By Stephanie Stevens
DISCIPLES OF BABYLON came together in Los Angeles, Ca back in 2012 with their hard rock/alternative sound. The guys, Eric Knight-vocals/guitar, Ramon Blanco-guitar, Gui Bodi-bass and Chris Toeller-drums went to work on making music with urgent storylines and promient and moving music scapes that made music fans and critics connect and take a serious interest in the band. Through the years they released the bands introduction EP WELCOME TO BABYLON which showcased elegance in vocal ability with the song ARRIVED. the guitar rock presence of the hard n melody driven salute of KARMA and the soaring and emotionally high energy vibe of THE GREAT PRETEND. In 2017 the guys released a full length disc THE RISE AND FALL OF BABYLON, an album that was filled with lyrical content to try to make America aware that our country was in trouble. The album was driving with hard rock elements, bolstering with huge sound, flawless vocal integrity and just a really impressive creation of songs with a powerful meaning to them all.
Its been three years and the band has finally stepped back into the rock scene with a song that is a direct reflection of what is happening in our country today! LIBERTY. The emotional deliverance is profound especially in the essence of the vocal passages. The band hasnt detoured from delivering that hard rock sensibility with melodic tones. DISCIPLES OF BABYLON is one band with the courage and fight in them to help spread awareness and positivity in the most chaotic world most of us have ever lived in.
I was honored to speak with the band about current issues, the new single, future music and having one of the members taking the producer hat for the song LIBERTY.
Q: First off are you all still living in Los Angeles, California and for you guys how is the atmosphere and vibe as you see it since the start of 2020?
Chris Toeller: Yes, we are all still in Los Angeles. It’s been a pretty crazy year for everyone, to say the least. The fires in Southern California certainly made it even weirder. All of the craziness can be very distracting, and it affected all of us, individually, in different ways. As a collective, however, I think it has been great to continue working on new music because it distracts us from the distractions (momentarily) but also because the intentions behind our music are even more relevant to the things that are happening in our world around us.
Eric Knight: Well, 2020 started off on the right track, new decade, new outlook, but then we floored it straight to a red light. But as everyone else has been doing, we’ve been trying to navigate around it. It’s going to be an interesting few months into 2021. It’s definitely been a challenge, but I feel now more than ever, we’ve been working as a team to keep moving forward and that has been the most exciting part for me.
Q: A few years back you guys wrote an epic album entitled RISE AND FALL OF BABYLON. 7 songs back then speaking of issues of how America is spinning out of control. How does it feel knowing you pretty much wrote a prequel to the year 2020?
Chris Toeller: To be honest, it’s saddening in some ways. The fact that it has been apparent for such a while now that our world is “spinning out of control,” but as a society, we have just continued to let it happen right before our eyes says a lot about just how much we really care. While we are not fully in control of what happens in our own countries or around our world, together still we have the power and responsibility to produce the change we want to see. TRAFOB was a call to action to everyone around the world to own that power.
Gui Bodi: I’m not particularly a political guy, I find it really hard to keep up with everything politics, it’s a different type of scandal everyday, plus finding a good and trustworthy source of journalism is nearly impossible nowadays, but it wasn’t that hard to see where world politics and their economic roots were taking us back then.
In my opinion, impunity and lack of accountability are what brought us to this point in human history, because even when we expose corruption we can’t manage to dismantle the system which allowed it in the first place, nor persecute those involved in it. I feel only small fish get accounted for, never the big ones. It would be naive of us to think there’s one simple solution to all this mess, but definitely more meaningful changes to the core of our political and economic systems are needed.
Eric Knight: The signs were there for a long time coming, only it had been accelerated by the pandemic and the current administration or lack thereof. Our music and songs have always tried to be a mirror and reflect on what is happening in the world around us. We try and have a positive outlook within the framework of our music. Unity over division is our goal.
Q: Your newest single is called LIBERTY, when you sat down to write this song what was the number one thing concerning you at the time and what do you hope people will get and understand from this song?
Eric Knight: Well the concerning thing was where the country was and is currently heading. We are dangerously close into entering a potential civil war. It’s almost as if the planets have aligned themselves for it. I was inspired by the famous speech from Patrick Henry that he gave from Virginia in 1775, in which he declared, “give me liberty, or give me death”. When I had the original melody for this song in my head, that phrase just came into my head and stuck. Once something like that happens for me, and I can’t get it out of my head, is when I know I have something solid to present to the guys, and it just evolved from there. Ultimately, ‘Liberty’ is something that we’re all after, no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall into. The trick is trying to unite people as opposed to dividing them, which unfortunately is what is currently happening now.
Q: Having a platform where you can talk about the issues of the world, how hard is it for you to put a spin of hope and unity into the world when the world is so divided and chaotic?
