In Conversation: The Driver Era
It’s hard to think of many bands that share the internal dynamics experienced by The Driver Era.
The group, consisting of Ross and Rocky Lynch, now 24 and 25, have spent over half of their years alive in a band together. Having risen through the ranks of American pop culture in their group R5, the duo branched off to create The Driver Era in 2018 and have since carved their own line of alt-rock.
However, in recent years Ross has become a household name in the acting world and the band frequently spend over 10 months of the year apart. Taken at face value, it poses clear difficulties and maybe even a clash of interests, but despite that Rocky describes it as the “dream situation”. Ahead of their latest single; ‘Take Me Away’, we get to know all things Driver Era.
What’s clear when talking to the duo is their undeniably tight connection – there are no ego’s, no one trying to be ‘top dog’, just a brotherly bond that appears unbreakable. The pair have spent more time together than most siblings, having both been home schooled – Rocky even taught Ross the guitar. That connection was always there to push each other forward, as Ross states: “He was the best mentor. As my older brother, I was aspiring to be like him. He knew all these little tricks that he wouldn’t want to show me, so it forced me to figure it out on my own. He definitely made me a better musician.”
Rocky adds: “There was certainly a subtle level of competitiveness to it, which is healthy, especially in early learning. Individually it helped us a lot.”
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Ross and Rocky were introduced to the music industry from the tender age of 13 and 14, as part of the band - R5. A group they shared with their brother and sister; Riker and Rydel, as well as Ellington Ratliff. A record deal with Disney’s Hollywood Records saw them gain a legion of followers over a 10-year period. Being under the spotlight at such an age helped them to mature and gain an early insight into what the rest of their lives would look like.
“We learnt everything during that time; from not listening to everyone that says they’re an expert, to trusting ourselves, our own opinions and taste. We were 16 when we first toured, that’s an impressionable age and it helps you mature. We had real responsibility, not the kind where you had to wash the dishes and hoover, people were counting on us.”
Since the transition to The Driver Era, the previously prominent youthful pop undertones have disappeared, replaced by a mature alternative take on Rock. With the frontman, Ross taking the lead on song writing and Rocky having control over the production, the duo now feels like a well-oiled machine – no longer are there ‘too many cooks’ in the creative process. Maybe that’s where the key lies in their recent success - this is now the way they want to sound.
“With R5 the final decision went through a long thread of people,” states Rocky. “Changes were made that in the long term, you don’t always think were for the best. Now, we have full control. The art is directly from what we think it should be like. It’s very honest to who we are, and I think art is the best that way, so it doesn’t corrupt.”
2020 has seen the band further cement their sound with the release of ‘Flashdrive’ and ‘OMG Plz Don’t Come Around’ back in April. Followed by the release of their latest single ‘Take Me Away’ just last week - arguably their most personal and relevant record to date. “It just feels like everything that was good, has gone.” Rocky comments, “The songs about how fast life is, how quick those great moments pass by, which I think is an important thing to remember. Although, it was written months ago, it’s really relevant to what’s happening in the world right now.”
However, Ross doesn’t want anyone tearing up over the songs tone. “The underlying message is to feel good about it. I don’t want people to hear this song and feel emotional. It’s a reminder about all those good times.”
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All this progress has been made in a unique manner. As I commented earlier, the duo share an incredibly tight bond and without that, many an issue may well have arisen by now. Millions know Ross for his acting career, particularly as one of the lead characters in the now infamous Netflix series – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. A role that saw him spend 10 months in Canada just last year.
Of course, featuring in such a part needs your full attention, therefore putting the music progress on hold. A lesser man than Rocky would have been resented the situation but instead the it’s quite the opposite. “What people are missing is, this is literally the dream situation for a producer to be in. Having a bandmate that is staying somewhere dope, where there’s a free room for me to crash and make music, its perfect. In all honesty, collaborating when he’s away is hard to do, but if I’m there with him we can do it. We’ve had a lot of practise doing it at this point, so we’ve gotten quite good at it.”
Even for Ross, the situation is a tad surreal. “It’s a funny situation, even though it slows us down a bit, some of our favourite songs such as ‘Low’ and our next single ‘Places’ have come from this exact scenario. With Rocky writing and producing both. There’s always a positive side to it.”
It’s clear when speaking to Ross just how passionate he is about music. Although he finds himself in a distinctive position, his full focus is on The Driver Era. Even though it’s still early in the bands journey, the potential is endless.
“Some people call me cocky, but some of these songs we’ve got coming out are some of my favourite songs I’ve ever heard. I really do think The Driver Era has the capacity to be as big as we can dream. It feels like we’re only just getting started. Of course, there is already a clash with the acting and the music, but that means it’s going well. I’ve put so much time into music, I feel like I owe it to myself and to Rocky to give it everything. If there came a time where I had to choose one, I’d have to go with music, my soul is more attached to that.”
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The bands work this year has been some of their most mature and complete work to date. Yet it comes at a time of incessant turbulence. With the duo based in the USA, issues are only magnified further, not only one of the hardest hit countries during the worldwide pandemic, but also the catalyst for one of the largest social movements in memory. It feels a crazy time to be producing your best work, but its certainly working well for The Driver Era.
“When COVID first hit and then the BLM movement was happening, there was a hesitation to release anything.” Ross proclaims, “we didn’t want to distract from what was going on. We took the time to relax and reset. Eventually, we got back in the studio and made music hardcore again. It was nice to take that break.”
With a tour originally set for this year, now postponed till next (pandemic providing) the duo look set to focus on the rest of 2020 with a string of singles, although an album still seems a while away. As Ross says: “We have so many songs that we love and just want to get them out. Eventually we want to do a complete body of work, but as of right now it isn’t a collective piece.”
With their next single – ‘Places’ – out in a few weeks, the duo look set to ride a wave of momentum into 2021. With an alt-rock sound now more refined than ever, it feels like big things are on the Horizon for The Driver Era.
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The Driver Era's new single 'Take Me Away' is out now.
Words: Jake Wright
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