In the Fall of 2007, after five years of pavement pounding, Poughkeepsie, New York rock band Mercury Rising was creating a strong local buzz. In a sudden, surprising move, their singer joined the Army and left the group without a frontman. Frustrated, the remaining musicians , guitarist Jim Knauss, bassist Davey Alexander and drummer P.J. Gasperini , started scouring MySpace for a new singer. It wasn't long before they clicked on Archit Tripathi, a real belter with a broad vocal range and a near encyclopedic knowledge of powerful rock.
'I was going to Vassar College, and I was getting really tired of the school's music scene,"says Tripathi. "I was really into stuff like Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and finding other people who could play that and were into the same thing. That just wasn't happening, so I got on MySpace and found these guys." Having jammed together since high school, Knauss, Alexander and Gasperini weren't sure at first how they'd vibe with Tripathi. But as soon as the singer sat down with an acoustic guitar, all skepticism was instantly erased. "He did some cover songs and totally nailed 'em," says Gasperini. "So we all started jamming and everything clicked."
Inspired to start anew, the band changed their name to SUGAR RED DRIVE, a combination of powerful words that have come to mean more than they did when the name was chosen, and began writing new songs. The resulting tracks, an energized feast of blaring, infectious rock and earnest, sincere songcraft. "Wicked Sister" is propelled by chugging guitar salvos and a catchy, harmonized chorus, the first single "One More Time" features churning riffage and snarling lead vocals, "Red Machine" is all about good time, keg tapping grooves and ecstatic guitar volleys and "Millers Child" strikes an emotional chord with delicate acoustic strumming and heartrendingly vulnerable vocals.
"We're all huge music fans, and that's our sole criteria for writing songs," says Tripathi. "We go, If this wasn't written by us would this be something we would enjoy listening to as fans of music?" "We write everything collectively," adds Gasperini. "And we try to mix all of our individual influences into one song so everything's very diverse. One song could have more of a grungier feel and the other could be more poppy. Our sound is modern, edgy rock ." Often, when rock bands operate as a democracy it takes a long time for everyone to agree on the elements and arrangements for individual songs. But for Sugar Red Drive, jamming as a unit is a cohesive and surprisingly productive process. Some of the first riffs they came up with immediately gelled into "One More Time," and many other tracks came just as quickly. "When inspiration strikes, we've actually written entire songs in under an hour," Tripathi says.
In addition to featuring music that's immediate and hard hitting, the band's new material also includes thoughtful and evocative lyrics cultivated in part from Tripathi's unique upbringing. The son of an Indian diplomat, the singer was born in Zambia, then moved to a new country every three years, India, Hungary, Sweden, India again and Venezuela, where he graduated from high school. Upon being accepted at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, he moved to the U.S. while his family went from Oman to Brazil. "I feel like my upbringing gave me some great opportunities to see a lot of things most people don't get to see," Tripathi says. "It has given me a global perspective, and one of the things I've noticed is that people everywhere are just trying to get by. All the differences between people are about language and maybe the foods we eat, but at the core of it we're all the same." This underlines the universal nature of the band's music and lyrics, something new but soothingly familiar at the same time.
In the summer of 2007, Sugar Red Drive entered Applehead Studios (Coheed & Cambria, The Static Age) in Woodstock, New York with longtime songwriter and producer Pat Gasperini (drummer PJ's father). And while the members suffered some initial studio jitters, they soon conquered their fears and had the time of their lives. From the moment they finished recording Sugar Red Drive has been on a skyward arc. They've received overwhelmingly positive receptions opening for Seether, Theory of a Deadman, Live and Fastball, and when they haven't been playing out, they've been dedicatedly rehearsing to hone their craft.
For Sugar Red Drive, playing music isn't a pastime or a party outlet; it's a full on lifestyle, a passion to be pursued with every ounce of strength and energy. In other words, these guys are on a mission and nothing's gonna stop 'em. "We want to make people go to our shows and buy our records. It's never gonna stop," states P.J. "We want to be here for the next 25 to 30 years like Aerosmith. We're here for the long haul."