Mr. Highway Band were formed in 2011 by Johnny Afendras in Athens. They perform a mixture of rock, blues, country and folk americana adding their own signature too. In early 2012 they began organizing their own music festival, the realization of which gave them and to other bands as well the opportunity to express freely their music. The 7th Music Highway Festival is taking place this year on February 16th at KYTTARO Live Club in Athens. On stage with Mr. Highway Band will be also The Jet Black, Rusty Bonez and Grey River & The Smoky Mountain.
The 7th Music Highway Festival is on the way! I guess this has been a big bet considering the situation from various perspectives. What is your experience these last 7 years regarding the Festival and what kind of commitment is it required since you also have a band to run?
Music Highway Festival is an experiment that started 7 years ago. We wanted to create a festival that would meet the requirements we have as musicians and music fans as well. An independent festival where all bands would feel free to present their work under ideal conditions. Our first value is the respect of the musician and the audience. This is the 7th MHF, which means that the festival is recognized and loved by more and more people every year and we are very happy about it and also determined to continue this effort. We don’t separate MHF from our band. It’s literally the same thing and we are equally devoted to both of them.
Your last album ‘The Rebel Artist‘ (Los Almiros Records, 2017) gained positive reviews and Mr. Highway Band earned the respect even from those who are not fans or not aware of the genre. First of all, do you think this genre “difficult” for the Greek audience?
Surely, in our country there is not a large audience for the kind of music we play. But during the last years the Greek music scene is thriving, with many great bands that have crossed the borders, and this has as a consequence that the audience is getting bigger and bigger and the local bands are constantly more recognized.
You have dealt with some social issues in this record and the title itself implies a direction to such issues. What is a rebel artist and which are your main influences when writing the lyrics?
The main reason we play music and we write songs is that through them we are trying to express ourselves, to talk about the things that worry us, to think about solutions and ways to change our lives. So, for us it is natural that most of the times, even if it’s not clear, our songs concern social issues. The rebel artist is this man that never rests and never stops his quest, the one that overcomes his own creations in order to look for something new and different. It’s a man who doesn’t believe in a dogma, but is open to every new experience, even if he has to get over his own beliefs. So, for us is a concept that can be applied both in art and in the field of the society and politics and that’s why we chose it as a title.
If I’m correct, blues is a revolutionary genre both technically and considering its history and context. In your opinion, what keeps it still powerful and at the same time popular in different cultures?
It’s a music that was born by slaves to express the pain of life, but also the hope for a better world. These two things continue to exist today, people all over the world are fighting against many forms of oppression and are trying to create new ways of life and social organization that will bring them to a better situation than the one they live right now. So, a musical genre that has absolutely expressed these feelings and these struggles is reasonable to be up to date and still powerful.
Your musical style includes also sub-genres such as country, americana and rock. You have also collaborated with Greek artists who utilize the traditional Greek sound. Do you consider repeating this mixture of rock and Greek folk sounds in the future?
We are always open and ready to experiment with our sound. Everything that comes to our ears and touches our heart can find its place in our music. Right now I think that we have found exactly what we want to do and how we want to sound, but what will happen in the future we really don’t know.
Are you working on new material for a future release yet?
Yes. We are always working on new songs. In the next few months we are going to release a 7’’ vinyl with two songs of our first two albums that we are going to record again in an entirely different way. And then we ‘ll start thinking about our next full album.
On February 16th the 7th Music Highway Festival includes of course you and other also respected bands of rock and folk/americana. What do you expect this year and what can the audience expect from you?
This year’s line up includes Grey River & The Smoky Mountain, Rusty Bonez and The Jet Black. All of them are new bands that have just released, or are about to release, their first album. And that’s exactly the meaning of our festival: to give a chance to some of the best new bands of the Greek music scene. What do we expect? A night full of good music, from country & bluegrass to hard rock and garage, and full of good friends, old ones and new ones.
You have already been on a small tour earlier this year. Will you continue your live appearances after the Festival in other cities?
Yes. Our aim is to have as many live shows as we can this year. The first of them will be announced right after our festival.
Thank you for your time! Add anything you wish to close this interview.
Thank you very much! Listen to good music and we hope to see you soon some place around!!!
Photo credits: Chris Kissadjekian (2nd one)