The driver era
When the pandemic struck the world last year our lives quickly hit the pause button. It was a situation that was completely unheard of and unfathomable to many – but it affected us all. For the sibling duo of Ross and Rocky Lynch that make up the alt-rock band The Driver Era, it offered a total reset, a chance to focus not only on their artistry but also on themselves. Since they were in their early teens, a busy schedule of acting, producing, and touring is all they’ve ever known, so lockdown certainly offered an alternative outlook on life, and the end product was certainly a beautiful one. Arriving in the form of their 15-track sophomore album Girlfriend, the artists poured their hearts and souls into the studio creating something deeply personal and giving their fans a collection of truly special track
The Driver Era gets photographed and style by Edwin J. Ortega, assisted by Andrew Barrios Grooming by Nathaniel Dezan, and words by Jake Wright.
The Driver Era wears Roberto Cavalli
Ross wears Acne Studios
Rocky wears La Coste
Prior to their inauguration as The Driver Era in 2018, Ross and Rocky were members of the hugely popular pop-rock band R5. Having entered the music industry at the ages of 13 and 14 respectively, they’ve dedicated a huge chunk of their lives to the art form. That period of their lives had some significant input on Girlfriend, with the single ‘Leave Me Feeling Confident’ originally written almost four years ago. Venturing back and finishing that song showcases the band’s totally natural approach to songwriting, whilst laying out the personal journey the album portrays. “The oldest one we started in, in one of our old band houses in the Valley. I think, in 2017. But again, that's how our workflow is where we're constantly just putting pen to paper all the time.” Rocky explains, “And then somehow, we come together. Alright, let's just buckle down for a sec. And see what is speaking to us right now. Sometimes that happens where we remember, “Oh, here's a song we did in Ranch”.
The band’s first full-length introduction to the world under their newfound alt-rock aesthetic arrived in 2019, in the form of their debut album X. It immediately caught the attention of thousands of new fans, whilst long-term R5 followers swiftly found themselves intrigued by the band’s journey. A sea of hugely popular singles followed and over the two years since the buzz for a follow-up album hit Ethereal Heights. By the time Girlfriend landed in November, expectations were higher than ever, but that pressure wasn’t directly felt by the artists, only the standard pre-release essence of self-doubt remained. “You always have to battle some insecurity when you're releasing music.” Rocky states, “I'm telling you this happens for everyone. All my musician friends have similar experiences. That when you're about to release music, there's this inevitable wave of anxiety almost. I find everyone experiences it. Sometimes it's more, or less. But that vulnerable moment of releasing music, right before you're about to release it, right before you're about to stop working on it is the hardest part.”
For the band, Girlfriend represents their most introspective body of work to date. Inspired by their journey over the last four years, the album resonates energy and emotion throughout. Crafted in a manner that flows like a playlist, the artists wanted to create a relatable journey for their fans that coincided with their own. Perhaps the most personal aspect of the release comes from within its main source of inspiration – some very key people in Ross and Rocky’s lives. “I'd have to say our girlfriends, that's not why we named the record girlfriend. But I'd have to say that they definitely had a big influence on us.” Ross proclaims, “Because, you know, I mean, we're with them damn near every day. We both feel we've learned a lot, and we feel every guy has a lot to learn from women, personally. That was a big influence on the record- the experiences that were happening here.”
What particularly stands out about the album is its length – 15 tracks are a sizeable offering by anyone’s standards. Void of any filler material, it stands testament to the amount of music the band pumps out regularly. “What's funny is, we rarely exclude a song. We just don't finish it.” Ross rather comically explains, “Whatever is finished is what is coming out. And if it doesn't spike enough interest in us, or we don't think it has enough juice.” Girlfriends’ exuberant length is also matched in its sonically diverse and rather experimental nature. Inspired by the soulful sounds of Bruce
Ross wears a pullover by Martin Margiela with a fear of god sweat shorts provided by FWRD accompanied by an Omega watch, Rocky wears a full Fear of God look provided by FWRD accompanied by an Omega watch.
