Meet Ryan Meyer. The drummer and vocalist in three-time Grammy nominated trio, Highly Suspect. Rocking out of Cape Cod Massachusetts, the band started playing Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd covers in local bars and within 7 years had received plaudits including a nomination for best rock song for “My Name Is Human”. We recently saw them perform in Paris, so took a little bit of time with Ryan backstage, to find out about how his surroundings have affected his music and get a little advice for other aspiring musicians out there.
How’d the move from Cape Cod to Brooklyn influence your music? Johnny mentions the cities he’s lived in- New York, LA and more in the lyrics- but how have these locations impacted you and the music?
A good friend of mine told me once “music is your experiences translated through your talents”. Surroundings are everything. New York was dirty and fast, raw. We were younger and hungry and full of angst. That comes across in the instruments and the lyrics. We’re a band and make music together but we were also a band living together, struggling together and sharing the experiences together.
And then to Bogota, Colombia for your second album – whose idea was that?
I was the one would brought it up, but the idea came from two separate conversations at the same time… Joel was talking about his work there over the past ten years and the boys and I were talking about where outside of NYC should we record… it just fell into our laps.
You’ve worked with Joel Hamilton since the first album – how has he contributed to your music, and how did you first meet him?
Long story short we knew Joel through friends waaaaaay back in the day. Joel also grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s a small place and most people know each other or of them somehow. It just worked out… one of those fluke things. He likes the same mix of rock music and hip hop… he’d worked with artists from The Black Keys to Mos Def and Elvis Costello – Our weird inside Cape Cod jokes and musical banter just clicked.
You mentioned that you’re an independent band in the UK, but still managed to play to a gargantuan crowd at the O2- what do you think has contributed the most to your success there?
At the moment we are independent but we had help for years believe me. It’s only recently we were dropped from Sony… which we’re excited about, to be honest. Big labels can’t pay attention to you if you’re too small. We’ve worked it though. Still seems like yesterday we were playing 50-75 cap rooms.
You guys don’t shy away from voicing your political opinions. Do you feel that other musicians that have a voice and platform to stand on should be taking a stand as well? How do you feel about bands that “play it safe” and avoid taking sides or stances on controversial topics in the current political climate?
I can’t hate on anyone that wants to play it safe but I’m gonna say whatever the fuck I want. In life in general. Exercising freedom of speech is one way to ensure we keep freedom of speech. We’re not re-inventing the wheel here but we are staying positive and trying to spread a message that does the planet some good.
What is the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in the life of Highly Suspect for 2018?
How’s your Flyby going? What have you got packed in there?
The flyby rules! I’ve got just a few basics but they’re safe and sound in there. things like laptops, hard drives and mini midi keys or sample pads. I’ve dropped the bags few times and haven’t even worried about it.. even given the sensitive contents.
Back stage in Paris
Do you do session work for other artists? How does that gear differ to the kit you use for Highly Suspect?
I definitely do, but I haven’t in a while since HS [Highly Suspect] takes up most of my time. I’m looking forward to taking some longer time off in between tours so I can work with other artists, hone my own skills and learn from others.
How important are visuals, aesthetics and design to you? Does this impact your creativity with music?
I know visuals have a massive impact on the “brand” of your band but I leave that to Johnny. It doesn’t affect the way I play because we make it easy on ourselves. we just do us. Everything else just follows.
What advice would you give young musicians who started out in a basement like you guys did?
That’s a tough one because you can go about the music biz in a million ways but I can tell you guys what I’ve done. I’ve played all the small gigs, I’ve practised and taken lessons, taught lessons. Submerged myself in learning the skill and I’m still not done. B.B. King was taking lessons until the day he died and he’d already proved anything you have to prove! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the greatest artists out there, and the best ones are the most humble, pleasant people I’ve ever met. #1 rule of the music industry, don’t be a dick.