Derek Kortepeters AMHERST DRIVE

Multi-instrumentalist is back with solo project

Amherst Drive, which formed in Los Angeles in 2017, is the brainchild of experimental multi-instrumentalist Derek KORTEPETER.

KORTEPETER uses his lifelong influence of growing up with Southern California’s punk music scene to create a sound that is unique and also true to his roots.

Amherst Drive recently released two debut singles named ‘Breakdown’ and ‘Better Way’. These singles are both available on Bandcamp:

Both songs were produced, arranged and written by Derek, as well as the instruments and vocals.

Amherst Drive has exclusively answered a few questions for us !

What prompted you to start a solo project?

In a way I’ve always been a solo artist. Under my name I’ve released a ton of music (3 LPs and 1 EP), and in all of these releases I’ve handled everything from the production to the songwriting to the instrumental performances. I started integrating my singing into my most recent projects and had always wanted to start a punk group, hence Amherst Drive was formed.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley where punk rock had a large presence due to skateboard culture. I myself was a skateboarder for many years, although not very good, mostly was on a longboard cruising haha. But punk has always been a part of my life and as a musician it has both directly and indirectly influenced my approach to music and life in general.

But really I was looking for a new direction musically, as I am known primarily as an experimental/avant-garde composer and musician who makes music that is very progressive but very niche in terms of audience. After I finished my most recent record under my own name, a record called Cataclysm, I was exhausted. The record didn’t do well commercially and I didn’t have passion for music anymore, especially because I put so much of myself into that record.

I honestly was considering walking away from music forever.

I majored in Ethnomusicology with an emphasis in music composition at UCLA, so to want to throw all of my hard work away, such a severe change, meant I needed to stop and take a breath before doing something so drastic. Music is my life, and I decided to re-evaluate my priorities and what I wanted to do creatively.

Punk was the first style of music I ever loved, and I found my passion for music again with the idea of starting a solo punk project. Total creative control and all instruments/vocals performed by me (kinda like a punk version of Nine Inch Nails lol). I was able to channel a lot of the early feelings I got that pushed me into music into the first place.

Amherst Drive is in many ways a rebirth for me. This is a new start and a new direction that I am very excited about. Punk rock is in my blood, it is inseparable from my identity.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Oh man, far too many people from far too many genres haha. For the sake of this interview I’ll keep it to punk influences and even here I’m sure I’m leaving some out.

My earliest punk influences were MXPX, blink-182, and Pennywise. MXPX taught me how to write great melodies while still retaining a punk sound. I was just a kid when I first heard them, and songs like I’m Ok You’re OK had a strong impact on me. blink-182, especially the early early records before Travis Barker had some incredible punk sensibilities. Songs like Lemmings from Dude Ranch were just so damn powerful and really spoke to me.

Pennywise was probably the most vital as they had this rage that really spoke to me. I was a really angry kid dealing with a lot of shit in my personal life, from my mom and I escaping an abusive home caused by my father, to dealing with the struggles of being working class (and sometimes being full-blown poor), to always being bullied at school, mental health issues that I still deal with to this day (I have panic disorder and clinical depression, I’m also a recovering agoraphobic), and ultimately just a general anger at the world for what I’d been through. Pennywise, and punk in general, made me feel like my emotions were valid and that I had a place to belong even though I was a misfit that never fit in anywhere. Punk is great for that. Misfits are always welcome.

Other influences include the Bouncing Souls who in my opinion have created the most beautiful melodies in punk. Bad Religion has always had my heart with songs like Sorrow and those melodic harmonies that they basically pioneered in the genre. Rancid and Goldfinger have always been influences as well, I love their blend of ska and punk into something really unique.

Celtic punk pioneers like Dropkick Murphys are a huge part of my life because of my Irish and Welsh heritage and how they translate Celtic pride and the diaspora experience of being Celtic-American into incredible songs with such diversity and innovation.

Hardcore punk is something that is so vital to me, so much so I wrote a paper in college on it that is still getting cited by students for their own papers which is kinda hilarious. To be recognized as an authority on such a raw genre that never got respect in academia is an honor honestly. Agnostic Front without a doubt is the hardcore band that influenced me the most, they translate aggression in a way that no other NYHC band can. I also love Bad Brains, especially their bravery in experimentation with sounds (like reggae) that aren’t found in punk usually.

Social Distortion is a huge part of my life as a Southern Californian, they have probably the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever heard in punk songs. They are badass, tough, but also guys who can be super introspective and speak in plain terms about the biggest problems we face emotionally.

There are a ton more but we’ll be here all day if I keep going. The last band I’ll mention is an Australian band called Bodyjar. There is no punk group on earth that sounds like these guys, and I consider it an honor to have spoken a few times to their lead singer Cameron Baines. He is a personal hero of mine as a songwriter, so it means a lot that he took the time to talk to me.

If you had to choose between your two singles, which one would you pick and why?

I suppose if I had to choose I’d pick Breakdown. It is more me. I have always had a political/social commentary angle when I write. I’m always ranting in my daily life about everything fucked up in our world, so my music is just another extension of this. My lyrics are traditionally dark, angry, and remorseful, it is really just an extension of my personality. I’m not a drip to hang out with, I hope not anyways haha, but my mind is usually on serious topics. It’s kinda hard for me to be free-spirited, it’s really not my style. So when I sing about society crumbling in an avalanche of corruption, greed, murder, and oppression, that’s just classic Derek Kortepeter shit hahaha.

I want to say though that I’ve come to really love my second single Better Way. I’m not really comfortable expressing emotions that cause me to be more vulnerable, but that song about trying to get the love of your life to come back is an evolution in my songwriting. I’ve never written about love before, maybe because any experience of it has never really been positive, maybe I’ve never experienced it for real to be honest. I’m kind of a dick so it’s difficult to bring the side you hear in Better Way out for people to see. It’d take a special person to do that, and that’s kinda what I was thinking about when I wrote it. I also really love the guitar parts on it, especially the twangy and echo-laden guitar solo

Von: MH
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