Founded over a decade ago by a pair of AC-DC adoring brothers, Eve to Adam has borne the heavy metal torch into the 21st Century with nary a glance over their shoulders.
Featuring Taki Sassaris (vocals), Alex Sassaris (drums), Gaurav Bali (lead guitar), Adam Latiff (rhythm guitar), and Luis Espaillat (bass), the Astoria, New York band first blipped onto rock’s radar screen with 2001’s Auburn Slip and 2003’s Antidote. They pushed themselves further on 2010’s Queens to Even and 2011’s Banquet for a Starving Dog, scoring a minor hit with “Reach” and earning coveted spots on tour in support of alt-rock heavies like Candlebox, Saliva, Daughtry, Hinder and Halestorm. They’ve done festivals like Rocklahoma and Rock on the Range, racked up over 115,000 “likes” on Facebook, and received an impressive half-million hits on You Tube. So it’s fair to say the guys have paid their dues.
Eve to Adam’s forthcoming sixth album, Locked & Loaded, finds the Astoria five-piece transitioning from ever-ready openers to an in-demand headlining act in their own right. The first single, “Straightjacket Supermodel,” is an irresistibly catchy calling card whose Frankie Nassi-directed music video stylishly melds vamp with violence in homage to heavy metal clips of old. The follow-up single, “Immortal,” will likely garner just as many spins on Sirius Satellite and mainstream terrestrial rock radio.
The Examiner caught Taki between gigs for a phone chat in advance of the group’s August 8th show with Texas Hippie Coalition at Peabody’s Downunder. The singer was clearly in a good mood, ready to reflect on the road behind—but eager to take the next step forward.
CLEVELAND MUSIC EXAMINER: Hey, Taki! If our calendar is correct, you guys are somewhere between shows in Richmond, Virginia and Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
TAKI: Yes, but we were actually able to reroute and come to New York for the day off. So yeah, my label’s based out here. My manager wanted to have a quick meeting about the video for the new single and other stuff going on [laughs]. As you start doing well, there are always more and more things going on! We’re just trying to keep up with it all, you know what I mean?
CME: Locked & Loaded drops in September. Can you tell us a bit about writing and recording the album?
TAKI: Making the new album was the most fun experience we’ve ever had making one in our career. We got the opportunity to work with thee different individuals who are all top-tier professionals in the industry, with their production and songwriting. We started the process off by working with Mr. Eric Bass of Shinedown. We co-wrote “Straightjacket Supermodel” with him, and that pretty much set the parameter, the bar for the material that would make the record. So we took that from South Carolina down to Orlando, Florida to work with Elvis Baskette, who is world-renowned for his work with Chevelle, Three Days, Grace, Saliva, Incubus. The man’s responsible for 25 million records sold! So he knows how to helm the board pretty well. And we went down there with “Straightjacket Supermodel” and other demos we’d written during our time off from the Creed tour, and just had a great time working with him. We needed somebody we’d have an instant chemistry with; it makes the music a lot easier. He became part of our family—essentially a sixth member of the group. From there, we were able to tour with Halestorm and In This Moment, and got to play a couple songs we’d written with Elvis. We were able to play “Straightjacket” and a couple others in our opening set, and that gave us a chance to see how the crowd would react to some of this material. And it was all positive, so we were like, “Okay, we’re going in the right direction here!” So Gaurav and I got on a plane the next day—December 16, 2012, at the end of the Halestorm / In This Moment Tour—and flew out to Malibu, California to write with Mr. Dave Bassett for a week. And that’s where we came up with three more songs: “Immortal,” “Let’s Burn,” and “Shut Out the World.”
CME: So the album started filling out….
TAKI: After the holiday we were able to go back to Malibu and produce those with him at NRG Studios, and we finished the entire Locked & Loaded sessions between mid-January and the end of February. Then we got back with Elvis to finish some of the songs we’d done with Dave—and songs we’d written in between—and basically Elvis was the guy who pulled it all together. He mixed the entire album and did some additional production on some things that needed it. So really, it was like a Christmas wish list for a kid, sitting there wanting to do this, and then being able to take your career to the next level. Because wanting to do it and getting the opportunity to do it are two different things. We were blessed to have the opportunity to work with these guys. All the energy, and all that determination and passion we felt over a decade-plus—this was the payoff, being able to go in the studio and work with guys who’ve done stuff with the top talents in the industry. People you’ve revered for the last 7-10 years. So we gave it everything we got! When you’re forced with circumstances in your life that give you get this opportunity to realize these aspirations you’ve always had, you just rise to the occasion, push your boundaries, and maybe come up with a few things you never thought you could. And that’s this album, Locked & Loaded.
