INTERVIEW: The Driver Era

Summer is a season that holds a lot of core memories. It represents new beginnings. It represents happiness. And it represents friendship and love. So many things can happen and change over summer, and you need the appropriate soundtrack to take you through those times. The Driver Era lived their summer, and the songs that soundtracked their memories was a record they were finalising that they’ve appropriately titled ‘Summer Mixtape’. From start to finish this record captures the essence of summer, and passes the baton to their Australian fans who are soon heading into their summer. 

Over the past few years the brother duo have been through a big creative shift. You may be familiar with their previous project R5 which was a family affair and followed Ross’ rise to fame after starring in Austin & Ally and Teen Beach Movie. After touring the world multiple times in support of their two albums, the band closed the chapter and rebranded to The Driver Era with Ross and Rocky finding their own individual sound. Sonically the mature exploration heard them getting even more guitar heavy, and finding their feet lyrically. Following their records ‘X’ and ‘Girlfriend’, they are now up to their third studio album under this project and it hears them switching it up completely. Embracing the youthful energy of summer, this song takes on electronic influences and finds them reproaching their music with a new perspective. 

I chatted with Rocky and Ross Lynch from The Driver Era about immortalising their experiences from summer on their third studio album ‘Summer Mixtape’, explored the process behind songs like ‘Fantasy’ and ‘The Money’, and discussed what songs from their R5 discography they’ve be keen to give a The Driver Era sonical perspective? Check out the full chat BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new album ‘Summer Mixtape’ opens a new chapter for The Driver Era, and hears you leaning into an increasingly more playful soundscape. From releasing ‘Girlfriend’ what did that teach you about yourselves as musicians and where you wanted to go with this next record?

ROSS LYNCH: Music is how we figure out who we are to a certain extent. Especially with Summer Mixtape’, it’s kinda like a journal. For Australia it’s going into summer, but here in the US the summer is coming to an end, and these are the songs that were on our summer mixtape. So it’s almost, our summer mixtape to you. While we were writing this record we were also figuring out what was happening in our lives as it was coming through us and into the music. It all happens very naturally, and it’s a discovery for us too. 

TB: I feel like you’re almost passing the baton over to us in Australia for summer. 

ROSS: Exactly! *laughs*. 

TB: What would you say was the “portal song” from ‘Girlfriend’ that opened up the creativity on this record? 

ROCKY LYNCH: Maybe ‘OMG Plz Don’t Come Around’. With that one we didn’t really care about structure, like we just added a random guitar ending because it was what we wanted to do. That song was pretty raw. It was initially started in our parents living room. 

ROSS: We talk about how that song is our most hidden gem of a song. A lot of people still come up to us and tell us it’s their favourite song, so maybe it’s not as hidden as we think, but I definitely feel like that song captures a lot of The Driver Era in terms of vibe, intention, and sonics. But to be honest with you, I feel like every song stands on its own. Regardless of what genre you love the most, there is a song for you in our catalogue. I don’t think any two of our songs are alike, but they all are a family. Everyone song has an essence to it that is the Driver Era, but none of the two of them are the same. 

TB: ‘Fantasy’ is a song that immediately stands out on the record with its guitar led production that makes you bite your lip and groove your head along to it. Can you explain the creative process behind this particular track?

ROSS: We were just catching vibes in our garage studio, and I was playing that acoustic riff, and Rocky was playing computer drums and we just pressed record, and that is what you hear on the album. We didn’t change it or anything. There’s an ad-lib in the background and that was literally because we were lost in this groove we were making. What do you remember about making ‘Fantasy’ Rocky?

ROCKY: I like the point where we put the bass in. That riff cuts differently. 

TB: ‘The Money’ is a change of pace completely, with this foot to the floor dance beat pumping through, which was very unexpected from you both. What triggered that musical experimentation?

ROSS: We love dance music, and we want to make more dance music. This was the first time we flashed that side of us, I suppose. But to be honest with you, there is much more where that came from. I remember going to bed the night we made that song… I couldn’t sleep because my foot kept thumping as I kept hearing that bass. I was like, this is so nice *laughs*. 

ROCKY: I feel like a lot of the stuff we are making at the moment, and even recently on tour, has had a lot of dance influence. So there might be more!

TB: Listening to your earlier albums, specifically on songs like ‘A Kiss’ and ‘Heaven Angel’, and also still on the new album tracks like ‘Like A King’ and Bronco’, I hear a bit of Dayglow and Djo influences. If we were to put on an accompanying mixtape of songs that make up your sonical mood board, who could we expect to hear?

ROSS: Maybe like Tyler The Creator, Clairo, Disclosure, and a little bit of The Strokes in moments too. 

ROCKY: I like all of those! I always like throwing Rihanna in there to add a little spice as well. 

TB: Watching the ‘Malibu music video feels super authentic to the song cause that’s just what I visually imagine when listening. But would you say the whole album belongs at the beach? Or do you have other particular places some songs need to be listened at? 

ROSS: Oh definitely not all at the beach. ‘The Money’ needs to be listened to really loud in a basement club that is really sub heavy, and low lit. ‘Like A King’ belongs in your bedroom when you’re having moments of insecurity and you need an extra boost of enthusiasm for your uniqueness. I think ‘Turn The Music Up’ belongs down the freeway, going way too fast. I think ‘Be Happening’ takes place in a walk through the city, maybe with friends.

ROCKY: We should do a suggested listening place for every song. 

ROSS: That would be so cool!

TB: What song went through the most versions to get it to where it is now on the album?

ROCKY: At one point I thought there could be more of a live drum thing on ‘Fantasy’. I would say that song had the most revisions, but then we didn’t end up using any of them. 

TB: I’ve noticed recently you’ve been performing ‘Cali Girls’ from R5 and ‘On My Own’ from Teen Beach Movie 2. Was this encouraged from the playful energy behind this new record?

ROSS: Yeah! 

ROCKY: We added ‘Cali Girls’ because it was summer, so I guess that is the ‘Summer Mixtape’.

ROSS: Also because it was the 10 year anniversary! So that was a big moment for us. We’ve been doing this for so long, and every time we tour we have a lot of the same people pulling up that have been around for 10 years, so we decided that it was the moment to play that song again.  It was a cool milestone for young musicians. I’m only 26, and I’ve been playing songs for 10 years? That’s crazy. 

And then ‘On My Own’ came about because people kept requesting it. And we thought it was cool to play as we actually wrote that song. So that was a cool moment for us too. 

TB: Are there any other old songs from the previous projects you’d be keen to give a new perspective to under The Driver Era? 

ROSS: A lot of people have been asking us to play ‘Hurts Good’, which is the last song we released as R5. So that could be quite cool at some place in time. I think a lot of the latter R5 songs are a lot of our hardcore fans favourites, so they could be fun to bring up in the future. A lot of people also want us to play Red Velvet or ‘Lay Your Head Down’ too. 

TB: R5 last toured Australia in 2016, but later this month will be the first time The Driver Era is touring Australia. So what are 5 things fans need to know or bring when coming to a Driver Era show?

ROSS: Water!

ROCKY: A cowboy hat! 

ROSS: Dancing shoes! A cute outfit!

ROCKY! And lastly, friends!

‘Summer Mixtape’ is out now!

The Driver Era Australian Tour

Friday 23 September – The Triffid, Brisbane *SOLD OUT*

Saturday 24 September – Roundhouse, Sydney *SOLD OUT*

Sunday 25 September – 170 Russell, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*

Monday 26 September – 170 Russell, Melbourne *FINAL TICKETS*