Band of the Day: Kozen

Hard-rocking Canucks Kozen tackle our Band of the Day questions…

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

We are from Toronto, Canada and other towns within the Greater Toronto Area.

How did you meet?

I (Max) met Jericho in university during a philosophy class. He introduced me to Jared, his younger brother. I met Sid while I was checking out guitars at a local music store, and I ended up playing music with him at his church. From there our friend circles kind of started mixing and that’s how I met Jeremy as well.

How long have you been playing as a band?

I consider our first show to have taken place at the start of 2015, but I had already been working on the material since mid 2014. But we’ve had a few lineup changes so some members consider different moments “the beginning.”

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

It’s actually my middle name. I started this as a solo project and as more people got involved and it became a band, I dropped my first name off of the project and decided to just make the band Kozen. In terms of origin, I’m Okinawan, and the name was chosen by my grandfather. You can plug 広善 into your favourite translator and see what meaning you get. Typically I’ve understood those characters to mean “vast virtue,” or “broad goodness.” Something to that effect!

What are your influences?

We have an extraordinarily broad set on influences between all the band members. And I don’t mean “oh we like rock AND punk” or something like that. I think our band is evenly split between metal musicians and gospel musicians. Running down all of our actual influences would be really difficult, but some of the biggest ones that have actually affected our sound would be Linkin Park, Periphery, Incubus, Symphony X, Extol, Ole Borud, Falling Up, John Mayer, Snarky Puppy, Israel & New Breed, Tye Tribbett, and Hillsong United. It’s a weird mix, but that’s what makes us who we are.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

The best description we’ve ever gotten was from Cody from the band Crown Lands, who called us “Singer-Songwriter Jazz Metal.” We do upbeat, melodic metal with fairly dense chord voicings compared to most rock or metal groups. We’re an accessible prog band – if that can be a thing, that lays back on the showoffy stuff and instead chooses to be “progressive” by fusing a lot of different elements together. We’re less about chops and more about songwriting. Most of us have been church musicians to some capacity or another and so we tend to approach music from a communal perspective: how can we make something people can sing along with and participate in. So we’re happy metal, pop-prog, gospel-core, and any number of other seemingly contradictory ideas.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

A lot of our songs deal with personal development and spirituality. Most of the time I’m writing about values, personal struggles, frustrations, and aspirations. I guess most of our songs deal with some kind of existential issue or a worldview piece. And I don’t try to hide the fact that we do come from a Christian background so Christian spirituality factors into our lyrics pretty frequently. The album we’re about to put out deals a lot with overcoming your demons and straining towards some kind of goal – conquering the mountains before you.

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

In terms of our live show, we’ve played a modest number of shows since we’ve been dealing with some long distance between band members for a little while. When we do play, we do try to make it all about the musicianship. We’re not really about gimmicks or anything like that – we’re about making interesting music. Most people seem to agree that a common experience for our audiences is not being sure what kind of music they’re going to hear from moment to moment, since we do span across so many genres. But the common theme is doing music for music’s sake.

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

This may not be the wildest thing I’ve seen, but we were doing a show in Windsor, ON with an experimental hardcore band from Quebec called We Throw Flowers. During their set, their drummer Vincent was playing on a riser that had been decorated with a bunch of really tall lamps. One of those lamps fell and hit him mid song, and in response he stopped playing, smashed the lamp on the ground until the lightbulb burst into flames, threw the lamp to the ground, and then jumped back into the song. That was probably one of the most punk things I’ve seen.

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

Max: Ibanez & ESP Guitars, Randall amps.

Jericho: Ibanez guitars, Hughes & Kettner amps.

Jeremy: Fender basses, Markbass amps.

Sid: Yamaha keyboards

Jared: Pearl drums and Sabian Cymbals

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

We’re currently promoting our new single “To The Wind” which is from our upcoming full-length album A Fearful Wonder. Alongside that, I think we’re promoting the idea of the unity of music across genres, the relevance of rock music 2019, and the value of cross-cultural music making.

What are your plans for 2019?

We’re going to be dropping our next music video [It came out yesterday, see it below! – Mosh] and our new album, having a release show and some other performances, and we’re going to continue writing new music!

Header image by The Trenches Media Inc.

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