CME: Song-for-song, this is probably your best work yet. But it’s your fifth album; you’ve been working it for ten years.
TAKI: Yeah. It’s the fifth album for us.
CME: How’d it all start? You’re based in New York now, but you and Alex started in Florida, right?
TAKI: Absolutely, yeah. My brother and I grew up in Florida, as you said. I went to the Miami School of Music, and my brother later joined me down there after he finished high school. I was in the business program at the School of Music and studying composition down there, and I needed to get an internship for my degree program. So through a friend of mine who was studying guitar—he was working with songsmith Desmond Child—I was able to get an internship at his publishing and entertainment company down there. Basically, one thing led to another and he heard some demos I’d done while I was working in his office, and he became interested in developing my brother and I as a duo.
CME: Is it true Alex started on guitar before switching to drums?
TAKI: I don’t know how you heard that, but yeah—that’s the absolute truth! Almost like the Van Halen story in a way.
CME: Right! Alex Van Halen started on guitar before switching to drums, leaving Eddie to take up guitar instead. Thank God for that.
TAKI: Yeah, yeah! Alex just came to find he preferred playing the drums, because he loved just beating the crap out of them! So that’s where that started! And what happened with Desmond was, it was a great developmental period for us, and we quickly realized that being so young—18 and 20 at the time—if we were to come into the music business, we’d have to do it playing the music we wanted to do. And even at that young age we knew enough to realize we couldn’t do the pop stuff. It just wasn’t gonna sit with us. Especially at that time, because we were getting into bands like Tool and Foo Fighters, who’d just come out. That was the direction we wanted to go in. So it was an easy decision for us. I know a lot of people think, “Wow! You’re at the Golden Gate! You don’t have to go around!” Well yeah, we did—because whatever we did, we really had to believe in it. And the stuff we were doing with Desmond at the time really wasn’t us; it wasn’t gonna age well with us.
CME: Yeah, you have to follow your muse—which probably wasn’t easy when the chance of commercial success presents itself in front of you at that young age.
TAKI: Absolutely. We had to. So we went to New York, and that’s where we found Gaurav, our guitar player. He’s from New Jersey. We quickly got a rehearsal room and started auditioning guys, and when knew when he came in and played the demos we’d recorded better than the guy on the tape, well, he was our guy!
Watch the video for “Run Your Mouth (Acoustic):” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhExWQhjAvw&feature=player_embedded
CME: Who were your influences as a singer?
TAKI: For me it all began with Axl Rose. I saw and heard him when I was 12 or 13 years old, and that was it. For us, it’s a combination of Axl Rose and James Hetfield [Metallica]. And Eddie Vedder, when he came out with Pearl Jam. He was just such an energetic performer. So for us really it’s late ‘80s rock, hard rock, then into the early grunge stuff. We grew up in that interesting period of time. We didn’t think, oh, “hair metal,” or realize when one era was changing into another, you know? When you’re kids you just listen and think, “Hey, I really like this band.” We didn’t know we were growing up when things were switching over from metal to grunge. We just thought these were some kick-ass bands, and that was it! But obviously, things can change so quickly, you know?
CME: Vedder was a nut—and still is—climbing on top of PA speakers and hand-holding his way across rafters during shows.
TAKI: Yeah! And that’s what captured my imagination as a kid, the way he’d attack a stage. His apparent reckless disregard for his own endangerment! It was just unbelievable, you know what I mean?
CME: I remember reading some Pearl Jam stuff where [bassist] Jeff Ament and the other guys would watch Eddie go off to do some stunt like that and think, “Oh no—there he goes again.” They’d keep playing, but for a while they were convinced Eddie would kill himself.
TAKI: He really took that to a different level. There were really big stage shows with lights and sound—but there was a real primal, animal aspect to it, like an Iggy Pop. That’s something Eddie Vedder definitely introduced me to.
