By: Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
“Do I tell you the cool hipster band or the one that I actually really like?”
This is the response that Eli Hirsch, lead singer and guitarist of punk/pop duo Superhighway, gives me when I asked him what his current favorite album is. If you’re wondering, the cool hipster band is Always and the one he really likes is Beertooth, a hardcore Warped Tour band who just released their debut album Disgusting.
I’ve spent the last 24 hours with Hirsch and Quincy Saunders, the group’s bassist and we’re currently sitting outside of a Jewish deli in the midst of Greek life rush shenanigans as hopeful sisters-to-be travel from sorority to sorority. It is a beautiful early fall morning in Eugene, but most of the audience from Superhighway’s show the previous night is still sleeping off a hangover. For Hirsch and Saunders, their day started hours ago with an early morning burrito at Qdoba after a restful sleep in the basement of a co-op.
“We treat our bodies really well. That’s the reality for us. We take care of our bodies and try to sleep,” says Hirsch. “We decided for the kind of lifestyle that we live, we have to compensate by not partying all the time.”
By lifestyle, Hirsch is referring to back to back shows all along the West Coast. The band drove from Oakland to Eugene to play a house show in a tent at Goup Mansion and will play two shows in Portland before going back to their home in Los Angeles.
According to Saunders, “When your home is on the road, you have to make peace with traveling. I had to find peace with the fact that I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight or if I’m going to shower, but I would never want to do anything else.”
The duo also note that it is their friendship that keeps them strong during a grueling tour. The two met while in high school in Portland. In a slew of coincidences that could have only happened in the late aughts, Saunders found out about Hirsch’s high school band, Meet Your Monster, through Myspace. Meet Your Monster just so happened to be looking for a new bass player, Saunders’ instrument of choice.
From there, the two played with numerous bands throughout high school in Portland and gigged around the city. While they were able to develop a dynamic live show and an increasingly honest sound, they decided they would wait to record any music until only earlier this year.
“We had been around for a while, but we could and still can do whatever we want because we held back on releasing music,” says Saunders. “We waited until we knew what we were.”
And their efforts aren’t just some EP recorded on a computer in their basement. Superhighway could have laid the record down in Los Angeles with some of the industry’s top producers, but they didn’t. They took a chance and went to record in Australia with Stuart Stuart, who has worked with Sheppard, one of the Australia’s most popular groups.
Thier decision was influenced by the fact that Hirsch’s father is Australian and Hirsch has dual citizenship, but had never visited the country. Despite grueling ten hour days working on their music, Hirsch and Saunders agree it was the right decision.
“It was a beautifully meditative experience to just record every day. Our producer, Stuart Stuart, was amazing. A producer’s job is to read your mind and I think we had a very fluid recording process because we all spoke the exact same mental language,” says Hirsch.
The band came out of the studio with a five song EP that they describe as the culmination of a year’s worth of songwriting, and have released the single, “We Are Vultures,”. The lyrics are cynical and lonely, with verses like, “The stars above are pretty pessimist,” but the catchy melody makes it more of a pop song than an emotional one.
This seems to be a theme of the EP and Saunders and Hirsch say their recent move from Portland to Los Angeles had an effect on the songs.
Hirsch admits that, “In L.A. it’s very much a showcase vibe. You’re doing this for people who are trying to see if they can make money off of you and that’s cool. That’s a part of what this world is, but it’s not fun.”
This isolation is heard in songs like the aptly named “Hey L.A.,” which Hirsch wrote in 10 minutes about his experiences moving to the city and the darkness he saw in the “City of Angels.”
According to Hirsch, “‘Hey L.A.’ is about the struggle that is the epitome of being in Los Angeles: trying to be that guy at the party that everyone notices and desiring so hard to be important, to be at the top of the world. ‘Hey L.A. can I be king today?’ Probably not.”
But the move to Los Angeles hasn’t been entirely negative. The group has been able to meet other bands and artists in the city. They collaborated with Drew Lefore Escriva and Brian Gieger to make the music video for “We Are Vultures,” with literally no budget.
Even though some form of Superhighway has been around since 2011, the duo still feel they are at that early stage where taking chances and making mistakes is possible.
“We’re young, so we’re exploring the Earth to where we fit in. And I think L.A. is such a hotspot for a lot of cool things. And we’re trying things in what we love, so we’re playing music no matter what and doing it with our band.”
This sentiment seems to be the ethos of Superhighway. When I asked the band about how to figure out if you’re doing what you love, Saunders mentioned a book that had a big impact on him.
“When I was 14 I got this book called Punk Rock Etiquette by this guy named Travis Nichols and I have followed that thing to a T. It basically tells you how to do what we’re doing right now: get in a van and go play shows for people and survive. It’s funny. I probably would not be sitting here if I had not found that book and read it. It’s that simple.”
And for Superhighway it really is that easy: write honest music, put on a killer show, and get eight hours of sleep a night. There’s nothing more punk than that.