Jess carson, Cameron Duddy, and Mark Wystrach, a.k.a. Midland, are arguing about L.A. traffic. “You should take La Brea over to Sunset,” Duddy, the band’s bassist, says from the back seat of a fire-engine-red Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.
“No, not La Brea,” says lead singer Wystrach, who’s driving. “We want La Cienega — or, no, Crescent Heights.”
All three guys currently call Austin home, but they used to live in L.A. So the drive up into the Hollywood Hills is also a trip down memory lane as they point out where friends lived, parties raged, and Wystrach nearly died in a motor-cycle accident. The Gladiator’s removable roof panels and doors are off — consider it a convertible that also happens to have a five-foot steel bed and a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds. “This truck would be pretty badass in Texas,” Wystrach says.
A stop for lunch at the Laurel Canyon Country Store leads to talk of the band’s new album, Let It Roll, which is informed by their growing pains over the past several years. The song “Playboys,” for instance, touches on their early days touring: “Out here you get used to losing/Your friends, your lovers, and your mind.”
“It’s an autobiographical song about driving around in a pickup with our equipment in the bed — not even a tarp over it,” Carson says. “The road is a beast that gets its claws in you and wants to keep you out there. It can be a seedy, dark existence.” Today, though, the trio are all family men, and life on the road looks different. Carson is even selling some old pickup trucks to help pay for a tour bus, so his wife and kids can ride with him. “The biggest bummer would be that the three of us wouldn’t be on the same bus,” he says to his bandmates — then pauses. “Well, maybe I could still ride with you guys.”