Johnny Stevens has been messing with you. For the last few weeks, he’s been promising fans of his band, Highly Suspect, new information about their next release. He’s teased false timelines, promised album art that never came, new music that was never revealed, and even a potential album leak. “It’s really pissing some people off, which I think is great, but it definitely hurts to do it,” Stevens tells EW.
But now, Stevens and Highly Suspect are ready to reveal all of those details about their second album: The Boy Who Died Wolf is due for release Nov. 18 via Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment.
“I was the boy, and was a wolf,” he explains referencing a hard upbringing in Cape Cod and the last eight years as a band desperate for a break in Brooklyn. “Everything was a fight and a struggle. I killed that part of me, and now the man is left.” His band, Highly Suspect, which is completed by twin brothers Rich and Ryan Meyer, released their debut LP in 2015. It tapped a similar musical vein as Foo Fighters, Muse, and Queens of the Stone Age and to the surprise of everyone — band included — it earned two Grammys noms: Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song (“Lydia”).
The ensuing tour schedule was as heavy as the music, as the trio crossed the globe, hitting festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Rock on The Range, and Reading Festival. A break would have been possible following Rock on The Range in May, but instead, the group hopped a flight to L.A. when their set wrapped. “Within 12 hours we were in the studio,” he says. From there, they headed straight to Bogota, Colombia to record.
The results of that month in South America are far from sunny, but there is a levity that the band hasn’t shared before. “Life is a little better for us right now,” Stevens says, simply, “so the music is a little spunkier.”
Wolf broadens the band’s sonic scope, folding riot-inciting punk, electro-pop, desert rock, bluesy hard rock, and prog-rock into its fray. “You know how in high school you had to be into one type of music?” he asks. “You were the punk kid, the goth kid, or the rap kid — that classified you. It’s not like that anymore. And we have a giant palette of musical taste. We’re not into making sure we give our fans one thing, we’re into making sure we’re playing what we like.”
And while most of the record is geared toward getting a crowd to groove — “Let’s face it, everybody likes to dance,” he says — the cornerstone of the album comes in the form of “Wolf,” a near seven minute, spacey coming of age tale. “It’s a confession, and a transition,” the frontman says. “There are people in my past that I can no longer relate to, that I’ve left, and also people who can no longer relate to me. It’s an amazing life that we live, but it’s not easy. I think any musician will tell you that.”
Bigger crowds have been great, and seeing the world has Stevens almost overwhelmed at his fortunes, but the frontman’s hope for this music is for the listener. “I hope people get a sense of power from this,” he says. “I hope they find inspiration to go and achieve whatever is is that they want to do.” After all, “we’re just blue collar kids that kept playing music.”
Oh, and now that he’s done punking fans on socials, “I’d like to stop getting s— on on Twitter.”
The set’s first single, “Hello. My Name Is Human,” as well as The Boy Who Died Wolf‘s artwork are below. The group has previously shared “Serotonia” off the album, which is currently available for pre-order.