Band of the Day: VIZA

We got told this one is unique. We’ll let them explain why.

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

All over! Our frontman K’noup is from Greece (Kastoria), then grew up in NYC. I am Armenian and from Philadelphia – and all our other members (Shant Bismejian – guitars, Alexan Khatcherian – bass, vocals and Chris Daniel – drums/vocals) are Armenian and from LA. The band is currently based out of LA as well. We are also joined frequently by an original member Jivan Gasparyan (duduk) out of Armenia when travel and schedule permit.

How did you meet?

It’s been a long ride, and lots of different stories to go with that. As the band member filling out this form, I had moved from Philly to LA about 10-11 years ago, and had heard about the group and had seen a show or two as the band had been performing together for a few years by that point with a previous version of the lineup. As luck would have it, I had performed and worked with one of the then-current members, so through that mutual connection and with the unique instrument I played, I was asked to join – and I did! Been a fun journey with my guys all these years.

How long have you been playing as a band?

The project itself started with the band’s frontman Knoup back in around 2001 as more of a general concept, which was early days but helped to establish the foundation for the philosophy of the group’s later years. As an actual active band playing together, doing festivals, touring, being out there etc. It’s probably been about 10 or so years and change. We’ve had a few lineup changes as well over the years, but the core of the group (essentially the guys listed above currently) has stayed intact so we’ve had pretty good continuity for the most part.

Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?

It’s meant to convey the idea of an “audio passport” to the listener, reflecting all the different sounds and cultural influences we bring to the table – but importantly while growing up in the states as part of our respective countries’ diaspora communities (hence the fusion with rock).

What are your influences?

There’s a lot! Ranging from Mike Patton to Rage Against the Machine to System of a Down to Living Colour to Depeche Mode to Tool to Metallica to Gogol Bordello to Queen to various elements of classic rock to Armenian, Greek and middle eastern folk music. We hear how some consider us part of the gypsy rock paradigm, maybe, maybe not? Because of our folk background bands that incorporate some odd time signatures are also big for us as that’s very sincere and natural for our group’s DNA.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

Listen to our songs – we have an anthology type style where songs may not sound at all like one another in some cases. Also, in our project we incorporate not only middle eastern modal styles and melodies, but we also utilise actual instruments such as the oud (fretless string instrument), the duduk (double reed wind instrument) and doumbek (traditional hand drum) in our music with innovative and creative interpretations fusing these sounds and styles with rock.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

Life, love, emotion, experience, travel, overcoming adversity, the travails of touring and working through things together as a band and how strong we are as musicians and people.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

Our live shows are so much fun. We play a very accessible, dancey – but heavy – style of rock fusion music and that has tended to translate incredibly well over our band’s work through the years. Number of shows has to be in the high several hundreds by now…

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

I remember ripping the skin off my hand because of a show that was rocking so hard in Cologne, Germany – I didn’t even notice until we were off stage and saw blood all over my instrument and my finger being ripped open! Other than that, I’d have to say our show with Serj Tankian in Milan was absolutely nuts – what a crowd! Every song we played felt like the climax of our set!

What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

Our guitarist Shant Bismejian uses Gibson guitars and Orange amps. Our bassist Alexan Khatcherian uses Warwick basses and ampeg for amps. I use a Najarian electric oud and the Line 6 PD HD500X for effects – which I must say with the fretless nature of the oud leads to some pretty uniquely textured tones that guitars don’t get.

What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?

We just finished releasing 12 tracks on a monthly basis through our YouTube channel and also split them into two physical 6-song EPs named The Unorthodox Revival with Volumes I and II. We are focusing on promoting and marketing that as we gear up for more shows, festivals, etc.

What are your plans for 2018?

Finish out the year strong with a comprehensive campaign for our 12 tracks/2 EPs, and we are also doing a benefit show named “Feed the Need 6” which is dedicated to helping the homeless in the Los Angeles area on November 21 (night before Thanksgiving). We have done this show several times in the past, and it’s part of our activism and work with our local community to give back and use music as a platform to do some good in the world.

If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!

We are a very modest and hard working group and know it takes a lot to get to where we want to go! With that said, it would be an honor to open for bands like Skindred and Gogol (again!) any of Rage, System, Depeche Mode, etc. We’ve toured twice with Serj Tankian for his solo project which was an absolute blast and were so grateful for his support and belief in our music. In terms of a band to choose to open for us, I’m a big fan of Satellite Citi who has been making some noise lately. With their work ethic and great music I think they can really impress the rock world.

VIZA: facebook | twitter | youtube | bandcamp

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