Two-time Grammy nominated band Highly Suspect has come a long way to share their “Cheez It” music with rock and roll fans worldwide. Their debut album Mister Asylum is loud, grungy and attention-commanding, one that shakes you to the core for every second of every song. We spoke with the band's lead singer and bassist Rich Meyer, who shed some light on what it’s like to move from a small town to a big city, as well as his and his bandmates' — twin brother Ryan Meyer and long-time friend Johnny Stevens — Grammy experience.
NUVO: What was it like at the Grammys? I know you were there on Monday for your album Mister Asylum. What was that whole experience like for you?
Rich Meyer: Well the whole thing was pretty surreal. I was surrounded by all of these celebrities. Joe Perry’s dressing room was right next to ours and when I looked down into the main event, I stood right next to Adele, and my mom got to see Adele from five feet away, and that was pretty cool. She’s a huge fan, obviously. Whose mom isn’t a huge fan of Adele? Justin Bieber was right next to me getting ready for his performance, and I got to watch him smash his guitar from 20 feet away — that was pretty cool. Oh yeah, Adele’s performance was like 20 feet away because she was down in the VIP area, and I could literally hear her voice over the PA system, which was pretty amazing. I got to meet a hero of mine, a bass player, Marcus Miller. He was standing in line, he was right behind us… and then he sat next to us, so I got to not only get a picture with him… and watch the Grammys with him. It was pretty amazing.
NUVO: What was your reaction when you found out that your first album was going to be nominated for two Grammys?
Meyer: It wasn’t glorious. I hadn’t slept very much, and I was trying to get my laundry done before we had to hit the road again. We were in Chicago, and I was at the hotel doing laundry at 7:30 in the morning, and I was just groggily drinking my coffee, and Ryan came down and gave me a hug and told me we had two Grammy nominations. I didn’t really believe it, but I had to look it up on the Internet. Then I found out that it was true, and was kind of shocked, and then ... I had to get my backpack and get in the van and head to the next gig. We were all just kind of in a daze for a while about it. That’s what it was like.
NUVO: What’s it like working with family, and how do you balance the creative direction of your music between the three of you?
Meyer: Ryan and I are really easy because I’ve known Ryan my entire life. He’s just kind of a built-in entity of myself [laughs], so that part is really easy. The songwriting itself, that’s more complicated. Usually what happens is Johnny will write lyrics, a general outline for the song, and then we’ll come up with the different parts. Ryan and I usually land on a rhythm right off the bat. It’s quite easy for us to figure out what we’re going to do for whatever song he’s writing. So, it’s easy, to answer your question, it comes naturally.
NUVO: How would you describe your sound?
Meyer: I would say eat some Cheez Its and watch some Netflix, your favorite movies, and enjoy yourself. That’s the type of vibe of our music [laughs]. That might sound silly, but the whole idea of the music is relatability and just doing what you feel like doing. Right now, that’s what I feel like doing because I just got home off the road—I’ve been in England and Los Angeles, and I’ve just been all over the place for the last month, and I’m finally home again and that’s what I want to do. Netflix and Cheez Its is what our music sounds like.
NUVO: What is the music scene like on Cape Cod, and I’m just curious about how your guys got your start in music and also just about who some of your inspirations were growing up.
Meyer: The music scene used to be flourishing on the Cape, and now sadly enough it’s dwindling. It’s not doing so hot. About 10-15 years ago, there were a couple really prominent bands on the Cape. They were reggae ... like ska rock bands. We were good friends with them and we used to go to all the shows, and look up to them. They were our heroes. When we started, they inspired us. They were part of the reason we started doing it ourselves. We saw them doing it, and it just made us believe in ourselves. “If they can do it, we can do it too!” We started playing, and they enjoyed what we did, and we would play gigs with them. That was some of the very first industry recognition that we ever got — was from local artists off the Cape... That was where it all began.
NUVO: What is the inspiration behind your album Mister Asylum?
Meyer: A lot of it had to do with moving to New York City, and getting involved with the music industry and living the night-life. This place doesn’t sleep, and we went from a very beachy, laid back, fluffy environment, and then all of a sudden we’re in New York City, which is like hard and fast. It’s either keep up or get trampled. It was a very stark change in our lives. We’re like sponges — we soak up the environment and then the art comes out as a result of what environment we’re in. I would say that living in New York City was the main inspiration for the experiences that we translated into music. They were New York City experiences.
NUVO: Do you by any chance have any advice for young musicians who are starting out and landing on their feet in the music business?
Meyer: Yeah, don’t ever try to imitate anybody because you’re just going to blend right in if you do that. On the other hand, it’s good to be inspired by any sort of genre. Don’t ever close your horizons down by only listening to a specific genre. Just listen to whatever you like, but don’t try to imitate it. Make the music that you want.
If you go:
Deluxe at Old National Centre, 502 N New Jersey St.
Thursday, February 25, 8 p.m.