The Driver Era | Live at The Fonda
The Driver Era’s Rocky and Ross Lynch have forged their own sound. Yes, that Ross Lynch, from the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and, many years ago, Disney’s Austin and Ally. The one with 6.9 million followers on Instagram. But the Lynch brothers are musicians first and foremost, and their debut album, X, is mature, polished, sexy, and—most impressively—produced and recorded independently by the artists.
The Driver Era thrilled a packed audience with unshakable tempo, theatrical hijinks, and virtuosic musicianship. In a modern music industry littered with lip-syncing and posturing, it is rare to find true rock stars with the sheer on-stage magnetism of the Lynch brothers. FLAUNT was lucky to have photographed the concert, and was even luckier to talk to Rocky and Ross a few days later.
You guys have a new album, X. What’s the meaning behind the title?
Ross: We’ve been making music for about ten years now, to the date. Our first time playing live was ten years ago. It’s also our first ten songs as Driver Era. And coincidentally, the way we have been writing Driver Era on paper makes an “X” on the page. It all just ties everything together. For the first time, we are writing and producing everything we do. We are making music for ourselves, making music we want to hear. We aren’t confusing ourselves with other peoples’ opinions.
Your new singles are “Feel You Now” and “Welcome to the End of Your Life”. What was the process like writing and performing those songs?
Ross: “Feel You Now” was one of those songs that creeps around for a while. We never sat down and finished it. One day our manager came to our garage studio, and we were playing a bunch of things we were working on, seeing if anything reached out to him. We opened the session with that song spontaneously, and after that we were encouraged to finish it. We performed it, people really liked it, and we decided to make it our single.
There was a night when I went outside with my acoustic guitar, to get a breath of fresh air from the studio. We were singing melodies and suddenly Rocky said, “Welcome to the end of your life.” And that’s how we got the title for that song.
Performing those songs is so fun. When we played The Fonda, a bunch of friends came, and fans who were fans forever. We opened with “Feel You Now”. Every time it really gets the crowd going. But the song people really reacted to last night was “Low”. Wouldn’t you say, Rocky?
Rocky: Yeah, “Low” has been going off. We also just put out a music video that puts some new life into it as well.
Welcome to the End of Your Life has an 8-bit inspired single cover. Why did you chose that design?
Ross: It speaks to repetition, like in a video game. It almost asks the question, “Is life a simulation?” You can find so many ways to read it.
Rocky: Ross and I separately had the idea to have an arcade-like single cover. I was on my phone screenshotting different styles of arcade games, and when I got home Ross was like “It would be sick to have some kind of arcade game thing.” I was like “I was literally just thinking that,” and I showed him the pics. It was crazy that we had the exact same idea at the same time, but in different places.
What’s the history of Driver Era? Were you two always playing music together as kids?
Ross: It all started with our older brother actually, he was always watching Elvis and Michael Jackson. We’d watch him and copy him, him being our idol, and we’d put on shows for our family.
Eventually we began to love entertaining. We took dance classes and joined glee clubs. Once we moved out to L.A., that’s when the music started to kick up. I was about eleven, Rocky was about twelve. We started playing music a bunch, all the time. We never had lessons or anything, we just loved music and wanted to play it all the time. We started playing with our sister, brother, and friend Ellington, in our living room. Then we played at a local fair, then around the city, and eventually on a tour. We did R5 for about eight or nine years. We went all around the world: Israel, Japan, Australia, Europe, and of course the U.S. We learned so much—it was like our high school or college.
After that, we wanted to make our music sound the way we wanted it to sound, so we slowly made necessary changes. I don’t think you’ll ever be there, because the music is constantly changing. Our photographer said, “I like how you called the album X because it’s a variable.” He thought each song stands on their own, so X represented how there was no permanent genre of how we make music, or who we make music for. One of the best things we ever did for our music is go independent. We were signed for a majority of our R5 career, but it was nice to take the reigns of our production. We just signed a deal with BMG, right before we went on stage the other night. But we have a lot of creative control, which is why we were comfortable doing it.
Do you guys have any singers, guitarists, or bands you idolize?
Ross: I never knew how good of a producer he was until recently, but Nile Rodgers. I knew he was a good guitar player who was with Chic, but he’s produced so many songs that I’ve loved. He’s holding down the fort in the studio. I got an entire new outlook on him. He produced “We Are Family”, he produced INXS, he’s a baller.
Rocky: That’s another band we have a similar love for. INXS, Queen. Throw Prince in there. I’ve been listening to a lot of rap, like J Cole and Tyler the Creator.
Do you guys have a preference for the guitars you use?
Ross: People who love to play the guitar are usually super specific about the guitars they play. Me, I’ve got five or six Gibsons that were gifted to me over the past eight years. I spend more time producing. Put a guitar in our hands and we’re good.
Rocky, how would your mom describe Ross? And Ross, how would your mom describe Rocky?
Rocky: She’d say Ross is super smart, super creative. There are more mom words that she’d probably use. Not anything bad, that’s for sure.
Ross: She’d say, “Rocky’s a rock.” He’s the rock of the family. He’s always there.
Ross, you play Harvey on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which has been extremely successful. How is that experience, and how is it balancing acting and the band?
Ross: It has been a wonderful experience. I enjoy my time there and the people I get to work with. Vancouver [the shooting location of Sabrina] is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s gorgeous. I learn a lot about that craft from working on the show. At the end of the day, I think I’ll spend more time with music in the future, but I do appreciate this show and this time in my life. I’ll be up there for ten months, and that’s a long time. I like to be with Rocky, making music.
I always hear about how, at your concerts, you two are so active on stage. Does your background in acting have to do with that?
Ross: It’s dance. It has helped my whole life. A foundation in ballet has helped me in every sport I have ever played. My first job was as a dancer, when I was twelve.
Any live performances coming up?
Ross: None as of now. We’ll hopefully get to the east coast soon, and play some festivals. Right now I need to get back to Vancouver, and we’ll work from there.
Ross: Appreciate the day!