CME: Tell us about the video for “Straightjacket Supermodel.” You’ve got a couple great-looking girls there, and one of them is a dominatrix who keeps the other like pet. You think there’s going to be this steamy love connection going on, then BAM! Out comes the axe.
TAKI: Ha! Yep. Well, the video was partly inspired by the show Dexter, which I’m a really big fan of. And we were writing the track with Eric Bass, and the song just took on kind of an eerie, crime scene quality. And I thought it’d be cool to write a song coming from the point of someone like Dexter, and what runs through his head when he’s about to take someone out, or whatever [laughs]. So when it came to put together a concept for the video, we knew just from growing up that all the best videos had hot women, and a few action-based things to them. Loud guitars, and chicks, and some sort of action that you never quite forget. So we caught some people off guard with that, but honestly I think all the hard rock fans we’ve encountered over the summer have been adamant in telling us how much they enjoyed it, and how much it reminded them of old school rock videos. Those were the components for it, and I know there’s some who think, “Oh, this is really ‘80s and clichéd.” But there are guys who keep trying to invent the wheel, and for us there have always been those staples that always worked in the genre. Things we enjoy. I’m a fan of horror, and I love hot chicks and rock guitars! So there’s the “Straightjacket Supermodel” video!
CME: I think most reasonable people will get it. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and underscores the music pretty well. And the lyrics tap that old femme fatale thing; everybody knows someone with that beautiful-but-crazy ex-girlfriend.
TAKI: Pretty much! She’s a crazy hottie. Oh yeah.
Watch the “Straightjacket Supermodel” video here (mature viewers): http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DOMai3MH_uk
CME: Now it’s on to the tour with Texas Hippie Coalition. You’re only a couple dates in, but how’s it going with Big Daddy Rich and those bad boys?
TAKI: It’s been a really great surprise. You never know what to expect when you go into these situations. They’re a band that we…when we got the offer we were really excited about it because they’re a different genre. They’re harder metal and they’ve got that southern sensibility to them. And us being from New York, it’s an interesting intersection of culture. But it’s ironic. We’re similar in a lot of ways, too, in the way we approach our music and our performances. They’ve very dynamic, and very dedicated to putting on great shows. A lot of things in common. We’re eight shows into this tour, and we’ve already become friends, which is awesome. It makes the chemistry so much better, and everything kind of waterfalls into the show. Having that kind of positivity behind the scenes without the unnecessary trauma and bullshit really allows an artist to focus on why they’re there. And why are we there? To provide the best possible hard rock and metal show that $20 can buy. You get that audience in the venue and give ‘em the best show they can hope for this summer. It’s also interesting because we didn’t quite know how the audience would react to our sound, but they’ve been very receptive, very appreciative of that fact that we do have a different sound. So it’s not two bands that sound almost exactly the same. So it’s not fatiguing on the ear in that sense. And we’re exposing them to something new that’s coming around the corner by playing the new record in its entirety, live. And that’s a unique challenge for a band that never played these songs in front of an audience before, because the audience doesn’t know the material—and quite a few of them are hardcore, biker-style metal fans who are into Texas Hippie Coalition. So you really elevate your game and put your best foot forward to get your message across. And I’ll tell you what: As intimidating as it may look on the outside, it’s actually an awesome experience. We’re learning a lot and gaining new fans that we never would’ve had otherwise.
CME: It’s always cool to discover a new band at a show. It’s got to feel cool to actually be one of those bands making that kind of visceral connection.
TAKI: The greatest thing you can hear is, “I’m so glad I came tonight and saw you guys—I feel like I just saw the next big thing.” So you’ve got to keep pushing hard and taking things to the nth degree every night. And it’s not going people’s heads. They’re enjoying it. So we’re hoping for more dates with these guys; we’ve talked about doing a second leg in the fall. Big Daddy Rich has a great personality onstage. He’s very charismatic. He’s a singer with a hell of a voice. And I enjoy our late night conversations together, because he’s someone I’m actually learning a lot from, and anytime you’re in an environment where you feel like you’re culturing yourself and expanding your horizons by being around your contemporaries is a healthy, artistic situation!
Texas Hippie Coalition with Eve to Adam. Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at Peabody’s Downunder (2045 E. 21st Street, Cleveland OH . 6:30pm. Tickets $10.00 / $13.00 DOS.