In their relatively brief time on Earth, Rocky and Ross Lynch, the navigators of THE DRIVER ERA, have seen a lot. You may remember them as members of the pop band R5; if not, you’re most assuredly familiar with Ross’ high-profile acting career in things both commercial (as Harvey Kinkle in the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina) and decidedly fringe (as the titular serial killer in the 2017 indie film My Friend Dahmer). But unlike the hive mind aspects of film and television industries, the Lynch brothers are taking and maintaining control of their music career in a big way.
“When you sign to a label, they want to get hands on,” Ross says. “They wanna be a part of the creative process. They wanted to be involved. [Our original songs] weren’t your typical pop-rock stuff…”
“And maybe that’s why [Hollywood Records] didn’t fuck with it so much,” Rocky says, laughing. “It ended up working out perfectly. Maybe because we were striving for this the whole time. Our minds were thinking about how we could get the music how we wanted it. We arrived there with the Driver Era.”
The Lynchs landed on the pop culture radar as members of the Disney-signed pop outfit R5, along with two of their siblings (Riker, Rydel and friend Ellington Ratliff; now you know what the band name means). During this time, Ross would split his time going on casting calls and screen tests for various projects and writing music with his fam. Hollywood Records (Disney’s music division) picked up R5, and they released two albums (2013’s Louder and 2015’s Sometime Last Night) of earnest, bright pop whose success may have been a lot greater if it weren’t for One Direction and Justin Bieber’s ascensions. But unlike most of the treacle-laden wholesomeness conveyed by pop tarts, the Lynchs had no qualms dropping in a well-placed curse word or extol the virtues of excess (usually drinking).
When Ross and Rocky got to work, they didn’t let anything color their process. Writing songs for radio? Forget it. Play to the base sensibilities of pop fans? Not intentionally. What may have been considered a prime punk-rock mindset (read: We do what we want and mean it, maaaaan…) decades ago, the Lynchs just accepted that’s what any artist was supposed to do in the first place.
“When we first signed with Hollywood Records, we came to them with a lot of songs,” Rocky recalls, citing how R5 had been writing and performing throughout L.A. and had cultivated a fanbase. With a full album’s worth of material, R5 were confident the label would release the entire set. “We played them for Hollywood, and they were basically like, ‘You’re not gonna release that shit.’”
“Through this experience, we’ve now been signed to a major label. We know what that entails,” Ross shares. “Because we’ve been in the industry now for 10-plus years, it’s great to know how to navigate it. To learn how to really trust ourselves and our own intuition. Because truthfully, if we were in that scenario again, it would probably turn out differently.”
When asked if there were any surprises with going independent, Rocky defers to wisdom acquired from an unlikely source. “So there’s this Wiz Khalifa song,” he says, referring to “City View” off the 2016 album Khalifa. “During the intro, he’s talking about the music industry, and he’s like, ‘Yo, this ain’t as easy as it looks…it’s easier.’ That’s how it feels with the Driver Era and being independent. There’s so much less bullshit.”
The Driver Era promise to confuse critics and enrapture fans with their blatant disregard for allegiance to genre. From chrome-plated Motown (“Feel You Now”) to songs you sing in the van when you’re parked at Walmart at 4 a.m., too tired to drive but still seeking joy (“Welcome To The End Of Your Life”), the Driver Era are moving their art forward—in all directions. The Lynch brothers have a lot to say about where they’ve been and where they’re going. And they’re doing it in the pages of next month’s AP available here.
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