I don’t think there’s really a way to introduce Highly Suspect to LPB, so I’ll let lead singer Johnny Stevens do it himself.
Raw, blunt as fuck and unfiltered.
Did you feel artistically hindered growing up on the Cape or was it actually a positive stimulus?
The most positive stimulus ever. 4eva. Growing up on the Cape was dope because it’s SOOOO small town vibes. Basically, you have 3 months where shit really pops…then from Labor Day until Memorial Day you have nothing to do. You go to school sometimes, work at the hardware store…but overall you’re just in this area that fully shuts down by midnight. As a child I could see the stars and the space around me was silent. It’s not like that now. We live our lives in the most ridiculous city ever, so there are no stars and a lot of noise. It’s the complete opposite. The only actual hindrance was the people. Not everyone. I’ve always connected with positive people…but just like every other small town you’re gonna run across people that are too afraid to step outside the box. It wasn’t always easy to be the kid with a dream.
Was there a show or artist growing up that changed the way you looked at music?
Fionna Apple + Roots Down Below. Those are polar opposite … 1000% of you are gonna have to look up Roots Down Below when reading this. They were my local heroes. If you really dig deep you’ll find us somewhere in between.
I read that you still bust out a Sublime song every now and again – how important was the hardwork in the four years following the move from a laidback beach town to the music you’re making now?
We haven’t played a Bradley song in years. Once in a while we bust out a few skanky riffs in between songs because we’re stoned but that’s the extent of it. As for the second half of that question, I almost wonder if it’s rhetorical.
Your lyrics are really honest and straightforward – is it kind of cathartic to blow a crowd away with them?
I feel like you really mix this no bullshit, real aesthetic with a raw artistry that’s really rare to hear and see – do you boil that down to your experiences or to a yearning to create an environment where your audience can just vibe and lose it in relatable music?
We don’t yearn to create an environment. We don’t yearn for shit. If we yearn for anything we yearn to make sure the rent gets paid and the cat gets fed. I yearn to get my 6-pack back and I yearn to spend the rest of my life laying on the hot beach sand. It’s just like, the older I get the less I care. Are you down or not? My ideal audience…my target audience…they get it. I don’t care if your 12 or 72 (arbitrary number alert) I just want to be playing in front of people that get it. I don’t care what you wear. I don’t care what you do for a living.
I don’t care if you just graduated college or if you just got out of a 7-year stint in the pen.
It’s me, Richy and Ryan in front of you and we have ZERO clue what you want…we just get up there and figure it out each night depending on the vibe. Like we aren’t those pro-showman types that scream into the mic “Hello Wisconsin… ARE YOU READY?!?!?” that shit is so corny. If its been a long day we’re gonna play more slow blues… If we just got a phone call from Kyle or Matt or some other original MCID saying that they might come visit us somewhere soon then maybe the show will be a bunch of fast rippers because we’re juiced. You can’t fake normalcy. It’s not a gimmick to keep it real. We’re 3 homies that happen to play songs together in front of strangers. Zero smoke and mirrors.
I got the chance to experience your set at Webster Hall ahead of Catfish and the Bottlemen and you fucking killed it– what was it like playing in NYC on a stage like Webster’s?
So dope. It’s interesting that you were at THAT particular show. That’s one I won’t forget. I remember part of that night. I remember knowing things were about to change.
You’re really hands on with your social media posts, I think that’s something that sets you apart to fans because the band really does feel approachable and relatable – what about that appealed to you?
First of all…thanks for having cool questions. Tangent happening … now… I’ve put off the interview requests for a minute because I can only tell so many people who Lydia is to me before I fucking explode. I wish I had read these questions earlier because they’re good and this would have been already finished a week ago. Ok – tangent over. As for being hands on with social media…we already used the word cathartic, yeah? To me its just an extension of the songwriting. The live show. The whole. I can’t help it. The way I see it, this is my life that’s being represented. Ryan’s life. Rich’s life. I don’t want to be misrepresented…and honestly in this day and age if your online shit doesn’t capture your essence it’s your own damn fault. It’s like all these other celebrities who have people post weird fake shit for them… while that’s going on, they’re online. We are ALL online all the time. Phone game. I’m gonna be on Facebook regardless, so rather than depend on my label to put up some weird advertisement shit… why not just post it myself? Answer people when I can, etc.? If we tried to fool the fans into reading posts that “we post” then we’ve lost the point. You go on other artist’s pages and instagrams and twitters and you can tell if it’s them or not. Who wants to be fooled? Fuck that. It’s fun for me to be out at night and catch a few seconds and tweet some bullshit straight from the heart.