Chris Toeller: The reality is that there will be a day when most of the issues we’re facing today will no longer exist. Who knows how long it might be until then, but the day will come. As the most powerful species on this planet, it is our responsibility to empathize with and love all so that it becomes our norm to respect ourselves, our planet, and all those who inhabit it. So, while it can be very difficult to have hope in these times, hope and unity are inevitable. We may not be around to enjoy it when it happens, but that should not minimize our responsibility to continue to make progress towards these goals.
Gui Bodi: I believe mentally balanced and healthy people are inherently good, we lose that aspect of our humanity when we are mentally sick or as a response mechanism to an abusive environment. I’m very privileged to have had a good education and a carrying family, so I understand the transformational power education and love put together. That’s our main mission as a band and as people with a platform, to make people realize those things and fight for their rights to have access to both of them.
Eric Knight: It’s a challenge especially when everything looks so bleak, but we always are trying to find that silver lining within our music. There has got to be hope! One of the reasons why I got into this business was because music is the only medium that I am aware of in which you have people that are from every race and religious as well as political background. I find it interesting and ironic that politics and religion divides people, music unites them. That’s why I’m doing this, that is why we’re doing this. We want to try and make that small contribution with our music to help accomplish just that.
Q: If you could fix one injustice in the world what would it be and why?
Gui Bodi: Like I mentioned above, I’d start with education. I mean all levels of education and knowledge, like academic, emotional, spiritual etc. I believe that’s where we should start to have a fighting chance at all other aspects of life in our modern society.
Eric Knight: Poverty and hunger. I know that’s two but there are two that I feel strongly about. There should be no reason in this day and age for anyone to go without food and shelter, not in this interconnected world that we are living in today. This needs to be eradicated.
Q: This is the first time that your drummer Chris Toeller took the producer hat and went with it. How was it working with someone that was also so close to the writing of the song?
Chris Toeller: It was tough to be in the role… I had to take frequent breaks from it to come back with fresh ears. A lot of bias gets introduced when one person is so heavily involved in nearly every step of the process. I needed to frequently ask for feedback from the other band members and close friends.
Gui Bodi: It was great! Chris knows our sound and knows where we want to take it next, so we had an incredible experience with a more modern sound from the get go. Plus, he’s a great friend of ours and was very accessible and accommodating during the process, it was a great experience for me. I’m not sure he had that great of a time with all the work we gave him though! LOL
Eric Knight: I am so proud of Chris. He did a phenomenal job on this song. Early on when Chris offered to do this track, I knew in my heart that it would turn out amazing. I had total faith in him to deliver and he did beyond our wildest dreams. We definitely knew that with ‘Liberty’ we wanted the sound of the band to start going into a different direction. There is different instrumentation and elements that we hadn’t used in our music before and that was exciting for us. We didn’t have any kind of constraints, we tried different ideas and different approaches but ultimately with the goal of making the song great. What I am most proud of was that this was truly a team effort from not only each one of us in the band but everyone else that was involved in the project. Alan Sosa, Rup Chattopadhyay and even our bassist Gui Bodi help to engineer these sessions. Joe Bozzi (U2, Van Halen, Imagine Dragons) who is one of the best mastering engineers in the business did an amazing job on this as well too, making this an amazing experience all the way around.
Q: Is LIBERTY leading us to another full length or EP for the band and if you have written more how does it blend with the song of this first single?
Gui Bodi: We’ve adopted a “singles” approach for the time being, so for now we’ll keep writing “together from afar”, a song at a time. The idea is to write enough material to release a new album later on.
Eric Knight: There is definitely a new release coming, we’re just not sure as to the timing of when that release will happen. With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc around the world we are playing a wait and see kind of game right now. In the meantime there will be more singles coming. In fact we are working on completing the next new track as we speak. So I would expect singles coming out every few months from us into 2021, and it leading us into the next release. We just want to make sure that when it comes out that we will be able to go out and support it.
Q: You guys as band members and musicians are not new to the music industry, going through 2020 and seeing the changes we all had to adapt to, what is your opinion and vision for the future of music and live shows?
Chris Toeller: I don’t think it will ever be QUITE the same. At least for a while. I think we will continue having mandates about audience sizes. I also think it will be a while until more people feel comfortable packing into a room with other people they don’t know. But as we’ve seen, artists and venues will persist and find new, creative ways to perform live and share their music with others. Virtual Reality shows could become a thing. Or more of a thing? Who knows.
Gui Bodi: I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of the pandemic things won’t go back to normality so soon, but I’ve been seeing a lot of alternatives popping up around town, like drive-in concerts and bands inside/crowd outside of the venue types of concerts. We will always find a way to adapt and keep music alive until we can enjoy real live music once again.
