One of the best things about live music in Los Angeles is that without any expectations, you can stumble upon a band that completely reaffirms your belief that great music isn’t only found on the radio.
Music bills across LA, the Sunset Strip, and Hollywood are ripe with respectable unsigned talent, but few come out the gate swinging as hard as Blackmore. Named after the legendary British guitarist, this one-year-old LA rock band has all the elements to be a major player in the hard-rock circuit — including veteran guitarist & producer Sonny Mayo (Sevendust/Snot) at the helm in the studio — and they showed off their wares Friday night, January 3rd, at West Hollywood’s Troubadour.
Based on pure musicianship and the vocal quality of frontman Adrian Barrios, Blackmore’s live show is on track to rival even the most seasoned bands in hard rock and metal. The addition of a violinist to a set heavy enough to insight most pits was the unique touch that not only piqued my interest, but had an impressively packed Troubadour floor swarming.
Punctuated by the insane guitar duo of Vahan Aslanyan and Shaunt Sulahian, tracks that employed the violinist, such as “Beautiful Hurricane,” were almost reminiscent of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra – except this you’d actually listen to all year long.
I snagged a few words with the guys before they hit the stage last Friday for the first (hopefully) annual Animalistic concert celebrating LA’s local music scene. Here’s what the band had to say about their debut EP, plans for 2014, and linking up with Sonny Mayo.
How long have you guys been together in this band?
All: One year.
So brand new. How did you all come together for Blackmore?
Vinny Mezian (drums): A couple of us in a garage. Dave I knew from high school…
Shaunt: We found Adrian online, and it just worked out. [Laughs]
David Dadoyan (bass): It was like “Male Looking for Four Males.” [Laughs]
Did you really find him online?
Shaunt: Yeah, we did.
I’m always amazed how many bands find their members on sites like that. Did you ever come across someone from one of those sites that just drastically didn’t turn out? Any horror stories?
All: Yeah — all the time.
Shaunt: Well, except this one [pointing to Adrian]. We went through some people before we found him, too.
Adrian: I was actually in a band already because I auditioned for five bands that month, so I had actually already said “Yes” to another band.
Adrian: Awww, I’m not gonna tell you. But then I auditioned for these guys, and I liked these guys better.
Vinny: I remember that. When we heard Adrian, we were like, “Fuck, he’s auditioning for other bands too, man.” We knew that he was the one — we were just hoping he saw it, too.
So for people who haven’t seen you guys, how do you describe Blackmore?
Vahan: Fun and intense. Intense bass playing, crazy vocals, melodic guitars… It’s something familiar, but different. That’s the best way I can explain it.
David: We give you the musicianship, and we give you the stage presence. Honestly, I think that’s what it’s really about. We’re covering those bases, so we’re pretty happy.
Shaunt: I really like adding melodies to songs. As heavy as you get, ya know, I feel like a song is based on vocal melody. That’s what makes a good song.
Do you guys consider yourselves more rock, more metal, melodic metal…?
All: Hard rock!
Vahan: It’s something that anyone can listen to because it still has the clean singing and stuff like that, but at the same time, being music nerds, we still want to make it technical and nice — something that pleases us.
Vinny: Everybody lives and breathes their instruments.
So what really makes you different than other hard rock or active rock bands on the circuit?
Adrian: We can play our shit live.
Vinny: Everybody comes from a different background in music. Adrian has classic rock appeal, I have very intricate metal drumming, Dave has that Tool bass feel going on. These guys [Shaunt and Vahan] have the Euro-metal going on.
Adrian: I think what makes us different is that you’ve got a lot of people out there nowadays — guitar is really popular, everyone loves it, and they’re all out there doing their thing — but what definitely attracted me to this band is [that] Shaunt does a lot of writing. I’ve heard a lot of people play a lot of music — I’m a little older than they are — and I really like the stuff he writes. It’s really unique. It’s out there, and that’s what makes a good band good anyways. The rest of us all know our shit, so together, it’s a good force, ya know?