Springsteen and Prince, and their personal love of hip-hop producers like Pharrell and will.i.am. The final product is one that’s sure to grip you from start to finish. “I guess there's always some intention to experiment a little. Usually, if I'm playing something that seems like I had played it before, I’m immediately trying to go somewhere else with it. So, it's a constant experiment, actually. It's always about what have I not somehow heard or done before.”
However, pre-Covid, the thought of an album was certainly distant. With Ross being an acclaimed actor, the band often spends months apart, working under tight time schedules when they’re finally together. However, when the pandemic struck the brothers found themselves together for an extended period for the first time in years. Suddenly, the pressures that usually surrounded their work schedule disappeared, as Rocky explains: “The majority of our schedule is somehow Ross comes off filming something. And then we're like, alright, let's knock out some rehearsals and let's knock out an album in about three weeks. Go. And then it’s just a little too hectic. And that's been our cycle for the majority of our careers.” The pandemic also offered one other twist in the band’s schedule – the cancellation of a world tour that would certainly have made the creation of an album impossible. “The pandemic, honestly, is what allowed us to actually make an album.” Rocky states, “Right before we were about to go on tour, we just finished rehearsing. And we're trying to wrap up a bunch of songs at the exact same time and it was all too hectic. Yeah, it just allowed us to hit the brakes for a sec and re-evaluate.”
For the band, the release wouldn’t be completed without a series of music videos that help to further their introspective stories. So far eight tracks on the album have expanded to create their own unique worlds for listeners to explore, something that’s become a key component of The Driver Era experience. The latest of which saw their older brother Riker produce and direct the visuals for ‘Heart Of Mine’. “I'm a big fan of doing music videos. It's a really fun project because you get to represent the song visually.” Ross proclaims, “But it's also a little bit daunting sometimes. It's a lot of work, but with this most recent one, we did the least amount of work on and it was very refreshing.” Rocky adds further, “It not only expands the world of the song, but it creates a new one that gives it two lives. To me, a good example is ‘Places’- prior to that music video it had a feel and a life to it. And then you throw the video and you have two interpretations of the song now because in some ways you can tell a whole new story.”
Ross wears a full look by Ferragamo, Rocky wears a full look by Canaku.
Larsen wears a full look by Moschino
Rocky wears a full look by Diesel
Now, Ross and Rocky find themselves amid a 50-date tour that sees the artists travel across the US, Europe, and eventually ending in South America. Known for their feel-good, energetic shows, the tour marks their first time performing live on stage since 2019, an experience they’ve duly missed. However, there’s much preparation that goes into it, making for a stressful prelude. “I feel there's a range of emotions leading up to it.” Ross remarks, “You know, one part of me sometimes will think ‘oh no, tours so soon.’ And then another part of me thinks ‘alright, we're so good at this, we're gonna kill it.’ So, there are always some mixed emotions going on. Whenever we do start rehearsals, whenever we get the band together and we're all playing, you start to have so much fun in that environment that a lot of those fearful thoughts go away.”
Away from music, Ross is known for his acclaimed acting skills, starring most recently on the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. A creative outlet he’s found equally rewarding as music over the years, and one that he hopes to return to sometime soon. “I haven't been able to get a job. They took my health insurance away.” Ross laughs, “I'd love to, honestly, if it's the right project. I keep seeing these trailers for movies. And I'm thinking there's definitely a part of my spirit that feels it coming on almost. But we'll see. I have a total belief in divine timing, and I really like the way everything's working out right now.”
For The Driver Era, Girlfriend undoubtedly represents their most complete body of work to date. Their natural ability to tell personal stories in such a relatable manner makes them truly lovable characters, void of any egotistical values. Made in their home studio, the album was exactly the kind of music they’ve always wanted to make, and at the heart of it all lies the idea that music can’t be forced. For their fans, they have a world tour to be excited about, and they’d also better get ready for a Girlfriend remix package set to land very soon. 2021 has been a hell of a year for The Driver Era, we can’t wait to see what the next one brings.
Ross wears a full look by Ferragamo, Rocky wears a full look by Canaku.