I get off on connecting with people.
You’re headlining the Lotus Play festival one day (humor me) – what 5 bands/artists would you want in the lineup with you?
I’m just gonna give you 10 instead because your festival isn’t gonna sell shit with 5 artists.
– Fan Questions –
Patrick R. – What inspired the way you shot the ‘Lydia’ video?
We were receiving a whole bunch of “video treatments” which is a fancy way of saying ideas for a long time. If you’ve seen “Bath Salts” which we made on our own you can immediately tell that we like Quentin Tarantino movies. The whole goal was to make a video that wasn’t standard. A fleeky video production duo by the name of Pier Pictures sent us a script about a girl in a pool that couldn’t escape. It changed a lot from the original idea as we started working back and forth on specifics…but the main goal here for us was to have a video that produced as much of a feeling as people told us that words were giving them. We didn’t want to stand against a brick wall and sing at the camera. Just felt like the song deserved more. Pier Pictures had it on lock. When they sent the treatment it was really obvious that they enjoyed the song and more importantly understood the gravity of the words and the art as a whole. I’m so thankful to have connected with people that talented. We really held out until we found a crew with a similar passion. That’s the key in life. Patience. Make sure what ever you do you take your time and do it right.
The true answer to the original question however was a scene from True Detective season one. The scene where Rust Cole is undercover fighting his way out of a bad situation. I forget what episode it was, but they had a 5 minute single shot take that left me breathless. Anxious. On edge. We knew we wanted to do one simple shot. Another great example would be Phantogram’s video for ‘Running From The Cops’. Simple but you can’t take your eyes away.
Sonya S. – Johnny – What inspired the eagle tattoo on your neck? Have you ever tattooed any of your own artwork/sketches on another person?
Hey Sonya. I’ve always wanted neck tats. I grew up with a heavily tatted dad and so from a young age I just looked up to people that went for it. The problem was I hated most neck tats. After spending some time in NYC I got to see a lot of different throat tats and I liked some of them but hated others. I realized that the ones I liked were all symmetrical. I got the eagle for a few reasons. I have a military history in my family and I’m damn proud to be an American even though I’m not proud of a lot of other Americans 😉 But the eagle is our symbol of freedom. Even if we aren’t truly free. Above my eagle I have the words “Live Free” written in cursive along the bone of my jaw. I spent the first six years of my life in Northern New Hampshire where the motto is still “Live free or Die”. I was gonna add “or die” until I realized that there is no “OR”. Once you have a plan B your plan A will fail. I choose to live free. There is no or. Plus I’ll never die.
Andrea R. – You spit water on me at the Webster show – it was fucking awesome – is there anything you guys wouldn’t do at a live gig?
Cool!! You were there too!! Of course there are things we wouldn’t do. For instance, we aren’t ever gonna play a Christmas song. Probably wouldn’t take a nap either, only because it takes me a super long time to fall asleep and I have this habit of pulling my pants down to my ankles if I fall asleep with my pants on. Rich and Ryan have so many pictures of me passed out with my pants around my ankles…it’s just like this weird thing that has to happen if I fall asleep with pants on. I’m not gonna fall asleep on stage
The boys just announced tour dates in the US & UK – you can buy tickets here. Fresh off some tour stops with The Struts this September; you can check out their album Mister Asylum here. Below we’ve linked ‘Lydia’ as requested by a fan but we haven’t stopped listening to ‘Mom‘ and ‘Bloodfeather‘ – get LOSTTTT in those tunes, so good.