After two singles out since June 2017, Amherst Drive is currently working on new projects! Find out more in the following interview.
Hey Amherst Drive. Thanks for taking time to speak to us. For those who don’t know your band, could you introduce yourself? Hey no problem I’m happy to do it! Amherst Drive is a solo punk project in which I, Derek Kortepeter, do everything from the instrumentals to the vocals and production on the records. It is unorthodox for sure, especially in the punk world, but it seems to be working out so far.
What made you decide to start a solo project? I have been a solo artist, whether as a composer or as a musician, throughout my musical career. When I decided to switch from my experimental music that was performed under my own name to a punk band, I really had so many ideas that I needed total creative control. I suppose this makes me sound a bit like a narcissist, but it is how I am used to working. I am just now doing it the context of punk rock as opposed to say, orchestral music or electronic music.
You recently released two songs named “Breakdown” and “Better Way”. What was your favorite part of the production? Getting behind the drums. It’s been a while since I really got to just go full throttle on my kit because of the drastically different style of music I was writing before Amherst Drive. I really brought some fire to those grooves and it felt amazing. Drums/percussion were the first instrument(s) I really ever got involved with, so getting back to my roots was awesome.
How have people responded to it so far? Really positively. I’m honestly a little overwhelmed with how many websites have wanted to interview me because of these two songs. I’ve come close to walking away from music numerous times, and in some ways Amherst Drive was a last ditch effort before I took a hiatus from music. This industry is really hard, and it is a punch in the stomach to have no interest in your art. Art is super personal, and when it isn’t received well, or not at all, it’s hard to not let that take a toll emotionally. I feel reenergized and have had some of that passion come back again. Feels great.
What’s your personal favorite song between these two? Why? It has to be Better Way. I know, in previous interviews I’ve said how I hated writing that song, but honestly the drums, my voice, and the guitars sound so great that I routinely listen to it. I don’t like writing about love, it leaves me wayyyy too vulnerable and vulnerability is something I reject whole-heartedly. Nevertheless, my abilities as a songwriter grew immensely with Better Way. It is a stripped-down, slower garage rock/punk sound, almost a ballad. I don’t know if I’d even play it live because it is so different than what Amherst Drive sounds like normally. I like my punk rock aggressive, fast, and full of fire, but this departure worked out well.
I know that you are currently working on a debut EP. Can you tell us more about it? It is in the very early stages. I plan on releasing in the late Fall of 2017, but I could wind up waiting until Winter of 2017/2018 depending on how the songs go. I’m currently just laying down drum parts. The biggest choice for this EP will be how I approach the lyrics. I rant a lot about politics, society, and just everything that pisses me off. I don’t, however, necessarily want Amherst Drive to be like Anti-Flag where politics is literally the only thing I talk about. Even though I’m a socialist, I don’t want people of different political ideologies to feel like they can’t mosh at my shows (unless you’re a fascist, in that case go fuck yourself). My lyrics will probably be a bit more ambiguous going forward unless I really want to make a statement that I feel strongly about. I like things being open to interpretation, which is when art gets really exciting.
Who are your main influences for this release? I’d say for the first track Pennywise and Bad Religion, those two bands have been huge for me throughout my life. For the second track I’d say Social Distortion who have been very important in my musical development, but also non-punk groups like really early Radiohead (like Pablo Honey era Radiohead when they sounded super 90s) and Oasis. Just because I’m a punk musician doesn’t mean my influences are exclusively punk, I’ve been blurring genres my whole life, no reason to stop now.
Hard question here… What are your top five favorite punk songs? Oh god, haha this is gonna take a while for me to think about. OK, in no particular order I’ll say:
- Here’s Your Letter by Blink-182. That song has been my go to blink track for so long and it was on a record where the band really started to mature out of their juvenile antics and into a really brilliant punk/post-punk sound. I get a ton of emotions listening to it. I remember every time I got my heart broken in high school or beyond that track was there for me.
- Your Spirit’s Alive by Dropkick Murphys. I love this band so much as a Celtic-American and punk rock musician. I feel more connected to my roots whenever I listen to them, and this song is just a blast of fury and pure punk power that just makes me get goosebumps whenever I hear it. The bagpipes, the drums, the chorus… there is so much to love!
- Bro Hymn by Pennywise. Pennywise, man what a fucking amazing band. They were among my earliest punk influences, really music influences in general. This song is known by every punk and the chorus “whoa, oh, ohhhhh” is so legendary. What’s even more awesome is that my favorite hockey team, the Anaheim Ducks, plays Bro Hymn whenever the team scores a goal. How’s that for badass?
- Ball and Chain by Social Distortion. This song is everything. This band is everything. The direct sound that these guys have is approachable for even non-punks, and without a doubt this track is their best. To be lost and confused, which I feel like all the damn time and I’m sure many others do, and then to listen to this song is so soothing. Punk and “soothing” aren’t usually two things that go together, but for this track it is the case. The lyrics feature the line “You can run all your life, but not go anywhere” which in my opinion are some of the most profound words ever said in a punk song.
- Gotta Go by Agnostic Front. Agnostic Front is the pinnacle of New York hardcore punk. This track is without a doubt the greatest song ever written by any hardcore group. Agnostic Front’s energy is untouchable, and this song is the prime example of that.
Can we expect some live shows once your EP is out? I hope so, but I need to find some other musicians to jam with first. Since I do everything in this band I need other people to bring these tracks to life on stage. I just have to be patient, when the time is right I’m sure I’ll find people to add to this solo project.