EXCLUSIVE: ONE ON ONE WITH ANAHATA: TALKING INFLUENCES, SOCIAL ISSUES, AND NEW MUSIC
New York City based metalcore band Anahata have been making some serious waves in the east coast punk and metalcore scene over the past few years, and even as lead vocalist and songwriter Christopher Leyba describes the band “having a new skin” as of a few months ago- with new members guitarist Tevin Chin, and drummer Kwante Greenidge, they are continuing to make moves even in the crazy world and state of the scene we are currently living through. Leyba got his start back in 2014 with his original lineup, and continued to grow a following. Anahata’s accomplishments have ranged from winning NYC’s battle of the bands, to being one of the headlining acts at the AFROPUNK Brooklyn’s Black Stage in Commodore Barry Park in 2019. As an unsigned band, the name “Anahata” has been well known for stellar live performances and overall solid tracks, including their most recent singles “Suffer”, “Destroy Me” and the incredibly moving “Blackout”.
We had the opportunity to sit down one on one with the band at Otterhouse Studios in Queens, New York, and ask some thought provoking questions and get a sneak peak at what we could expect from the guys in the future!
Q: Where did the name “Anahata” come from? What gravitated you toward the name?
CL: “I was with a college mate of mine and we were sort of trying to work on being in a band together, and we found the name through google…interestingly enough. We came to a consensus of the name Anahata, which essentially means to be unbeaten or unbroken and by coincidence, it also happened to be the name of the fourth heart chakra…so it was one of those things where it was just a double whammy because to be unbeaten or unbroken means you have to have the heart to do it, and that’s how the name was born.”
Q: How would you describe your style or genre of music to new fans?
KG: “Considering we’ve only been together for a few months officially as a new three piece, we’re all getting a feel for things right now…just kind of taking in the music that Chris has already made and been making and trying to match the same energy that he always puts into his songs and work. I feel like there is definitely a lot of power…it’s very emotional- there’s a lot of grit to all of the songs. It’s the kind of music that you can close your eyes and really take in all of those emotions at once.”
TC: “I’d say it (our music) is very diverse… like some songs you can kill someone to pit style, and other ones you can cry yourself to sleep while listening to it, so I’d definitely say our sound and style are pretty diverse overall.”
CL: “I think both of their descriptions hit really nicely. There’s a level of versatility and really trying to embrace all kinds of emotions…whether its sadness, loss, happiness, or the minimal happiness we tend to get, while trying to feel the ambition inside us at the same time. Anger, aggression, confidence too… So in a way I guess it’s building ourselves up to become more transparent as artists and reflecting that in our style and work. If you want to add a name to it, I’d say “Heart metal” or “love metal” , kind of like HIM, but there’s definitely a lot of emotion and versatility behind our music.”
Q: Following your most recent singles like “Destroy Me” and “Suffer”, you also released the track “Blackout” which has a very powerful message behind it. What inspired you to write it?
CL: “What happened during that time was also a very strange time for me mentally… a lot of social crises [BLM] were happening and started to really put me in a bad way…so I took it upon myself to write something relating to it, and I don’t think I had ever written anything related to social issues…I didn’t think I really had it in me. I threw the song together in a demo, and at first it kind of started off sounded like I wanted to “save myself”, but then I said no, screw that… and took it in a totally different direction, and came up with something that I thought was really cool and a lot of people would too.”
Q: Being black artists in a scene that is often referred to as being “predominantly white” , do you have any advice for other up and coming black, or POC artists that may be feeling discouraged in showcasing their work out of fear of inherent racism within the scene?
KG: “Always be the best you, you know? Just in life, through any sort of hardships, or really anything, it’s always about just being your best self. Life is never going to go the way you want it to be and sometimes that’s okay…but it really does allow you to create and be a better you and to strengthen yourself and using music…using this music, and using it as a platform and as your way of expression, put that out there into your music no matter what to get your feelings about these things across, whether you play an instrument or write a lyric every bit of playing or every show that you do, just play like it’s your last no matter who is watching. When you close your eyes and listen to music, you don’t see anybody, you only hear them.”
