The High Plain Drifters on Making Unorthodox Cross-Genre Music with Debut Album (Exclusive)

The band chats with CS Country about their collaborative process and more.

Courtesy of Press Here

Earlier this year, The High Plains Drifters introduced us to their out-of-this-world music with the release of their self-titled debut album.

Receiving positive feedback from both critics and Americana music fans, the LP features a collection of songs with a broad range of musical inspirations, making it the melting pot that the genre of Americana has been waiting for… until now.

“HPD’s musical style is eclectic,” band member Larry Studnicky tells CS Country. “One reviewer called our album ‘genre bending,’ and that’s a great description. We are not a band of young kids. Rather, we’re older and seasoned, and our album reflects that we’re fans of many musical genres. We’d have been bored stiff trying to record an album’s worth of songs all sitting squarely within one genre of music.”

Studnicky, a lawyer who is most known for structuring and closing the landmark label and publisher deals that ushered in the world of digital interactive radio (enjoyed today by listeners of Pandora, Spotify, etc.), sat down with CS Country to chat about the band’s musical style, creating their album, and so much more.

Take a read at the Q&A below and keep up with the band by following them on Instagram at @hpdmusic.

CS Country: How would you describe the band’s musical style?

“HPD’s musical style is eclectic. One reviewer called our album “genre bending,” and that’s a great description. We are not a band of young kids. Rather, we’re older and seasoned, and our album reflects that we’re fans of many musical genres. We’d have been bored stiff trying to record an album’s worth of songs all sitting squarely within one genre of music.”

CS Country: What do you hope your listeners take away from your debut album?

“The album, in our minds, is like taking a road-trip across America, perhaps starting at one coast and ending at the other — but leaving the station on your FM dial in the same place for the whole trip.

As you make your way from state to state, and from city to country, you’ll probably confront a wondrous kaleidoscope of varying musical styles coming through your car speakers — from rock to Americana, punk through folk, with some ballads and other things in between.

That’s part of what makes a road-trip fun – the musical discovery aspect of it. We think our debut album will pleasantly surprise a listener, just as would this hypothetical cross-country trek.”

CS Country: What is the collaborative process between your band members?

“We usually start with me, the producer (both the album’s producers are keyboardists as well,) and one or both of the band’s guitarists in a home studio. I first sing the lyrics, and we record them several times to make sure that everyone’s hearing the same melodic notes that I’ve been hearing in my head.

Then I try to convey the sounds of whatever other instruments I hear on the track – I mimic (often poorly) the sounds of things like drums, horns, rhythm and electric guitars (notes and chords), piano lines, etc. The guys in the band attack their respective parts and flesh out what I’m hearing.

Sometimes they’ll nail what’s in my head early in the process, and I’ll say, “Play that again . . . yeah, that’s it. Record it.” Other times, they play something and I’ll go, “Jeeeez . . . I didn’t hear THAT, but I love it. Play it again!”

For me, that’s the fun part of the recording process – watching each of the musical geniuses I’m lucky enough to count as bandmates bring his own spin to each song. To quote the late, great Tom Petty (when he was asked a question like this not long before he passed,) “It’s mystical”.

It is indeed mystical and one of the coolest things I’ve experienced.”

CS Country: Your music has been defined as genre bending but also reminiscent of the true country standards of yesteryear that recall Cash, Jones, Perkins and Haggard. Where do you draw inspiration from for each track?

Wow, that’s a difficult question, as it doesn’t have one short answer. In truth, only two artists actually inspired the “soundscapes” of our songs.

One was Roy Orbison. As I started writing in my head the song that’s called I NEVER LOVED HER, I thought it would be cool to do it in a way that Roy might have done it. I told this, early-on, to the producer of that track (Charles Czarnecki.) We consciously developed the song with Orbison in mind. I think we did him justice (not that we’re fit to shine his shoes.)

The other artist that was an inspiration for a song was The Ramones. I consider FIRST AMENDMENT BLUES to be my homage to them, the greatest rock band in American history. From the day of the first demo, I told the band, “This is a Ramones tune.” And from Day One, it was so.

As to the comparisons to Cash and Perkins etc.:  Honestly, we were all floored to see such comparisons in print. Especially me, as I simply do not listen to country music (except, to be honest, sometimes on a road-trip where I’m listening to whatever’s being played on whatever FM station my car’s tuner can receive most clearly).

So, given that, I suppose I must attribute the country-ish influences (which are not at all evident on many of our songs) to having come of age, in musical terms, when so-called “Country Rock” bands like these took over the FM rock airwaves:  The Eagles, America, The Marshall Tucker Band, Firefall, and others like them.

As an old boss of mine once posited, “The music you’re going to love for the rest of your life is the music to which you first had sex.”

But, at this same time, everyone that I knew, no matter how much they loved The Eagles and groups like that, couldn’t overlook the rise of the Punk and New Wave bands. FM rock radio was a bit schizophrenic during this era. Maybe that explains why the songs I write are all over the place, in terms of genres.”

