Interview: Tanner Ropp of Driveaway
Written by Kiersten Gerard
Driveaway is a Florida based pop-rock band composed of Tanner Ropp on bass, Trenton Ropp on lead vocals, and Kyle Tapley on guitar. With honest lyrics and the charm of homegrown production, Driveaway is making a name for themselves despite the challenges presented by Covid-19. We got the chance to sit down with Tanner to chat about their recent release "Summer Song," mental health in music, and how the band found their name.
What is the origin story of Driveaway?
My brother Trenton and I have done music together since we were little but we didn't really start until around middle school. We started playing with our first singer TJ in 2015. We did a few covers, wrote one song together, and played a show for some of our friends. After that show we were like “Oh, maybe this could be a real thing.” Then our drummer Zach came onto the scene and from there we started writing more songs. That’s when Driveaway came into being. Since then we’ve gone through some changes in membership- those guys are both doctors now! Now it's me, Trenton, and our guitarist Kyle.
How did you land on the name Driveaway?
We wanted to find something that was meaningful to us and why we were doing it. We rehearsed in a barn at the time, it was a really cool place. We realized that for all of us, when we were on our way to rehearse there we were driving away from anything that was difficult or stressing us out. It was a safe place. Also at that time we were all making moves in our lives that were a bit scary but necessary. We had to leave behind what we were comfortable with, so there's this idea of leaving behind, or driving away from your past in order to move forward and get to a better place.
Who is the first artist that you really got into?
All of us started on guitar so John Mayer has been a big deal. When it comes to songwriting I know Trenton was really inspired by a Passion Pit concert he went to, that was something that made him take lyrics more seriously.
What has the reception been like for your recent single “Summer Song”?
Releasing things during this time period has definitely been weird because there's no live marketing aspect to it. When you release things when you’re playing shows it’s way easier to get a lot of people excited because you can play the song for them. So we’ve been adapting to that but all in all the reception has been great. People have been adding it to playlists, sharing it, telling us how much it means to them.
What is the song about?
When we write songs we often focus on a narrative that’s not necessarily a specific thing that one of us has experienced. Typically we’ll start with a specific experience but then generalize it in a way that would mean the most to different people. We also look to the people and things happening around us and work from there. This song in particular was written about this idea of a relationship you wish you had experienced in high school and how that might’ve ended. The sentiment came from Trenton, it’s pretty personal to him. So that’s the story behind it, a kind of “What if?” situation.
What does your songwriting process typically look like?
There are always exceptions but generally what happens is we start with instruments first. One of us will sketch out an idea with a general structure and most of the instruments and then we’ll pass it on to the other guys. From there we’ll brainstorm other elements and add vocals. In terms of lyrics, after having that instrumentation somebody will come up with a verse or chorus and we’ll work off that. We don’t really assign roles necessarily, it’s just whoever finds something that fits. I’ve noticed it’s a pretty even split with how lyrics are written.
Have you noticed any recurring themes in your lyrics?
Our first EP Lacuna, content wise, is a pretty separate vibe from what we’ve released since then. Everything from then on has had some relation to mental health. For example, the idea of going through something with your mental health while trying to foster a relationship. it’s difficult to juggle those things. It’s been an ever present theme in our songs. I think “I’m Scared and It’s Okay” is the most straightforward song, it was written when one of us was going through it while in college. It's definitely the most common thread throughout our songs.
What does the future look like for Driveaway? Are you hoping to do this full time?
Absolutely. I’m still finishing up school, Kyle is a teacher, and Trenton has a full time job but we all want to continue supporting this on the side until we get to a point where it can be all we do.
How has the band been impacted by Covid?
It was definitely tough at first. Being a band as small as we are, every release is really important because it’s an opportunity to reach new people if you can hit one of the algorithmic playlists on Spotify. When we have live shows it’s easy to get hype for a new release so that part has definitely been difficult. There's also an almost tangible energy in a room when you’re doing a show and we, as do a lot of other artists, feed off of that. That energy reminds us why we're doing what we do, so not getting to feel it has definitely had an impact on us. That's why it means so much to us when people reach out through instagram and stuff to let us know that our music means something to them. It’s easy to question why we're doing this so it’s really encouraging to have those reminders.
Who are your biggest influences as a band?
Bleachers, SZA, and Troye Sivan. Those three are all informative of the way we’ve been doing stuff. In terms of instrumentation, the most recent Neighbourhood album has been pretty impactful. We’ve been focusing on how to make our sound as big as possible only using the instruments we have rather than relying on these massive synth tracks. The most recent Neighbourhood and SZA albums did a really great job of feeling really big and full with minimal instruments.
What song do you turn to when you’re feeling down? How about when you want to celebrate?
Whenever I’m sad the last thing I want to do is listen to a song I like because I’m nervous I’ll ruin it. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately, so maybe not a single song but the genre as a whole. As for celebrating, I listen to a lot of Anderson .Paak so whatever his recent release is at that time. Right now it would be “Leave the Door Open.” His music always makes me feel excited and want to pick up a bass and play along.
Who is your dream collaboration?
For me personally I’d say Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals because I love their instrumentation. I’m not sure how our music would fit in with that R&B style so as a band I’d say Jack Antonoff. He’s always producing, very prolific.
What are you most excited to do once the pandemic has ended?
Play shows out of town. For the longest time we only played around here and right as the pandemic hit we had just started building momentum around Florida. I’d love to get back to that so we can establish ourselves in Florida, play around the South and establish that, and go from there.
Is there anything in the works to be released soon?
The pandemic has definitely caused us to focus a lot more on finishing songs and producing visual content. We’ve released the video for “Summer Song,” the video for “Is This Letting Go?” and there are definitely more videos in the works. We’ve got some live performance type stuff, some covers, and a yet to be released song that is part of a yet to be released EP. Not sure exactly how we’ll go about releasing the EP but there’s definitely a collection coming out.
Any advice on music and or life in general?
It’s really valuable to collaborate with people outside of your immediate circle of writing because they can see things that you can’t. Also, know when to step back from something. I think we can get into this habit of focusing into a tiny little detail in a song that honestly, nobody’s going to hear the difference between what we’re changing. And by doing that we lose so much time that could’ve spent working on something else. The most important thing about writing is to make sure the message of the song is getting across. Everything else is only supporting that. Once you have the message down you don’t have to focus so hard on everything else. Know when to say that a song is done and let people listen to it however they want to.
Anything to plug?
“Summer Song”! Watch the music video! That’s my plug!
Find Driveaway on Instagram @driveaway and Facebook @DRIVEAWAYBAND