Mr. Highway Band is a rock band based in Athens, Greece, formed in 2011. Their sound is characterized by a mixture of rock, country and blues elements in such a way that defines their unique and personal style. Mr. Highway Band are: Johnny Afendras (Mr. Highway): guitars, Gregory Psaltakos: vocals, Thimios Spiliotopoulos: guitars, Dennis Tsiounis: bass, Jim Tsarnos: drums.
Mr. Highway and the formation of the band
In January of 2011 Johnny Afendras recorded a demo of six songs in a studio in the city of Volos with the help of some friend musicians. The songs of this demo, which he released online as Mr. Highway (after the Audioslave song “I am the highway”) were: 1) If you don’t, 2) Story of my life, 3) Tireless rolling river, 4) Serenity is gone, 5) Walking, 6) Dreamer’s life. In the next few months Mr. Highway made a couple of gigs playing some acoustic versions of his songs.
In May of 2011 one of these songs, “If you don’t”, was chosen in a contest for the opening act of the Bon Jovi concert in Athens in the summer of that year. The band that would finally open for Bon Jovi would be chosen among ten bands after a live show on the 5th of May and that was actually the motive for the formation of a full band. The members were found and the first Mr. Highway Band line up, except for Johnny Afendras, consisted of: Gregory Psaltakos: vocals, Thimios Spiliotopoulos: guitars, Dennis Tsiounis: bass, Alexandros Stavrakoulis: drums, Anna Stereopoulou: keyboards. Mr. Highway Band came first in the vote procedure of the audience, but weren’t finally chosen to play. However, the band continued rehearsing and giving live concerts and also started working on their future material.
Music Highway Festival
In the early 2012 Mr. Highway Band started working on the organization of a music festival as an attempt to find their own space and time in the music scene of Greece. They wanted to create a festival, where they could freely express their music and present their work along with other bands that live and face the same, not so encouraging for rock music, reality. So, in February of 2012 the 1st Music Highway Festival took place in the historic live venue of Athens, Kyttaro Live Club. Music Highway Festival was immediately established as an important music event and was embraced both from the bands and from the public. So far the festival has hosted many bands, not only from Athens, but from all around Greece such as Effigy, The Big Nose Attack, VIC, Daddy’s Work Blues Band, The Rosewood Brothers, The Bullets, Rollin’ Dice, Empty Frame, Beggar’s Blues Diary, 4LT, Penny Dreadful, Dustbowl. Music Highway Festival was also held in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and is now heading towards its fifth realization.
Debut album “Is that myself” and collaboration with Christos Thivaios
Soon after the 1st Music Highway Festival Mr. Highway Band participated in the Hard Rock Rising 2012 contest. The winner would support Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park, London. Mr. Highway Band came first in the greek part of the contest and 23rd in the international classification.
All this time the band continued playing and preparing for the recordings of their first album. In the summer of 2012 Kostas Kalpakis took the place of Alexandros Stavrakoulis behind the drums and Mr. Highway Band started working on their debut album.
The album, entitled “Is that myself” came out as an independent production in September of 2012. It was recorded and mixed at Kim Studio by George Solidakis and Andreas Koulouris and mastered by George Alamaras. The artwork was made by Gregory Psaltakos and the photos were taken by Penelope Tripatzi. Extra musicians that participated in the album recordings were John Pachidis (harmonica), Pantelis K. (keyboards). It contained eight songs, all written (music and lyrics) by Johnny Afendras (Mr. Highway) except for the “Train to North”, which was written by Gregory Psaltakos. 1) No one can bring me down, 2) I’m gonna give you love, 3) Tonight today, 4) Revolution, 5) Train to North, 6) Hard place, 7) Overdose, 8) Maybe sometime. After just one year , a new edition was remastered by John Petrolias and was released.
Right after the release of “Is that myself” Mr. Highway Band started a collaboration with the famous greek singer Christos Thivaios. This project lasted one year and made a rather good impression to the whole public as it was a performance quite experimental and unusual. The band (featuring Maximos Drakos on keyboards) gave about 50 shows all over Greece and Cyprus and gained a big number of fans, selling almost 1000 copies of their album.
While touring with Christos Thivaios, Mr. Highway Band made the opening for the Danish band Baby Woodrose concert in December of 2012.
Second album “Story of my life”
As the collaboration with Christos Thivaios was over, Mr. Highway Band continued giving shows all over Greece, but at the same time started the recordings of their second album. They had been working on the album stuff from the very next day of the release of “Is that myself”.
The new album was released in January of 2014 and was entitled “Story of my life”. It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Sakis Bastas at NoiseBox Studios, Patra, apart from the drums that were recorded at Soundflakes Studios, Athens, by Andreas Koulouris and Nikos Papadopoulos. The artwork was designed by Amalia Theodoropoulou and the photographs were taken by Yiannis Margetousakis. Extra musicians that played in the album were John Pachidis (harmonica), Gutter Case (slide guitar) and Marianna Voulgari (vocals). The album consisted of nine songs, six written by John Afendras and three by Gregory Psaltakos (“Burning desire”, “Burn your bridges”, “Shinny summer”). 1) Cities walk on fire, 2) The river and the town, 3) Story of my life, 4) Burning desire, 5) Walking, 6) Actress, 7) Devil’s road, 8) Burn your bridges, 9) Shinny summer.
In the autumn of 2013, while recording “Story of my life”, the band had another surprising collaboration with the folk singer and lyre player, Georgia Dagaki, a young and talented artist from Crete. This project contained, except the original material of the artists, songs from the greek and cretan music tradition which were played in an experimental, rock oriented way, but also some standards of the american folk tradition that were played with the escort of lyre.
Live album with Christos Thivaios
In the spring of 2014, one year after the band’s project in collaboration with Christos Thivaios, a double live album was released from the newspaper Kyriakatiki Eleutherotypia. It contained thirty four songs and it captured the atmosphere and the feelings of the band’s live shows. Maximos Drakos (keyboards) and Vasso Dimitriou (guitars) are the extra musicians that appear in the album. Aggelos Sfakianakis was the producer for the Mikros Iros Productions. The album was recorded live by Yiannis Baxevanis at KooKoo Live Club ,mixed and mastered by Nikos Papadopoulos at Soundflakes Studios. The artwork was designed by Gregory Psaltakos and the photographer was Yiannis Margetousakis.
In June of 2014 Kostas Kalpakis left the band and Jim Tsarnos took the seat behind the drums. In September of 2014 Mr. Highway Band released their first official video for “Story of my life”.
In January of 2015 members of Mr. Highway Band established the Ramones Greek Fan Club and organized a tribute concert to the Ramones ( “A Night For The Ramones”) in which the band participated along with other fourteen bands of the greek independent music scene. Right now the band continues the “Story Of My Life Tour” and has started working on new material.
2012 Is that myself
2014 Story of my life
2014 Live album with Christos Thivaios