Interview – the highway.

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the highway.

From the second I stepped into their tiny makeshift studio (which is in the basement of one of the members’ parents) I could tell that these guys were tight.  With ages ranging from 21 to 28, these childhood friends have been calling themselves “the highway.” for the past three years and it looks like their journey is finally taking off.

Lead singer Sevan Apanian (28) who also plays keyboards and rhythm guitar writes all their lyrics.  His vocals are as passionate as his words, which became very clear as soon we spoke.     

Kevork Boyadjian (22) on lead guitars appears soft-spoken and relaxed but if you ever catch one of his intense guitar solos, you will definitely be blown away.   

The baby of the band, also known as the fretless wonder, is Saro Hartounian (21) on bass.  He plays a fretless bass and it’s full of surprises.

On drums, with a background in dance is Levon Arabian (28).  He showed up to the interview in shorts and a winter jacket yet was quite insightful.           

With four uniquely different personalities and styles I knew it was going to be a rather interesting interview. The bandmates had a genuine respect and affection for each other which was evident in the way they described each other and joked around.  I had to be careful to stick to my questions and not get sidetracked as they were not only humble and honest but quite funny as well.

MR- Who writes the lyrics?

SA – I do.

MR- And who does the music?

SA – That’s a tough question. We have this format where I come up with the structure or an idea and where we’re going and once the layout is there everyone puts in their flavour, their parts and arrangements.  Once everybody puts in their piece, that’s when it becomes alive.

KB – Except for one song,  everybody was working at the same time and it sort of happened spontaneously, where it all came together.  It’s our most progressive song Nova.  It hasn’t been released yet.

LA –  It’s come up from several different jams that we were working on and then it all came together like a collage. It was after a practice and we were just fooling around.  Everyone was sort of working on their own part and then slowly we all started adding onto each other’s part and it really came together. It’s our longest song

MR- Are you going to play it Saturday night?

KB – Yes

MR- So you guys are currently recording now?

KB – Yes our first EP.  We have five completed songs and we merged “Uprooted” one and two together. We’re almost finished recording the first track.

MR – You have a couple of tracks on Spotify right now?

LA – Something to be proud of.

They all laugh.

They’ve been classmates and friends for many years and when they started they knew that this project would eventually become more serious.

TH – Even in its most skeletal form we knew that we wanted to do something with our music. We weren’t just friends that were jamming.

Their earlier gigs were mostly within the Armenian community where they received a lot of support playing at festivals and were even invited to Toronto to perform at The Pomegranate Film Fest.

“the highway.” are fiercely proud of their heritage and implement elements of Armenian folk music into their sound.  Whether it’s lyrics or the beat or some type of melody, their culture is often woven into their songs.  Being the descendants of the Armenian diaspora, preserving their language and cultural identity is extremely important to them.  Also, with parents coming from countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Israel,  Lebanon,  Syria and United Arab Emirates, they have all been exposed to a vast range of musical styles and genres which gives “the highway.” their dynamic international rock sound.

MR – What are your musical influences?

KB – I listen to a wide range of music from funk to death metal.  John Frusciante from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Randy Rhoads (Ozzy) and Alex Lifeson from Rush.  I started playing when I was 12.

SA – I started late.  I began taking lessons when I was 18 and then life got in the way so it was on and off for a while.  Piano is my favourite but I think I was a better singer than anything else.  My main influence is Armenian folk music.  I like jazz and blues and New Age as well.  Ray Charles is one of my biggest inspirations.

SH – My dad listened to a lot of classical music and Armenian music and I did not like that. My mom would listen to Cat Stevens, Chris de Burgh, and Genesis.  I developed a taste for the Red Hot Chili Peppers Primus and Rush.  I started playing guitar when I was about nine or 10, that’s when my dad got me my first classical guitar. Then I got an electric guitar which I loved and then I moved onto the bass.

LA – I was around 13 when I started learning the drums. I was in the school band so it was kind of like a learn as you go situation.  That helped me because I had to follow people and keep up with the rest of the band.  I grew up listening to my parents 80s and 90s music like Queen, George Michael Prince. 

MR – What do you call your sound? If you had to describe it for Wikipedia page.

TH – We had to look that up because it was really hard to describe our sound.  Classic rock with modern elements, blues elements, Armenian elements world music.  Rock is the core.  We’re hoping to be our own genre like Primus. 

MR –  What genre is Primus?

Saro flatly states “Primus” and they all start laughing.

MR – Do you prefer live performances or jamming in the studio?

LA – I come from a dancing background so I love performing.  This is an extra aspect of me getting to perform live on stage with an amazing group and we always have fun.  

KB – For me, I enjoy the recording process as much as I enjoy performing live.  There is something about that process, creating something from nothing that’s going to be here forever.

SH – The problem with recording is you can’t crabwalk in a recording…

MR –  What’s a crab walk?

Everybody laughs once again. I wonder if it’s like the Chuck Berry duck walk and if I need to Google this.

MR – Is it like Chuck Berry Duckwalk?

TH – Yeah that’s what it is

SA – My favourite part, whether it’s live or in-studio sometimes when we are playing a certain song, it could be any song and we’re in the pocket.  I kind of lose myself sometimes it’s like I’m not there… It’s like a drug, you forget you’re there or you forget there’s a crowd… For me that’s the best.

LA – There have been moments where we’re playing at cocktail hour for weddings and it’s as though we’re just playing for ourselves… Like nobody’s really listening but we’re feeding off of each other, just the four of us having fun.

SA – We are really excited about this gig because we are debuting a new original “To Make Love On The Mountain Top”… it sounds like the title and it means exactly what you think it is…

MR – Is it a slow jam?

TH – Oh yeah!

They all start laughing.

I got to hear a bit and I felt a Lenny Kravitz/Prince vibe.  I can’t wait to hear the whole thing live.

Interview – Annette Aghazarian

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