Interview: Sugar Red Drive

Last year I was introduced to the name Sugar Red Drive, you may have been too if you happened to read the news articles published on the website, but at the time with the website just taking off I never took time to listen to the band and experience their music.

In what was easily a stupid mistake not checking out this band sooner, I was recently sent a copy of their album (review coming soon) and had the chance to ssubmit some questions to the band which bassist Davey Alexander took some time to answer.

For those who have not came across the band just yet, the brief story behind the band is in the fall of 2007, after five years of pavement pounding, Poughkeepsie, New York rock band Mercury Rising was creating a strong local buzz. In a sudden, surprising move, their singer joined the Army and left the group without a frontman. Frustrated, the remaining musicians – guitarist Jim Knauss, bassist Davey Alexander and drummer P.J. Gasperini — started scouring MySpace for a new singer. It wasn’t long before they clicked on Archit Tripathi, a real belter with a broad vocal range and a near-encyclopedic knowledge of powerful rock.

After entering Applehead Studios in 2008 with longtime songwriter and producer Pat Gasperini (PJ’s father) Sugar Red Drive released their self-titled debut album in 2009 and being given the opportunity now to submit some questions, I found out a little about their forming, time in the studio, touring and future plans.

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For people who have yet to be introduced to the band, like only I was recently and to all of our UK readers, the brief story of the band starts when Mercury Risings singer dropped out to join the army in 2007 after five years of work and you found Archit through MySpace. How easy was it to pick up after a sudden change after so many years of work and basically start from scratch?

It was simple and complicated. We found Archie on MySpace two days after our old vocalist left. We had Archie sing all of the songs we wrote with the pervious vocalist…but one by one they all got thrown away. It wasn’t THAT difficult to write new songs with Archie but it took some effort. Fortunately, all of us mesh so well that writing is like second nature to us.

How easy was it to transition when Archit joined such a tight group of members?

From what I remember, he did just fine. We all have the same goal and know what we want to do. Thankfully, neither of us all full of ourselves so there’s RARELY any arguments or disagreements. If there are, they’re trivial and we get over them in minutes.

What changed when Archit joined, apart from the change to the bands name, was there a new direction in the bands sound from Mercury Rising or is the music as heard on your album reflect the sound the band has always been building on?

That’s a good question. Jim, PJ, and I originally started a metal/alternative band with our old vocalist and we were fine with that. We enjoyed writing the material and it sounded good (for a bunch of 16 year olds). When Archie joined the band, the band had to take a new direction due to his style and tone. To be honest, it was a better change because now the material we write has more thoughtful lyrics, catchier riffs, and well thought out songs. We didn’t plan on changing our sound; it just happened.

What does ‘Sugar Red Drive’ mean; is there a story behind it?

The name Sugar Red Drive doesn’t have an elaborate story to it. Archie made the name up while we were in the process of changing the bands sound. We couldn’t think of anything better so we just went with it. I mean, a lot of band names out there sound weird (Blackstone Cherry, Stone Temple Pilots, Aerosmith, etc). Doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. It is what you make of it.

When the band entered the studio for the album, I read that there were some jitters about going in but everything came together. Did working with PJ’s father make the process a lot easier as he already knew each of you individually and what you were aiming to produce as a whole?

We did have the jitters but Pat Gasperini definitely made the process a lot easier. He has his own style of doing things like saying stuff as “Don’t be a pansy….just play the part.” Now, no one wants to be a pansy so we did the parts, heh. Also, Appleheads studio engineers Mike Birnbaum and Chris Bittner also helped the process out. They were very patient and understood that we needed some time to adjust to the studio.

Was there anything that you learnt from the time in the studio which will carry on to your second album in the future or has already helped you when out on the road?

I learned a few things in the studio. 1) Relax. Its not a race. I had a habit of rushing the songs when I played. I learned how to control that by just really sticking to the drums. I don’t have an issue now but when I did, I used to put my foot underneath the kick drum to keep with PJ. 2) Don’t be a pansy. Have confidence when you play. When you have confidence, you hit that pocket and you play better than you expect.

I have been listening to the album now and it’s a great debut. There is a great mix of hard rock with grunge vibes then into more alternative rock when you strip things back. Is this the music that influences the band? Who are some of the bands who influence the bands music?

Thank you very much! Yes, you are very correct. Our influences include Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Nickelback, etc.

What are some of themes behind the songs on the album or can you give us a brief meaning to some of the songs on the album?

Well, One More Time is about standing your ground and saying what you believe in. Doesn’t matter what the consequences are or what will happen. Just voice your opinion. Everyone deserves to be heard.

