The Lynch brothers, Ross and Rocky, have been playing in bands together for a decade. After touring in a family band with Hollywood Records, their current project The Driver Era is self-released, genre-bending, and gaining steam across the country. Their latest album, X, is a culmination of the past ten years in the music industry, finally putting their knowledge and creative potential out for the world to see. The duo brings punk rock grit to advanced production technique, straddling the scruffy edge of alternative and pop. Ross has been balancing his music career with his role as Harvey, Sabrina’s mortal boyfriend in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and both brothers just finished a U.S. tour, rounding out at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. In a recent interview, the two brothers discuss their experiences on tour, their dream collabs, and an upcoming mystery venture. Although they’ve been around for years, The Driver Era is just now revving up.
You’ve been playing together for 10 years now. What got you started in music?
ROSS LYNCH: We’ve always been playing music. Since day one. Little toddlers in our basement. We used to just hang out in there and watch music videos and kind of recreate them. We’ve just kind of always been obsessed. The real initiation kind of happened when we moved to LA when I was about ten or eleven. That’s when the band finally formed and we actually started playing shows around LA. And then it just slowly started to escalate. We started playing in little tiny bars that we were too young to be in, and then we started playing bigger fairs and so on and so on. It just got bigger and bigger until we found ourselves in Japan.
How has the band and the sound evolved over the past decade?
ROSS: Because we’ve been playing for so long, it’s changed dramatically. The biggest thing that’s changed is that we’ve gone from a mindset of trying to please outside opinions to taking all the control for ourselves. Essentially, we’ve learned so much about the industry now and we know music and what we make and what we like and what we want to say, that it’s no longer about who approves of us anymore. It’s more about us making music for ourselves. It just takes time to sort of develop because every young artist is sort of looking for validation that they’re doing the right thing and they’re doing a good job. And to be honest, those times still hit you. No one’s ever above a bad day. But I think overall now we’re making music for ourselves. That’s kind of the difference.
What is it like to work creatively with your brother? Do you both vibe usually or do you ever have any moments of “brotherly love”?
ROSS: Rocky and I, the reason we make music together is because we vibe so hard and because we’re symbiotic. We’re very like-minded individuals. Usually if Rocky likes something, I’ll most likely like it as well, and there’s a good amount of testing each other in our relationship which is good. When I first started playing guitar, Rocky learned before me so he was always a little bit better. I remember I was trying to figure out how he played something, and he never really wanted me to so he would turn the back of the guitar so I couldn’t see it. But that was actually really good for my ear and everything. So it’s actually really good to have this like brotherly love; I wouldn’t say there’s any competition between us, but we’re definitely...we love working together, is the bottom line. That’s really why The Driver Era exists.
ROCKY LYNCH: I really love to be in the studio with Ross; he’s great at coming up with ideas to feed off of. I also really enjoy being in the studio by myself which doesn’t happen often. Ross was just here for a while before leaving to film in Vancouver, so we made a lot of music together, just him and I in the studio and honestly it’s stuff I’ve never heard before. It’s really something special. Working with Ross, you get 50/50. You get exactly what I would put into a song, like “Low,” and then you throw in Ross’s energy and Ross’s spirit and just the way he is into a song that we’re both working on together and it has an entirely different life. I think people feel that.
Your songs all span different genres. Who would you say are your musical influences?
ROSS: We like a lot of different music. We love rap, we love hip-hop, we love jazz, we love pop, we love rock and roll...man, anything. We love everything and that’s probably why our music is so eclectic. It’s because of that. I wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily trying to pull from anything when we’re creating. It’s not like, “Oh, we’re huge Prince fans so let’s make a Prince song today.” That’s not something that goes through our heads. Usually when we’re in the studio, we literally just pick up a guitar or just start playing drums. We just sit down and start going.
Do you find that there’s more freedom in being self-released or more responsibility?
ROSS: Well, regardless, you still have people knocking on your door asking you where the songs are. Whether you’re signed to a label or you just have a music manager. There’s inevitably someone who’s gonna be there like, “Hey, where’s the art?” [laughs] So there’s still a good amount of pressure to get things done. I like that; I like having deadlines. I would say more freedom for sure. Kind of like what I said earlier, I’m not looking to please anyone. It’s more about what I think is cool, and that’s it. And Rocky, of course. But yeah, things are changing in that dynamic soon I’m actually really excited about it. I’m curious how our new venture...which I’m not sure if I’m allowed to announce or not...I’m excited to see how that’ll go.
Ross, you’ve mentioned that getting casted in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has been an unexpected development in your music career. Has it been difficult balancing shooting schedules with the band?
ROSS: Oh yeah, for sure. Rocky and I really thrive when we’re together, musically, and when we’re apart it’s challenging creatively. I mean, how do you make music together when you’re across the country? Or in another country, as a matter of fact. And obviously, when you’re shooting a TV show, your schedule is so inconsistent. Some days I’ll be on set till like 4 am, other days I’ll be there like 8 am to 10 pm. So it’s just like, super inconsistent. I think it’s working out. We still were able to tour and we’re putting out an album and all that stuff. I would like to be releasing more music throughout the year.
The cast seems super supportive of the band. Have they gone to any of your shows?
