grammy suspect

highly suspect. from left: ryan meyer, johnny stevens and rich meyer. photo by shervin lainez.

highly suspect. from left: ryan meyer, johnny stevens and rich meyer. photo by shervin lainez.

Imagine this. You’re a member of an established New York rock troupe riding a crest of attention garnered by a critically lauded 2015 album. Since mainstream appeal still remains at bay, you begin a December morning by readying yourself, your bandmates – which in this case includes your twin brother – and, perhaps most importantly, your van, for another road trip in hopes of hoisting your artistic and commercial visibility a little higher.

Then you get a bit of news that changes everything. That’s what happened to the guitar rock power trio Highly Suspect on the day it received two Grammy nominations (for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song). Such recognition stunned audiences and critics alike, especially ones unfamiliar with the band. But no one was in greater shock than trio members Johnny Stevens, bassist Rich Meyer and sibling drummer Ryan Meyer.

“It was a complete shock,” said Rich Meyer. “I didn’t even know the Grammy nominees were being announced that day. It wasn’t a thing that I was thinking about in any way. I was thinking about the tour, the merch, the songs, the gear and all the people involved, you know? I was working.

“Then all of a sudden, I think it was 7:30 in the morning. I had maybe gotten three or four hours of sleep and was trying to get my laundry done before we got back on the road again. So I was kind of sitting over my coffee and all of sudden Ryan came over to me and gave me a hug said we got a Grammy nomination. I didn’t believe him. I had to look it up on the internet, but there it was. I was kind of in a daze. Then I packed up all of my stuff, got in the van and hit the road. But that was all were talking about in the van. It was like, ‘Seriously?’ It was ridiculous.”

Hardly Suspect didn’t take home any Grammys last week (Muse won Best Rock Album while Alabama Shakes won for Best Rock Song). But for the trio, the experience gave immediate credibility to the phrase “It was an honor just to be nominated.”

“It was, absolutely, especially when the bands we were in there with were Florence and the Machine and Muse and Slipknot. We couldn’t believe it.

“Everything about this was certainly surreal. I’m sure everyone says that about their first Grammy experience, but that’s what it was, though. It doesn’t seem real when you’re walking down a red carpet, looking at all the celebrities. It’s just hard to accept that that is what’s really happening.”

The records that triggered all the Grammy fuss for Highly Suspect were the 2015 album Mister Asylum and its intensely electric lead single Lydia. The music is a continuation away from the more relaxed, reggae/ska sound that began when the band formed in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts in 2009. The eventual move to New York coincided with a search for songs with a tougher – or, at least, different – edge.

“There had really been a change in our life experience from what was a kind of sedated, blue collar, chilled out, easygoing lifestyle to all of a sudden this fast paced existence where you’re dealing with massive business and the competition from other bands. We really, really work to stick out. The life experiences we were having were intense – nights out on the town, struggling with huge business decisions, stuff like that. The inspiration for the songs, all of a sudden, was much different than the inspirations from back in the hometown.

“We’re inspired to write about how we feel and what our feelings were. What comes out of that is what it is. At the time, it was some pretty heavy rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not heavily produced commercial rock music. It’s raw and it’s real.”

Highly Suspect, And the Kids and/Audiodamn! Perform at 9 p.m. Feb 28 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets: $15 – $18. Call 859-309-9499 or go to cosmic-charlies.com.



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