The genre-bending group talk us through their pending upcoming album and what we can expect.
Everyone deals with loss differently. Whether it’s spending the time in solitude to reflect or rallying loves ones around you, the process is a journey for each individual – and in the case of indie-rock band The High Plains Drifters, the best option was to turn their emotions into an album. Serving up their latest offering from their second album, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, the group take us into the vastness of space and introduce us to a lonely spaceman who longs for his love. Gliding between retro neon synths and glitchy bass lines, the single basks in 80s nostalgia, as the groove-flicked guitar and crisp vocals take us through.
“It was inspired by a devastating breakup that I suffered, toward the end of the Eighties, when I was very young and naïve and believed that a lucky person could find, and could hold forever, their ‘one and only’,” explains lead singer and lyricist Larry Studnicky. “A years-long girlfriend disabused me of that notion, and this song was born out of my pain. I was in disbelief over what happened. I didn’t want to admit to anybody that we’d broken up. I tried to pretend for a while that everything was okay; that we’d patch things up and get back together. I tried to capture those emotions in the lyrics.”
Locked and loaded on their upcoming album due for release this year, we caught up with the band talking the production process, not wanting to be boxed in a genre and the weirdest places they’ve found inspiration.
Check out the interview below now…
Hi Larry, John, Mike, Kyle, Charles and Dave – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
We’ve all been safe and healthy. This past year’s events impacted us in a strangely positive way. By June, we were going nuts from quarantining. So, COVID impelled us to start our second album sooner than we otherwise might have. At first, it was just me and our producer, Greg Cohen, selecting songs I’d written and starting on demos. By early August, the whole band was back in the studio. We’ve been in and out of the studio ever since. Except for some mask-wearing, it’s as if COVID never happened.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
Among our earliest inspirations were the great rock and pop groups of the Sixties, starting with The Beatles and the Stones. We also get inspired by artists that pushed the boundaries of their genres. The Marshall Tucker Band, for instance, is so much more than a Southern Rock band, given all the different instruments they’d bring to bear on a song. The same could be said for Paul Weller’s Style Council, his follow-up band to The Jam. I still don’t know what genre label to slap on The Style Council’s music. I just know that it was unique in its time and has remained as fresh as when I first heard it in the Eighties. We also like many of the young singer-songwriters now playing on Top 40 radio. I’m a big fan of Charlie Puth and Taylor Swift, as well as all those impossibly skinny little guys who used to make up One Direction. I really enjoy their solo material, and I love seeing them in videos or on TV. I keep watching for the first one who’ll sport some sort of a beer gut. Like mine.
How did you all meet and form The High Plains Drifters – and where did the name come from?
In various combinations, most of us have been friends for a long time, but none of us was bandmates until I asked John Macom and Charles Czarnecki to help me record what became our first release, “Get Me Home By Christmas Eve”. It got just enough radio play to convince us to keep working together. Mike DoCampo came aboard after that song – I’d known him since the early Nineties. Our rhythm section – Kyle Cassel (drummer) and Dave Richards (bass) – joined about halfway through our debut album. They’d known each other for years as well. The band’s name was my choice. We’re a band of seasoned musicians who’ve dodged a lot of life’s stray bullets. We’re no longer the starry-eyed dreamers of our youth. I think the name fits us well.
How would you describe your genre?
We never play squarely within a single genre. In part, we’ve just had too much experience to stay in one lane. A reviewer of our debut album called us “genre bending”. It’s a great description. On our second album, however, we’re bending or meshing fewer genres than before. Our single that’s now on radio, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, could be described as “The Eagles meet New Order”. The song meshes some of the “storyteller” songwriting traditions of the Seventies (the first decade when I was obsessed by music) with sounds of the Eighties. Most of the band are, musically, children of the Eighties.
Congratulations on your new single “Since You’ve Been Gone”, which explores the pain of a break-up – what was it inspired by?
SYBG was inspired by a devastating breakup that I suffered, toward the end of the Eighties, when I was very young and naïve and believed that a lucky person could find, and could hold forever, their “one and only”. A years-long girlfriend disabused me of that notion, and this song was born out of my pain. I was in disbelief over what happened. I didn’t want to admit to anybody that we’d broken up. I tried to pretend for a while that everything was okay; that we’d patch things up and get back together. I tried to capture those emotions in the lyrics.
And the trippy music video follows a young boy’s dreams – what did you want to evoke with it?
I really feel for that little guy who bookends the video. He starts out, like most of us on the edge of puberty, as a hopeful dreamer, with stars in his eyes, expecting an awesome future of Disney-style “true love” with his one-and-only girl. Little does he know that someday he’ll find himself chasing a woman who just doesn’t want to be his. Either she doesn’t want him at the outset; or maybe she’s given him a shot and has found him lacking. So, he’ll have to learn the hard lesson that a girl that doesn’t want to get caught just ain’t worth chasing in the first place. But, sometimes, a man has to chase her anyway, if only for the practice . . . but that’s an idea for a very different song.
What books/films/TV or unusual inspirations influenced the visuals?
There were two basic ideas the video had to reflect to be true to the song. The song’s narrator is feeling despondently alone and cut-off from love. So, the spaceman in the video is about as isolated and alone as a guy can get. And, as much as he’s missing his lover and wants her back, there’s no hint in the song’s lyrics that she’s ever returning. So, that’s the girl in the video – always running away, never looking unhappy or doubtful about the new path she’s chosen.
This song is taken from your second album, which is out this year – what can you tell us about it?
The songs are generally up-tempo, and catchy (if I may be so bold), and many show our Eighties musical roots. Lyrically, we’re mostly in the land of love and loss – love lost and love found (or almost found). I keep toying with titling this record “Girls Who Dumped Us”. There are handful of ballads, one of which pushes the genre-bending envelope. It’s a bossa nova tune, although I didn’t write the song thinking it would be recorded in that style. It’s called “How Did I Write This Song”. When I first sang it for Greg Cohen, he told me that he hears it as a bossa nova tune. I was stunned. But I trust his musical instincts. And there’s a good reason that “The Girl From Ipanema” is one of the most-recorded compositions in history. So I said to Greg, “Let’s give it shot. The guys will figure it out.” And they did, and to gorgeous effect.
How does it feel to release music at such an uncertain time? What do you hope it brings your listeners?
This year is a perfect time to release new music. Most of the uncertainty is over. COVID will be defeated, and America (at least) will enjoy another Roaring Twenties. People are crying out for normalcy, and new music is a part of that. In almost all the songs by The High Plains Drifters, what we hope to do is tell a little story that most listeners can relate to. We don’t endlessly recycle lyrical or musical cliches. Most of our songs have a narrative beginning, middle, and end – such that, by the time the last note has sounded, the listener hopefully is saying to himself or herself, “Yeah, I’ve been there. I know that feeling. That was me . . . not so long ago.”
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Next, we finish the album. Then we throw an online listening party. We want to release it in the 3rd quarter of this year. But, even sooner, I look forward to going into a bar, without a mask on, standing there to order a 16-ounce “something” that’s heavily alcoholic, and turning to a comely young lady. I’ll inevitably blurt out something stupid and ridiculous. I get some of my best ideas for songs that way.