TC: “Music is definitely a type of art so it does involve a lot of creativity. If that’s just how you’re wired, no matter what type of art, that is what you should be doing, I mean, that’s exactly the kind of thing that drives me. This is the kind of music that I got into…and I was like wait this is way better than the type of music I was listening to before and as I got into I was like “holy sh*t I don’t want to be doing anything else”… now I have different idols, who yes are predominantly white but to me these are just people that I look up to so it shouldn’t really matter, you know? If they can do it, why can’t I do it? At the end of the day, if you put in the work, and be the best person you can be…it’s about pushing forward and not caring about what other people think about you. You are you, and who is to judge that?”
CL: “I think in this aspect too… anyone that says or thinks that they have a say on your success is stupid, and is ignorant. Anyone that tries to reject you because of how you look and because of the color of your skin and believes that you won’t be successful because of your image or you being black is also stupid. In the beginning stages of growing up you’re going to have a lot of pushback because nobody really knows the history of someone else and no one is going to get to that level of understanding, and there’s still a lot of people in the scene that don’t know how to act when they see a black person also in the scene and it’s not your responsibility to explain that, if that makes sense. When it comes to music, you have to just do it, whether you have no one or everyone supporting you, you will not know if you could have gotten anywhere unless you try. Whatever you feel is pushing you back, if its a person who is an opposite color from you that is putting you down, they can’t stop you from doing what you yourself want to do and have a passion for.”
Q: What are some artists or bands that have influenced you to be where you are in the scene today?
TC: “For me the first artist that got me into it was definitely Linkin Park. That was the first time I remember hearing something different than what I was used to. Then I went to Avenged Sevenfold… Slipknot… Atreyu…a lot of Disturbed as well. Hearing Avenged Sevenfold’s third album City of Evil was like a guitarists heaven and that’s what got me into guitars for sure.”
KG: “When it comes to being a drummer, the drums kind of chose me. I knew from young I wanted to be in a band but I for no reason whatsoever decided that I liked the drums- I just heard drums and I was like yeah, I wanna do that. My friend in junior high school showed me Dragonforce, “Cry for Eternity” …I’ll never forget and I was like “whoa this is wild” and knowing I could absolutely not play that at that moment in my life but it was epic to hear drums of that nature after hearing the music that I grew up on percussion was never as important as it is to the extent of metal… like the speed and technicality. It also expanded to me playing Rock Band and everything that game did like playing “Welcome Home” by Coheed and Cambria, and some Flyleaf, some Slipknot… I downloaded the whole discography of these bands after… that game definitely had an influence on me.”
CL: “I’m going to try and focus on the actual influential bands that actually wanted to make me play stuff. When I was first learning guitar and I didn’t know how to write anything I was really into Sugarcult and I used to try and play their stuff and wanted to be in a band like that around like 16. The way Tim sings still has an influence on me now, because I was always trying to kind of emulate that voice. As I got a little older I fell deeply in love with Japanese rock and I used to listen to DIR EN GREY on the cassette back to back and a lot of writing almost kidnapped me- they would sort of just flow like theirs. On the other end of it I have some huge model influences…Linkin Park in terms of being versatile and trying new things is definitely one of those bands too.”
Q: Can we expect a full length album from you in 2021? If yes, what can we expect from it?
CL: “What I can say is that we’ve worked on a lot of different stuff and…it’s definitely a lot more concentrated and has a lot more of a “free yourself” vibe… it’s got the same amount of depressive, sadness type of elements but it also gives the concept to grow or uplift yourself. I can’t say that all of our songs are super hard, which I feel like people are used to hearing from us for the most part, but I feel that together as a unit it’s going to be cool and something you haven’t seen from our releases yet.”
Make sure to check out Anahata on all streaming platforms!
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