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Can’t accuse of Highly Suspect of being boring

Genre-bending group set to bring own style to The Clyde on Feb. 23

Highly Suspect will be at The Clyde Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 23, wtih opening act Dead Poet Society.

Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published February 15, 2023

From their beginnings in a Massachusetts basement to clubs in Brooklyn and eventually larger venues throughout the world, Highly Suspect have taken the road less traveled while traversing their way through the music industry jungle.

With their newest album, Midnight Demon Club, confirming their legitimate headlining status, the band are set to hit The Clyde Theatre stage in Fort Wayne on Feb. 23 with opening act Dead Poet Society.

Making music for themselves

While many bands worry about trends or chase “hits,” Highly Suspect do neither since the members feel that simply creating music is enough, whether it is commercially successful or not. 

Frontman Johnny Stevens, in an interview with LouderSound, equates that approach to a genre-busting band from 30 or so years ago: Beastie Boys. In the article, Stevens noted Beastie Boys’ 1989 release Paul’s Boutique wasn’t an incredibly well-received album, but people eventually came around to seeing it for the genius it was, especially for the time. 

Some musicians might hesitate to compare their works to such timeless music, but Stevens has never been one to shy away from promoting his band. That attitude is one of many ingredients that gives Highly Suspect their unique mix and what has endeared them to millions of fans. The formula is simple. They make music they want to make and, if it resonates with listeners as well, then that is a bonus. 

“We are not here to try to impress a certain crowd,” Stevens said. “We want to make art that feels right and that’s it.”

Not rushing things

With influences ranging from hip-hop and reggae to electronic, rock, jazz, and classical, Highly Suspect are not just hard to categorize, they are downright impossible to lump into definitive category. 

As a cohesive unit, they have a knack for taking the best parts of things they like and incorporating them into what they are feeling, creating a truly unique listening experience in every song. 

“When one chemical or element is mixed with another, you get a third,” Stevens said. “Red and blue make purple. Could you imagine life without purple? We want to give you some purple.”

Their fourth album, Midnight Demon Club, finds the band, which includes twin brothers Rich and Ryan Meyer, Matt Kofos, and Mark Schwartz, giving us more shades of purple by pushing the boundaries of their sound once again, combining atmospheric soundscapes with heavy guitars, synthesizers, and abnormal rock beats, making an album that is interesting from start to finish, easy to listen to yet complex in their arrangements.

Just before its release in September, Rich Meyer, in an interview with St. Louis radio station KPNT, said Midnight Demon Club could be their best album to date. While that is a common sentiment from any band releasing any album, Meyer seemed quite sincere. 

Furthermore, when you have had the type of success Highly Suspect has enjoyed, you have to have a bit of a swagger. Although there is pressure to continue releasing music that would capitalize on the momentum they have built, the band have refused to fall in line with rushing out new product. True to form, they did exactly what they wanted to do on Midnight Demon Club

“We just took our time with it, and I think that is the best part about it,” Rich Meyer said. “You shouldn’t rush art and we didn’t, so we made something that we are really, really happy with.”

Not surprisingly, the outspoken Stevens took the point even further during the same interview with KPNT. 

“If we wanted to rush out music to elicit fame, we could have chosen that path,” he said. “But we care about the art, we care about what we put out and its quality over quantity, so we said we were going to take our time. Without sounding like too much of a jerk, we’ve established, at this point in our career, that it’s OK to take two and a half years and have people wait. We have things we really want to say and you need life experience in order to say them.”

Receiving advice

Stevens did admit, though, that the band does listen to some direction from outside the band, but they are fortunate enough to work with people who understand their thought process on making new music and the importance of releasing product they can stand behind. 

“We do get pushed, but we don’t get told, so to speak, in a bad way,” he said. “With our management and our label, we’re partners.” 

The band members aren’t wealthy, Stevens said, but the success they’ve had has allowed them to be able to survive a couple of years at a time, giving them the time they need to make the music they want to make. 

“That’s thanks to the fans and the radio stations and people who promote us to the point where we’ve now become a thing,” he said.

The Clyde Theatre will come alive when Highly Suspect finally hit the stage in the Summit City, as they showcase their newest album, along with hits like “Lydia,” which initially broke the band into the mainstream. 

Great songwriting like that put the band on the map, but it is the live experience, where they combine extraordinary stage presence, energy, and crowd interaction, that makes Highly Suspect truly memorable.

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