By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Proud indie genre-benders The High Plains Drifters recently dropped their debut EP, ‘Songs Of Love And Loss,’ which features the lead single breakup anthem “Since You’ve Been Gone,” widely praised for its trippy official music video directed/produced by Lars Jørgen Sundnes Skaland.
The band’s newest music from their upcoming second full-length album has been crafted to be as relatable as possible, described as being about “relationships, love lost and love found.”
The High Plains Drifters are lead vocalist/lyricist Larry Studnicky, rhythm/electric guitarist and lead/backing vocalist John Macom, rhythm/electric guitarist and backup vocalist Mike DoCampo, drummer and backup vocalist Kyle Cassel, keyboardist/accordionist/backup vocalist Charles Czarnecki and bassist/backup vocalist Dave Richards.
The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with Studnicky about their new music and more.
Music Bugle – How was the band name decided?
Larry Studnicky – I picked the name in part because the other 50 to 100 names I considered were taken! It’s almost impossible to find names that aren’t already in use. That said, this name resonated with me and the band because it denotes a bunch of seasoned guys who’ve seen a bit of life and the world and who bring that experience to both our lyrics and music.
Music Bugle – What was your goal with “Since You’ve Been Gone”?
Larry Studnicky – My goal with this song’s lyrics was to convey the feeling of utter despair that befalls a person who unexpectedly watches his one true love disappear without ever looking back. On the music side, our collective goal as a band, working with producer Greg Cohen, was to incorporate some of our favorite sounds and influences from 80’s musical genres that captured our hearts.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Larry Studnicky – It’s not so much that the “style” excites me, as it is that it I get chills watching how each guy in the band works his own unique, unforeseen magic into every song. Many of my songs first take life with nothing but my lyrics and melody, plus some basic instrumentation and sounds that I hear in my head – often very barebones. Watching Greg and the guys flesh it all out is as cool as anything I’ve ever experienced – leaving aside watching my wife give birth – nothing matched that. Each song starts down its own road of creativity, ending in my favorite part of the recording process – mixing the tune. There’s nothing like finishing a great mix that makes us all sit back and go, “Wow, who’d have thought this tune would end up here?”
Music Bugle – What was it like making the music video for “Since You’ve Been Gone”?
Larry Studnicky – My involvement in making the two videos for “Since You’ve Been Gone” was limited to approving the treatment for each one. They’re both wonderfully reflective of the song’s theme, but the credit for their “look and feel” must go to the band’s marketing advisor, Jonathan Chang and Lars Skaland, who produced and directed both videos.
Music Bugle – How would you describe your upcoming music?
Larry Studnicky – We released a six-song EP called ‘Songs Of Love And Loss.’ It includes “Since You’ve Been Gone,” our next-slated single called “The One That Got Away” and four other songs that mostly speak about the blown chances and bad choices we’ve all made in searching for a love that’ll “stick.” Every track on this EP is up-tempo. We’ve held back a few ballads for release as part of our forthcoming second album. Every track also continues to mine the deep veins of 80’s New Wave and other genres that obsessed us in our respective youths.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Larry Studnicky – Out of the songs on the upcoming second album, the hardest one to write was one called “How Did I Write This Song.” It’s not on the EP. When I first presented it for Greg Cohen’s consideration, by singing it last October, I had nothing but the first verse. That verse had been rattling around in my head for quite some time, but I was stumped as to where to go with it. I had no chorus and no ideas for the song’s musical direction or instrumentation. Immediately after hearing it, Greg said to me, “I love it, but – and I know you’ll say I’m nuts – I hear it as a bossa nova tune.” I was dumbfounded. I had never considered that and initially, wasn’t sure that the song would “work” in that genre. Plus, I had no chorus! As I thought about it, I began to see the light, so I told Greg, “Sure, let’s do it. We’ve been called a genre-bending band, so this is perfect and the guys will figure it out.” As it turned out, only our drummer – also our engineer – Kyle Cassel had ever played this style of music. It took Greg and our two guitarists – John Macom and Mike DoCampo – a little while to get the hang of writing and playing in the bossa nova style, but they nailed all the basic chords pretty quickly. Then, almost magically, once I had heard the basic chords, I was finally able to write the lyrics for the other verses and the chorus just wrote itself in my head as I was driving to a mixing session for “Since You’ve Been Gone.”
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Larry Studnicky – My 14-year old daughter largely dictates all the new music to which I’m exposed, generally when we’re in the car – going to and from her school, running errands around town, etc.. Recently, the songs she’s been playing that I really dig are “Devil Town” by Cavetown and “Bubble Gum Bitch” by Marina & The Diamonds. She’s also been exploring Queen’s catalog, but I’ve never been a fan of those guys. Too operatic for me. Every now and then, she’ll cater to my biases by spinning some classic Clash, Ramones or Beatles. Recently, after I knocked off work for the day, I sat down in my living room and told Siri to play The Style Council on the Apple HomePods. I can listen to that band all day long and not get bored.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Larry Studnicky – My family and I were super-lucky. After those first three months of the pandemic – March through May of last year, when the whole world was clueless and scared, things in our little part of Connecticut seemed to get almost back to normal, but for wearing masks and not being able to dine at many restaurants. We remained healthy. I remained steadily busy with work. My daughter’s school went back on campus full-time last September and to date, has never suffered a big, spreading outbreak of the virus – just a handful of isolated cases. The pandemic had an odd upside for the band. The isolation suffered from March through May 2020 drove me, last June, to reach out to Greg to get started on the second album. I just couldn’t take the quarantining anymore. I needed to get back to making music, so I started driving weekly to Greg’s studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – which was like a ghost-town last summer. That was really depressing to see, but getting back into the studio helped keep me sane and happy.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Larry Studnicky – Ha, after 15 months of not being able to travel, that’s a trick question, right? Throughout this crazy period, when I’ve needed a break, I’d just retreat to the den and crank up some of my favorite tunes on the stereo. More recently, taking a break has meant going back to my favorite Manhattan restaurants to see old friends and clients. This Summer, finally, I’ll get a real break when the family heads to Antigua for a week.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Larry Studnicky – Especially, when I think about how I finally got off my ass to form this band and start making music, I go back to the graduation speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in June 2005. He said this: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”