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For The Driver Era, music can’t – and shouldn’t – be forced. The band, formed by brothers Ross and Rocky Lynch in 2018 while on tour with their former group R5, aims to embrace the present moment, creating songs that reflect each experience and feeling as it comes. It’s a philosophy that pervades all of the duo’s releases, from their debut single “Preacher Man” to their 2019 album X to their latest effort, Girlfriend.
The new album, written and produced by Ross and Rocky in their home studio, encapsulates the past few years of their lives, including songs that date back to 2016 alongside songs written in 2021. The tracks showcase a variety of influences, like INXS, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, and the album features a diverse array of styles, notably pulling on the musicians’ love of hip-hop producers like Pharrell and will.i.am. It’s an album connected by its creators, rather than an overall theme, and it contains only a handful of the massive amount of songs the pair has written recently.
“We like to go into the studio and have fun making whatever sounds good in that moment,” Rocky says. “There isn’t much discussion around what we want to make. We want to allow it to unfold as it happens and not put too many preconceived notions on the music. Each song tells its own story because each comes from a different part of our life. The tracks touch on our viewpoints on love and romance, on the world around us, on politics – everything. We want to allow them to take their own paths and form naturally.”
“I try not to judge the process and let it happen,” Ross adds. “You can’t be judging the thing you’re creating. You have to let it take over you and let it flow. It helps that we have such a deep connection and such a familiarity since we’ve now been making music together for over ten years.”
The Driver Era was scheduled to go on tour in April of 2020, but the dates were postponed due to the pandemic and the brothers found themselves back home in Los Angeles. Instead of feeling pressured to write songs, Ross and Rocky took the time to go on pause, allowing the stillness of the world to give the band a reset. That time brought both musicians a reinvigorated love for their music, and Girlfriend came into being. The album features previously released tracks like “Forever Always” and “A Kiss” alongside a collection of unheard songs written in quarantine. “We really took some much needed time to ourselves,” Ross says. “It felt like a time to evolve. Then the next chapter came and we felt ready to turn the car back on and start stepping on the gas again. I was re-prioritizing what had meaning for me and what was worth spending my time on, and I got to re-discover my passion for music and my love for creation. I’m really excited to bring that feeling into the world.”
From groove-laden “Cray Z Babe E,” which marks the first time Ross and Rocky have shared lead vocals on a Driver Era song, to pulsating “Heaven Angel,” Girlfriend resonates with energy and emotion. Soulful number “Leave Me Feeling Confident” is the oldest track on the album and features a horn part from R5 drummer Ellington Ratliff. The album was created to flow like a playlist, offering fans a relatable journey alongside the musicians. It’s a snapshot of the time spent making it, but it also reaches outward to include the experiences of its listeners, who may feel or go through similar things.
“When I look at these songs it feels like a reflection of our past few years,” Rocky notes. “It’s us living life and writing about it and telling our story and our different viewpoints on things. It’s about how we’ve gone about our mid-20s.”
“We write the songs hoping fans can relate to them,” Ross adds. “That’s what we’re striving for – a connection between us and our listeners.”
The Driver Era’s fanbase has grown since their inception, encompassing both longtime fans of R5 and new listeners. The band has accumulated 115 million streams, with over 20 million global followers on social media. The Driver Era was featured on People Magazine’s “Emerging Artists” list and the duo has sold out shows all over the world, from Asia to the U.S. to Europe and South America. In R5, toured extensively and spent hours in the studio, skills they’re now able to apply to The Driver Era. Ross is also an acclaimed actor and notably starred in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and biopic film My Friend Dahmer, after spending five years playing Austin Moon on the popular Disney Channel Original Series, Austin & Ally. Girlfriend brings all these years of work together and reveals a band ready to step out into their next chapter.
“This is what we’ve been gearing up towards,” Rocky says. “We always wanted to write and produce an album entirely on our own and we now have the confidence and experience to do that. We’re so proud to have done it ourselves after all these years.”
“I want to maximize the enjoyment and fulfillment of my life, and I do that best when I’m actively creating with music,” Ross adds. “These days, I want to focus on enjoying the creative process, which is also our goal in The Driver Era. We want to make music that touches people on an emotional level and that feels unique. The reason we do it is to live in the process of creating and have a good time, but we also want to help other people have a good time as well.