They hear what we say and say: “fuck you”.
Ryan: Can you imagine what it was like for us in the Southern Western States? Where racism, sexism and homophobia are very common placed. Johnny was insulting them, telling the to get the fuck out and we watched half the room leave. Those are also the most violent. Looking at the Trump supporting community. Their rallies are incredibly violent, and people get beat up and go to the hospital. They’re kicking and screaming. Those are the people we’re speaking to. The most aggressive.
But they came to see you in the first place.
Ryan: Not knowing our political stand.
Johnny: They’re listening to the singles, like “Lydia” or whatever on the album. They think we’re a certain way and don’t listen to the whole album. They don’t follow us on social media, they do not understand. Some people come, expect to hear a certain thing and then hear that and leave. I say: “good riddance, don’t let the door kick you in your way out”. We need to select our fan base and build it around our core values.
A single like “My Name Is Human” is a political stand. Moreover, you went to the Grammy wearing a jacket with the word “Impeach” written on your back. The message was quite clear.
Johnny: We’re still fucked. We will be for a while, that’s the way it works.
As French people we are interested in your collaboration with Gojira. In a past interview you said that you were neighbors.
Rich: When we first moved to New York about 10 years ago, Joe was our neighbor. He lived upstairs from us. We did not know who Gojira was at the time. We were just friends.
Johnny: We babysit his kid!
Ryan: We helped him move!
Johnny: He’s a sweetheart. We were very young at the time. We’ve never been to France and everything we’d heard about French people was some brainwashed talk. French people are rude, French people are mean. Joe helped us in so many ways when we were a struggling band. He helped us produce some of our earliest work. In this last record we have a song that we wrote together. We were just missing something, so I asked Joe if he wanted to be part of it. His studio was just a mile away. Joe loved the song and four hours later it was done.
The song is quite a challenge for him. At the beginning it’s very Gojira but then he has to use his clear voice.
Johnny: I know exactly what they are doing next. I’ve heard half of the new album. They’re making a change as well. In a right way. It’s very nice to hear and that’s all I’m going to say.
They can’t keep repeating themselves. They have to evolve.
Rich: A lot of people do that though. They just keep releasing the same stuff.
Johnny: We believe this is the definition of selling out. If you find something and keep doing that again. You need to take risks in art.
This record was a big risk. We felt really unsettled when we first heard it. We did not know if we liked it or not. It took us some time to realize it makes sense as an album.
Johnny: You know when Queens of the Stone Age released “Like Clockwork” in 2013 I hated it. After a couple of weeks, it became one of my favorite albums. It was different from what I used to like. I listened to what he was saying, to the instruments, I watched the live show and it all just clicked. Our album, it’s going to take some time for people to like it. We know that.
Were you affected by the reactions? Some were positive, but lots of them were really negative.
Johnny: So, fuck everybody. That’s just the way it is. Art is consumed. Those who don’t like it, it’s ok. They don’t need my opinion.
Which collaboration were you surprised to have?
Johnny: Our favorite collaboration is definitely Gojira. We tried to work with them for years.
Rich: Young Thug is definitely the most surprising.
Johnny: What rock band you know has a collaboration with Young Thug? It took a lot of people off guard.
Ryan: Making a song with Nothing But Thieves totally make sense. Even Gojira makes sense. If you do read the comments, the negative ones are the ones who stand out. A lot of people said: “oh this is just like Limp Bizkit all over again”. (laughs) But it’s not! They’ve pushed the boundaries and before they became uncool Limp Bizkit was very cool. I listened to their records and I loved them. I think that Fred Durst was awesome.
Johnny: You’re talking about an asshole wo did some bad stuff at Woodstock. He started riots, set up fires and injured a lot of people and never apologize for it. If he hadn’t done that, he would have had a much better career. It’s not that his music became trash, he became trash for political reasons.
Ryan: If you don’t teach people how to feel they would still like it.
Johnny: Or if you teach them incorrectly. But hey, here we are talking about Fred Durst, so it means that he made an impact. We decided that we will not end up like Limp Bizkit. If we’re not happy with our music anymore, if we can’t evolve, we will stop the band. We don’t want to become this 50 something years old guys who play the shit over and over again. You have to stay happy. Life is very short.
The record proves that you can do many types of music. Next time you may surprise us with a blues album or something else?
Johnny: We’d all like to make a blues album at some point.
Finally, we are “RockUrLife”, so what rocks your life?
Johnny: Travel. I feel weird when I stay in a place for too long. It’s really nice to discover new cultures and people.
Rich: Travel is good yeah. My dog rocks my life too.
Ryan: The worst feeling is this feeling of stagnancy when you’re not going anywhere. So, travel!