Highly Suspect’s Johnny Stevens Talks Unique Sound, Sibling Dynamic + More
Highly Suspect recently released their debut full-length album ‘Mister Asylum.’ Guitarist and vocalist Johnny Stevens was a recent guest on Loudwire Nights. Full Metal Jackie chatted with the frontman about how moving from Cape Cod to Brooklyn influenced the band’s unique sound, the sibling dynamic in the group + a lot more. Check out the interview below:
There’s an eerie quality to your music that's a little unsettling. Musically, what makes discomfort so important?
I just write songs from the heart and they come out the way they are. That's my only answer for that, it's not like I'm trying to create an eerie vibe or anything with the intention of being false. I just write what comes out and it comes out that way.
Cape Cod to Brooklyn is a different route. How do different places influence what you want to express through music?
Different places influence your songwriting in a lot of ways. Your environment is going to reflect and translate through your sound. So when we moved to Brooklyn, we had a whole bunch of new experiences. New girlfriends, neighbors, everything from the sound of traffic will slowly and subliminally and subtly creep into your head. There's a real rhythm and beat in this city and when we came here I think our music naturally took on a darker, more nighttime and rhythmic pulse. Absolutely, your environment changes your songwriting.
Sometimes Highly Suspect must be the most noticeably different band on the bill on a tour. What do you like about being the unexpected, compared to other bands?
Sometimes I don't like it. I get nervous sometimes because it happens every single show we play… pretty much every time. We always kind of stand out, a lot of times we're harder than any other band on the bill and you get worried if anyone is going to dig what we're doing or if we're too abrasive, and sometimes we'll play a rock show or a metal show where you're a little softer than everything else. You seem to have a hard time finding bands that are just like us, which I guess is a really good thing. But when it comes to playing live, it can be a little nerve wracking at first because you don't know if people are going to get into it or not, but so far so good. Everyone has enjoyed the show live.
There are a lot of stories about the dynamic created by siblings together in bands, but how is that heightened when you're in a trio with twin brothers?
Well I guess I don't really have much to compare it to, as this is the only band we've ever really fully been in short of a few projects in middle school. I like to think that because they're the drums and the bass, they're the rhythm section and twin brothers. They shared that same heartbeat since the womb. So they're so tight… they can kind of feel each other out perfectly and it really allows for me to paint over what they're doing with a melody. A real solid well stretched canvas and I can paint everything over it. It's great. I've been with them now for, living with them for a decade so we're all kind of family now. I feel very lucky to be in a family band as opposed to just meeting people off Craigslist, there's a certain natural vibe that you get and good brother ship and friendship when you're in a family band. I love it.
Rolling Stone just named Highly Suspect one of ten bands to watch. What's the plus and minus of that level of expectation?
I don't think there is minus of that level of expectation. I think Rolling Stone is right on the money. I'm excited and honored to have that accolade, but I'm certainly not afraid of it and I think they're right [laughs]. I think everyone should pay attention, because we're just getting started.
Thanks to Johnny Stevens for the interview. Highly Suspect’s debut album, ‘Mister Asylum,’ is out and available on iTunes. The band kicks off their tour on August 1 in Philadelphia. See all their tour dates at this location. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie Monday through Friday at 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.
Watch Highly Suspect's Intense Video for 'Lydia.'