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Interview With The High Plains Drifters

When did you first know you wanted to become a musical artist? What was the first song you ever wrote?

Larry Studnicky:  I first fantasized about being a musical artist around age 8 when I heard early songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But it was truly a fantasy. I didn’t think that it was in the realm of possibility, and I didn’t pursue it by asking that my parents buy me a guitar or give me music lessons. Not that they would have done that. It wasn’t a part of how my four siblings and I were raised. In our house, music wasn’t something important.

I don’t remember the first song I ever wrote, but I still have a handful of the earliest ones held in reserve for recording on some future High Plains Drifters project. I’ve picked one of them to tackle when we start our 3rd album, which will probably happen this summer. It’s called “Once, Before I Die”. It’s about searching for true love.


Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Larry:  There is a difference between artists that inspire me and artists that clearly have influenced my songwriting style. Being an older artist myself, I am inspired by almost anybody who has had a decades-long career in music – Bowie, The Stones, Green Day, Weezer, LL Cool J (I was once part of his legal team), and Cher (who I met on the first recording project I was involved with).

Top influences would include some of the 1970s soft-rock “storytellers” like The Eagles, roots-rock and country-rock acts like The Traveling Wilburys and The Marshall Tucker Band, and new wave acts like Elvis Costello, New Order, The Police, The Psychedelic Furs, and Blondie.


What’s in your IPOD this week?

Larry:  I am listening a lot to final (or near final) mixes of the last 2 songs that The High Plains Drifters recorded for our forthcoming second album. They are called “Funny About Love” and “Until We Dance”. I have also been spending time on the Burt Bacharach station and the Classic Soul BBQ Station on my Pandora service.

But a lot of the music I hear from an iPhone is fed into my car stereo by my 15-year-old daughter’s phone. Her name is Anne, and this past week Anne has been playing the crap out of the new Harry Styles single, “As It Was” (I love that song), and a lot of songs by Chase Atlantic. Very catchy stuff.


How’s the music scene in your locale?

Larry:  That depends on what one considers “my locale”. I live in the Connecticut suburbs of NYC, but I don’t go out there to listen to live music. I go into the City, but not as much as pre-Covid. Still, the live music scene in NYC has been on an absolute tear since about last August. My family’s first post-Covid concerts were last August, when we say The Eagles, Weezer, and Green Day in about a 2-week span. It seems like everyone’s buying concert tickets again. Next up for my family is the 1970s Soul Revival (in the City at the Beacon Theater) and then The Weekend (at Giants Stadium).


Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

Larry:  Actually, it’s a tie between two songs, and for the same reason:  They both seemed to come out of nowhere and then were massively transformed (from how I first heard the genres and instrumentation in my head), for the better, by my awesome bandmates and our producer, Greg Cohen.

One of them is “Funny About Love”, which I think will be the single we’ll use to introduce the public to our second album. All that I had for this song, last summer, was the chorus. I had no idea what story I might want to try to tell; and indeed, on this tune, I just gave up on the notion that it should be a coherent narrative. I just needed any words that would trigger a decent melody line in my head. Somehow I found those first few words and an accompanying melody. It starts off with the line, “Had a girl who broke my heart, her roommate put the pieces in a stew.” Odd imagery, and I’ve no idea what it really means. But once I had that part, everything else flowed organically. I think it’s really catchy and, on the choruses at least, sort of an homage to Elvis Costello.

My other personal fave is called “How Did I Write This Song”. Like with “Funny About Love”, I first presented it to producer Greg Cohen in a very incomplete form:  two verses with the lyrics and melody but no clue about instrumentation or genre. Greg heard it and shocked me by saying, “I hear it as a bossa nova tune.” I was stunned. But I’ve learned to trust Greg’s instincts, and the music press repeatedly calls us a “genre bending” act, so I said “WTF, we have a group of amazing musicians and they’ll figure it out.” And they did, to glorious effect, after I miraculously had the chorus pop into my head, in completed form, while driving to a mixing session for our single “Since You’ve Been Gone”.

“How Did I Write This Song” has already been licensed by a UK indie label for release later this year, in the USA and throughout the British Commonwealth territories, on a compilation album called “Goa Chillout Zone: Volume 11”.


What’s the best concert you’ve been to?  

Larry:  That’s easy – the first time I saw Paul McCartney at the Garden from floor seats about 22 years ago. It was a dream come true. He was still in great voice then (not so true today). After that, I’d say it was The Stones on their Steel Wheels tour in 1989. I sprang for 20th row seats at the old Shea Stadium. It turned out to be the last time you could hear them will Bill Wyman on bass guitar. The show was incredible. Jagger commanded the stage like nobody I’d ever seen, and the band was clearly having a blast.


If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Larry:  David Bowie. I’d love to chat with him about how he constantly reinvented both himself and his sound to remain cool and relevant from decade to decade.


What are your goals for the future?

Larry:  To survive whatever is the next variant of Covid long enough to record and release Album 3 by The High Plains Drifters, which I hope will ride the small waves of success we’ve been so lucky to experience with the singles we’ve released from the forthcoming 2nd album. It feels to us like the band is almost out of the shadows of indie obscurity. Last Fall, we came close to cracking Mediabase’s Top 100 chart for AAA stations. I’d like to see that happen. It’d be an amazing accomplishment for an unsigned band.


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