In My Head is about one of Jims friends who overdosed on drugs. He came up one day and said when he heard the news, that riff came to his head and Archit wrote powerful lyrics about it.

‘Miller’s Daughter’ is stripped right back and sounds most like a personal track, what is the story to it?

I can’t lie to you guys. One day, we were trying to write and Archie couldn’t come up with a topic. Frustrated, I said “Write about Batman or something.“ SO Millers Daughter is about Batman and his struggle with society. Listen to it closely and you’ll know what I mean.

It is coming on a year now since the album was released and after touring, being able to see the reaction of the crowd with sales etc how has the experience been when you think on it as your first album?

It’s a dream come true. It is truly amazing how people enjoy your music and come to your shows and actually sing the songs with you. There is no way to describe the feeling. We feel confident that we wrote a strong album that shows different sides of us and to show to fans, or future fans, what to expect on the next album.

Is there anything you would have changed or wish you did slightly different looking back now even though it was your first album?

Oh yes. I wish I changed a few bass lines, but nothing real extreme. Back then, I was real conservative about playing bass. Looking back, I see what little extra stuff I could’ve done. If you come out to a show and see what I do live, it’s a little more tasty than what you hear on the album.

You have been touring with some big names, Theory Of A Deadman, Live and Seether. What was it like opening for such bands?

All experiences were great. They were definitely worth playing the shows and meeting the bands.

Any stories you can share or will it stop you being invited back on the road.

Hah, no. Every encounter with the big boys was great. I remember playing with Seether in my hometown. We walked in with our hopes hanging low because we figured we’d be treated like dog food due to us being locals AND openers. So when we loaded up, all of the staff there was really great to us AND we even got a sound check. That meant a lot to us. It set an example for us, as well. Doesn’t matter how big you get, you still treat people well.

Do you have a memorable tour experience, something that has stood out from other shows?

I remember when we played in the Outer Banks, NC. We walked in as no one and we didn’t expect a good show. When we got on stage and played the first song, the whole crowd blew up and was totally into it. It was a pleasant surprise.

You are currently competing for the chance to open for Bon Jovi and right now you are sitting 15th which puts you in contention. What would it mean to get that 20 minute slot? Has the set list been written already?

What would it mean to us? It’d make our life! To play with such a legendary icon such as Bon Jovi is a honor AND a privellage. We do not have a 20 minute set in order YET but I’m sure we can pull one together and make sure it is jammed packed with our best songs.

Right now you’re out on the Economic Stimulus Tour 2010 which has a great mission of hiring staff each day to help them through these hard times. Also with reduced ticket prices and donations to a local charity being made, it is a real effort to help fans. Is this a way of touring you may hope some other bands may follow?

I hope bands do follow this trend because its people helping people. When times are rough, it doesn’t hurt to make the attempt to help people take their minds off of the economy. I just hope we are helping people out by giving them a good show and a good time afterwards.

As of right now, we’ve only played one show and it was in Lancaster, PA. It didn’t officially start the tour but I hope whenw e do start it, people will come out and have a good time with us. We always love seeing a smile on peoples faces and know that we were the cause of that.

What is next for Sugar Red Drive for 2010 and moving on to next year? Will you continue touring the record or do you have sights on making a new album to continue moving forward and progressing your sound?

Our plan as of right now is to get our single, Red Machine, out on the market and into peoples ear lobes. We plan on touring a lot and making new fans everywhere. Our ultimate goal is to make a good first impression with our first album so fans know what to expect in the near future.

When it comes to the next album, should we expect the alt/hard rock sound or are there other waters you would like to test with your music?

We do plan to maintain our sound but we will be putting a new twist on the new album to keep it fresh and exciting. I don’t want to spoil it so you just got to wait ;)

The dream of course for every band is to become known worldwide so have the band considered any methods of looking outside the US as of yet or are you focusing on making your mark in the US first?

As of right now, we are focusing on getting our name out in the states. We would LOVE to tour throughout the world and make new fans. I mean, what band doesn’t want to be heard worldwide?

For our readers here in the UK, what would you say to them to bring their attention and make them want to listen to your music?

If you want to hear some feel good and positive music, then you got to check us out.

Any final words you wish to add?

Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell a stranger or tell SOMEONE. Sugar Red Drive wants to be heard by EVERYONE. You can contact us on our MySpace and Facebook pages. We love hearing from new fans. Yes, we actually maintain our page so if you want to chat with us, we will be more than happy to talk to you.


About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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