ROSS: No, actually! No one from the cast has been to my shows yet, but the creator of our show, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, came to our last show at the Fonda and had some very nice things to say which is great. That was really cool of him actually to come through. But the cast is very supportive of the band. They love listening to our songs and they’re always jamming. We did this interview in New York, me, Kiernan, and Gavin, I want to say in March, but some interviewer wanted to film us dancing or whatever and Gavin was like, “Dude, play ‘Low!’” So we played “Low,” and we all got down, and it was cool.
Have you had any standout shows while on tour? Any favorite performances?
ROCKY: The Fonda show, I do think will go down as a top five show in the recent years because there’s just so much that was kind of happening around the show. We’ve never played the Fonda; the Fonda’s been there since the 20s we’ve seen so many shows there. Whenever we play LA, it’s always hectic. Our guest list was like 150 people over so we had to buy a bunch of tickets, and that alone creates a certain kind of energy and dynamic just going into the day. You know waking up, or even honestly four days before that you know the circumstances of an LA show. You know it’s packed, there are label people, you’re ready for it and that gives you energy and that kinda makes you excited. I also really liked our last show of the U.S. tour. It was in North Carolina on 4/20...I actually had no idea it was on 4/20, that our last show was on 4/20. We ended up doing a limited edition Driver Era 4/20 shirt at that specific show and we sold out right when the doors opened. Someone said we might have even sold out before the doors opened. We made like a 100 of them. That was super sick.
What’s your writing process like?
ROSS: My writing process is very spur-of-the-moment. I try to turn off any sort of criticism or self-doubt or anything that could be detrimental to a creative process. I try to just be ultimately present. And sing my heart out. [laughs]
How does your writing process differ being on tour?
ROCKY: On tour? Whenever there’s writing it tends to be more of just throwing down random ideas and kind of messing around on acoustic guitar on the back of a tour bus or on an off-day. There’s not so much, “Alright let’s sit down and finish this song and track vocals and get it how we want it to sound.” There’s way more just, “Alright, we’re in a hotel room randomly kicking it and we have an acoustic guitar, alright, let’s vibe it.”
Do you prefer writing or performing?
ROCKY: If I had to choose writing or performing, I would normally choose writing, but for some reason this last tour, I don’t know what it is, maybe because people are coming to the shows that I’ve never seen before, people of all ages, and you know when 19, 20 year-old dudes come up like “Yo, I’m a producer. I love the stuff,” whether they knew about R5 or not, they’re just kinda there and they’re enjoying it and they chose to be there because of what we’ve recently made. So it feels very rewarding to see an immediate reaction. That’s the only way to be a good performer, to be enjoying it a hundred percent, and when you are, the audience is with you entirely. That’s something that I think Ross is very good at. When he’s on stage, it’s like, you’re locked in. You’re not thinking about anything else when that motherf*cker is on stage. [laughs]
What inspired your latest single, “Welcome to the End of Your Life”? It almost has a dark Weezer-like quality to it.
ROCKY: Oh, I like the Weezer vibe! I always knew it had this like punk rock, like a 90s Green Day thing, but I never really put Weezer to it, I like that. I like Weezer a lot; I think they’re great writers, and they’ve got some bangers. When Ross and I started writing right after he wrapped “Sabrina,” it kind of took us a second. We were just honestly like, “This isn’t good enough.” Nothing really cemented itself. There was so much angst and questions of “Alright, how are we gonna do this? What the hell is life?” And basically, with all of those emotions we were feeling at that time, that’s how “Welcome to the End of Your Life” sprung up. Even though you obviously never want to feel shitty, whatever process we went through to get that song was worth it.
Is your new work following in those grittier, more alternative footsteps? Is it a sign of your music to come? Or are you going to keep us guessing?
ROCKY: One of the most recent songs I’m working on, I don’t know what I’m going to call it, maybe “How,” but it almost has like an LCD Soundsystem vibe-meets-Strokes...it kinda has a super raw indie feel to it while still kinda floating in this gritty punk pop thing in the same time. It’s tough to kind of pinpoint where we’re headed with this next album because that’s where we’re at right now we’re already working on a new album. There’s another song we’ll probably call “Cold,” and it’s like this gritty rock, almost like a melancholy rock song which I’m kinda stoked about just talking about. The music is always changing; there’s so many genres we feel like The Driver Era is and will continue to be. And we like that.
What other artists are you listening to right now?
ROCKY: I really like what Tyler the Creator is doing. I really like what J.Cole is doing. I’ve always been a follower of how efficient Calvin Harris is and how consistent he is while also writing and producing and mixing a lot of his stuff which is really dope. I like what Billie Eilish is doing; I like what her brother Phineas is doing.
Would you ever consider any collabs in the future? Do you have any dream collabs?
ROCKY: Honestly, any of those artists I just listed are definitely...I wouldn’t turn that down. An actual good fit that I think if we were to co-produce with another artist, someone that kind of fits what we do, a nice pair would be I think anyone from Pharrell. Co-production with Pharrell meets the Driver Era would be really cool. I think another good collab would be Daft Punk. Wow. That would be sick. [laughs] Daft Punk would be hype. Those dudes are legends. Any of those two would be sick.
What’s behind the name, “The Driver Era”?
ROSS: You gotta figure that one out yourself. Honestly, there’s a bunch of different meanings. We like to keep it vague.
X by The Driver Era is out now.