CS Country: You’re putting out a new music video soon for “Jennifer Aniston” remixed by Kris Vanderheyden. What can fans expect?

“We had so much fun making this song’s original version and then working with Kris on his great remix. Listeners can expect to be surprised, both by how marvelously different Kris’s version is from the original one, and by the content of the video itself. It’s going to put really big smiles on the viewers’ faces.

Behn Fannin, who directed the video, infuses every frame of it with his wry sense of humor, while the actress — Chelsea Skidmore – brings a sweet sexuality to the film that never crosses the line into being raunchy. It’s a really delicate balance, but they pulled it off with aplomb.”

CS Country: What inspired you to write a song about Jennifer Aniston, as opposed to other celebrities?

“This song could as easily have been about another cute female celebrity over whom we dopey guys endlessly and mindlessly obsess.

But it just so happened that, at the time I wrote it, one couldn’t walk past a Manhattan newsstand without some tabloid cover blaring about how Jennifer Aniston just could not – not to save her life – manage to drag that loser Justin guy to the altar.

It was sad to see, for I consider her to be one of the great American comedic actresses of her era – like a Barbara Stanwick for the new millennium. And yet, she couldn’t get that Justin dude across the finish line.

And so, I thought to myself, “What is up with that? Is Jennifer Aniston some spoiled rotten psycho rich girl, and Justin senses an impending life of misery, or is he both dumb and blind?” And like all guys obsessed with a Hollywood goddess we’ll never even see in the flesh, I wondered, “Why can’t Jennifer Aniston be wise enough to date a normal guy like me?”

That thought triggered the song. As I entered Herald Square from the north one evening, the tune poured out of my head (lyrics and melody) right after passing another newsstand with all those tabloids telling The Sorry Tale of Ms. Jennifer Aniston. I stopped dead and sang Verse 1 and the Chorus into my iPhone. The rest of the song, was probably written within a day.”

Courtesy of Press Here

CS Country: What was the process for creating this video?

“Honestly, a great deal of the video’s concept came from director Behn Fannin. We’ve known him for years. He directed one of our favorite videos for The Young Veins (Ryan Ross/Jon Walker of Panic! at the Disco). We’ve also used Behn for a video of FIRST AMENDMENT BLUES (to be released probably over the summer.)

We trusted that Behn would have the right sensibilities to do a video about “being obsessed with a girl” from a viewpoint that would render it light and funny, and deferential to Ms. Aniston (whom we ADORE,) without crossing the line into being creepy.

Behn and Chelsea together made this video super funny, while keeping it just weird enough that we hope our viewers will do a giggling double-take at a few frames.”

CS Country: Do you think expressing your music through visuals is important to you? Why?

“I’m no neuroscientist, but I do believe that people relate more strongly to, and remember more vividly, the songs that have great visual associations for them – whether the association is that you were with a certain special girl when you first heard a tune; or maybe were vacationing in a cool place when the song first came over a radio; or, in our times, it can be a song paired with the right music video.

So, yes, I am a huge believer in making as many music videos as our Do-It-Yourself budget (and my long-suffering but very loving wife) can tolerate.”

CS Country: Since we are Celeb Secrets, what’s a secret about you that your fans may not know?

“This isn’t my first stab at trying to make an album. Many years ago, in the limited role of songwriter-only (not part of the band,) I watched about 5 of my songs get recorded on an album that never got a distribution deal. Despite the facts that Cher sang a duet on it and former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor also appeared on about half the tracks.

In my work life (I am a lawyer,) I had the very sad task in the late 1990’s – after our client Suge Knight (founder of Death Row Records) went to jail for violating his parole – of drafting all of the contracts that released that label’s great roster of rap artists from their recording contracts.

Even further back, there was “The Night That I Bested Superman!” I was out with my then-girlfriend in a Manhattan nightclub. I went to the bar for drinks. I came back to my gal to find her being hit on by the then-on-screen Superman, Chris Reeve. He leaned in and said, “Hi, I’m Chris Reeve.” He was a gentleman. So, I had to refrain from screaming, “I know who you are Superman!!! Why don’t you go hit on Lois Lane like you’re supposed to and leave my girl alone.” As I said, he was a gentleman. He realized soon that we were a real couple, and he said goodbye and flew off into the Manhattan sky.”

CS Country: What’s next for The High Plains Drifters?

“We’re having a great time promoting this debut album. It has been really amazing to see so many college radio stations playing tunes by a band where all the guys are over 30. Equally unbelievable is seeing people add us to their Spotify playlists.

We have a few more music videos to release, I am putting together a list of the songs we’ll tackle for our sophomore album. I expect we’ll be starting on it by the end of this Spring. So stand by for more super-catchy, genre-bending tracks from your favorite new band:  THE HIGH PLAINS DRIFTERS.”

Written by Juliet Schroder

Juliet is the founder and executive producer/host of Celeb Secrets and Celeb Secrets Country. When not reporting on the latest news in pop culture and country music, she enjoys traveling, spending time with friends and family, and exploring the latest fashion trends.

Juliet holds a B.S. in marketing from St. John's University.

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