Eric Knight: Well, I hope that I am completely wrong with what I am about to say, but I don’t think live shows will be coming back in 2021. Yes, you’re seeing drive in shows and “socially-distanced” shows and of course you’re just seeing complete disregard for the virus and people are holding shows that aren’t socially distanced, which is just outrageously misguided. But when it comes to music festivals and concerts in arenas etc. I just don’t see it happening until a safe and reliable vaccine comes into play. We are in the middle of this “second wave” happening and you’re seeing countries that had opened back up in Europe earlier this year going back into a lockdown situation. It’s devastating for our industry. We had a tour that was being planned and booked for Europe and that went straight out the window once the pandemic hit.
Q: For readers just getting informed about the band, can you give us a quick briefing on how the band got together and one highlight of each band member’s past accomplishments?
Gui Bodi: Eric met Ramon while attending an alumni event at the Musician’s Institute College of Contemporary Music in Hollywood (where me, Ramon and Eric all graduated from). They started writing together and ended up writing our first song ever, ‘Arrived’, during their first writing session together. Next Ramon recruited me to play bass and help them with the writing process. The Disciples of Babylon was now officially a band.
We ended up releasing our first EP ‘Welcome to Babylon’, which was produced by GRAMMY Award winning producer Andres Torres (La Santa Cecilia, Alejandro Sanz, and co-producing the Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee smash hit ‘Despacito’), who also lent a hand playing drums on the EP. Soon after the recording was finished, we agreed that the time had come to add an official drummer to the mix. After working with several drummers and holding numerous auditions, Chris joined the band, and the lineup was now officially complete.
Gui past accomplishment: Played the Warped Tour in 2011, that was a pretty cool experience!
Chris past accomplishment: Producing ‘Liberty’.
Eric past accomplishment: Opening for KISS & Aerosmith.
Ramon past accomplishment: Playing the Aftershock Music Festival
Q: How has music changed your life and have you thought about doing anything different with your life?
Chris Toeller: Music has always allowed me to see well past many complications in life. A lot of the problems we face can seem so big and scary at times. But once you put on a great song, your perspective changes and their significance shrinks because, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of things really don’t matter. In summary, I believe that music can give us the ability to transcend a lot of our own mental limitations.
Gui Bodi: Actually yes, but in my case, it all happened backwards! I have a background in medicine, having graduated from Dentistry school back in my hometown São Paulo – Brazil, and I’ve worked for 1 year as a dentist, then I decided to give music a chance in 2010, attending the Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood, and I never went back to Dentistry ever since. I love music and don’t regret my choice (so far! LOL).
Eric Knight: Music is my religion. Music has helped shape the soundtrack of my life and has gotten me passed some incredibly hard times. I don’t know what else to do but music, it’s in my soul and being.
Q: If you could either speak every language in the world or know how to play every instrument made in the world, what would you choose and why would you choose that?
Gui Bodi: I’d love to learn every language, because playing only 1 instrument is already so time consuming, I can’t imagine how my life would be if I could play all other instruments!
Eric Knight: Again I’m going to cheat here and say I’d do both! Ironically we are a multilingual band. We speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and the language of music. So we are already a part of the way there, LOL! I am actually fascinated by language.
Q: As a musician what do you feel has been your biggest growth from the start of your career to this current day?
Chris Toeller: Moving to Los Angeles when I was 18 was the best decision I ever made in my life. I’ve grown so much as a musician and as an individual. I met a lot of amazing people and had amazing experiences. And while you can do these things anywhere, it would have taken me a lot longer to become the person I am today had I not exposed myself to the diversity and energy that you experience while living in Los Angeles. Not to mention, it’s THE place to be if you want to play music or work in the entertainment industry.
Gui Bodi: I learned to prioritize and focus on my role in an ensemble: groove, feel and tone over everything else! Also, I can sing harmonies better now, but I’m still growing as a musician overall, so there’s still a lot to be learned.
Eric Knight: Connecting here with my brothers, Ramon, Gui & Chris on this project. It’s truly been a dream to work with these guys and level up my game. I am truly blessed and honored to call them my friends and family.
Q: If DISCIPLES OF BABYLON ended today would you be proud of the last song you wrote and why?
Gui Bodi: Totally, Liberty showcases our growth as musicians, songwriters and as a band in general, overcoming every obstacle in our way, no matter how big and complicated it seemed at first. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
Q: How can fans support you guys and do you have any last comments to the fans who have supported you from the beginning?
Chris Toeller: Please, continue following what we’re doing and interacting with us! We’re still doing this, Covid or not! We love seeing your faces on social media. Someday soon we’ll be able to see them in person again.
Eric Knight: They can follow us pretty much everywhere on all the usual socials. Our music is streaming everywhere as well too. And to our amazing ‘Disciples’ what can we say, this is the reason why we do this. Their support and amazing passion for us and our music is what keeps us going. We love each and everyone of you! #BabylonArmy
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