Story and photos by Jenna Million
Ten years ago, the members of Driver Friendly would listen to Motion City Soundtrack’s “Commit This to Memory” on repeat. Little did they know they would wind up opening for the band on the album’s 10-year anniversary tour.
Singer Tyler Welsh, guitarist Andy Lane, bassist Chris Walker, trumpeter Juan Lopez and drummer Jeremi Mattern all met through high school marching band and church in Houston, Texas. They jammed together for fun and kept it up through college while four of them attended The University of Texas at Austin and Lane went to St. Edward’s University. As undergrad students, they focused mostly on their education. They played on the side and toured in the summer.
In the fall of 2012, Driver Friendly signed to Hopeless Records, but for the first six months not much changed besides the addition of their name on the label’s roster. Signing did allow the band to make music their primary pursuit, spending more time on recording and touring. “It was definitely a huge shift for us,” Welsh says.
Driver Friendly played at Vans Warped Tour in the summer of 2013, giving them their first real exposure, as well as an opportunity to meet Motion City Soundtrack. “You just never picture yourself at any level near their level,” Welsh says. “The craziest thing for us is to be in this world where all of our favorite musicians are existing and we are coexisting, at some level.”
Although they still felt like the new kids, other bands started to recognize and build relationships with them. “There was one moment on Warped Tour, [when] we saw Claudia from Motion City Soundtrack, the drummer, and he was like, ‘Yeah guys, I think that you guys are going to tour with us. I think that’s what we’re going to do,’” Lane says. “And I’ll always remember that moment of him being like, ‘I think that’s going to be a thing.’”
After meeting Motion City Soundtrack on Warped Tour and opening for them on their most recent anniversary tour, Driver Friendly got the chance to know them not only as their favorite band, but as friends. “It’s just so neat to meet someone you respect so much in what they’ve done and get to know them on a personal level,” Mattern says. “And it’s just bizarre, but in the best way, ‘cause they’re great people.”
Every member contributes equally to the writing process, which Welsh says allows them to filter through all their ideas until they arrive at the best one. Over the years, they have learned each others’ writing tendencies, as well as what battles to pick and when to sit back and let someone else take the reins. “You have to take your ego out of the writing process,” Lane says.
Last summer, Driver Friendly released “Unimagined Bridges,” their first full-length album since signing to Hopeless. Since then, they’ve maintained a constant tour schedule with bands like Transit, Stick Up Kid, Light Years and Hellogoodbye. While they all agree that sleep deprivation and overnight drives are the worst part of touring, it’s worth it to wake up in a new city every day. Welsh says the band is lucky to have the opportunity to make music they’re proud of as a career and show it to the world. “That is the coolest thing, if you really boil it down,” he says. “Whatever response we get is just awesome.”
Most importantly, what really matters to the band is the positive message their music conveys. For them, it’s about chasing dreams. “It’s definitely something we have dedicated most of our lives to, and it’s made all the difference. I think that we are better people for it, and we have experiences that we’ll never forget because of it,” Welsh says. “I think everyone should try to do something they love to the fullest.”