Shaunt: Honestly, we gotta focus on good songwriting. If you write a good song, people will genuinely feel it. Once people know it’s a good song, they come out and support it. That’s how a good band is established.
Sonically how are you guys different than what’s already out there in this genre?
Vahan: Like I said before, it’s different, yet familiar. You’ll listen to it and be like, “I don’t know what it is about this…but I like it.” It’s that tingly feeling you get in your stomach when you just know…
David: That’s what it did to us. All of us are our hardest critics already….
Shaunt: At the end of the day, we want to mix classic rock with modern metal. I feel like that’s not out there that much anymore, and it’s something we want to bring back.
Is that something you want to do being the “classic metal guy,” Adrian?
Adrian: Yes. I’m influenced by a lot of classic and grunge singers like Chris Cornell, who’s one of my favorite singers. And of course Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant…classic. It’s definitely classic. That’s my foundation, and then I try to take it and evolve it into more of a modern feel.
Are most of you from LA?
Adrian: I’m from New York originally. I moved here two years ago.
Shaunt: Born and raised.
Vahan: Two years.
Do you guys embrace being an “LA” band?
Adrian: I don’t know. I mean, we started here, so it’s our home turf, I guess you could say. We could be from anywhere — it doesn’t really matter to us. As long as our music is heard by the masses, who cares where it’s from?
Vinny: A lot of people argue that the music scene is dead, but frankly, from what were seeing, LA has been giving us a lot of love.
Vahan: Like this event right here. When we originally decided to do Animalistic 2014, we wanted it to be an annual thing and an event where more local bands can do this and come and support other local bands, like how it was back in the ’90s. People would genuinely come out to see bands like System of a Down and all those bands before they were anything.
So what exactly is Animalistic?
All: It’s one of our songs…and a yearly show.
Shaunt: I feel like bands don’t really hustle anymore. We really want to hustle and pull through, so we can bring back the scene, ya know?
How did you guys get linked up with Sonny Mayo (Sevendust/Snot)?
Shaunt: My old band called up the Whisky because we wanted to record, and they had a guy named Jeff Hannan [who] was running a studio in Studio City called Mid City Studios, and that day, by coincidence, Jeff Hannan had to go in and do something on Glee, so the substitute was Sonny Mayo. Since then, I’ve been in and out of bands and kept in touch with him, so I hit him up and let him know that I was in a new band and asked if he would help us out. He said he’d love to.
Did you take any of his band’s influences into Blackmore’s music?
Shaunt: Definitely. We definitely have some Sevendust flavor in there
That’s not a bad thing at all…
David: Not a bad thing at all.
Vahan: He’s cool. I really like his style. He really knows how to make every instrument sing, and he really knows how to create real space in the music.
Vinny: He’s the ideal mentor for a band. He’s like an older brother to us. He helps us do what we want to do.
Vahan: We didn’t want five guys and a producer. We wanted a sixth member of the band, ya know, and he fit perfectly.
Shaunt: And in LA, it’s practically impossible to find a genuinely nice guy like him. We’re so thankful.
So what’s the plan? Are you guys going to tour?
Adrian: Yes. After the EP.
And when is that coming out?
Adrian: We’re actually recording next week, so probably around March. Late February or March. We want to hit the East Coast first in the summer because when it gets cold there, it sucks. So we’ll hit that all summer, then come back to the West Coast.
Well, hopefully we’ll see you guys on a bill with Sevendust some time.
So final question: why the name Blackmore?
Vahan: You don’t know? Ritchie? Deep Purple?
Shaunt: Honestly, we love the guy and his style is freaking awesome, but we don’t want to be directly associated with him.
Adrian: It’s just a badass name.
David: We’re actually thinking of changing all of our last names to Blackmore, kinda like the Ramones.
Blackmore will release their debut EP this spring. Keep up with the band for tour dates and EP updates at BlackmoreLA.com.