Some of us came into this world with an innate hunger for the dark, edgy world of hard rock; but others eventually found their way to the comfort of power chords and head banging. Through the up-and-coming band, Syka, audiences are graced with the best of both worlds. How can music geeks not fall in love with the spunky vocalist, Jesyka, as she takes control of the stage in her spiked concert garb? If watching her take command of the venue isn’t enough to pull you under her spell, her powerhouse vocals will surely capture your heart.
While this alternative rock band seems to have been sprouted from the rock ‘n’ roll nightlife, this is not the case for all members. The group’s guitarist, Gregg Sgar, grew up dabbling in the percussion family, jamming out to Metallica. Meanwhile, Jesyka danced merrily down stage to show tunes—what a turnaround! How did these two different worlds collide? After talking with Gregg and Jesyka, they filled me in on how they joined forces and the work that went into the creation of Syka.
How’ve you guys been prepping for this tour?
Jesyka: Well, we’re always touring around the Tri-State Area, so we don’t really have a set tour yet, but our next show that’s coming up is at Webster Hall on November 15. But right before our Stay Wild EP release tour, which was at Webster Hall on July 8, the month right before that, we were in a period of pre-production and creating that Stay Wild experience. I would say around late May, early June, we were working on that, and of course it’s evolved since then and we’ve done shows between then and now, but we’ve really evolved the whole show a whole lot. But it’s been three, four months of working on this show.
Wow. Have your setlists changed along with the show?
J: Uh, it’s been pretty set right now, but it’s basically what people are hearing off of the Stay Wild EP. It’s basically just a live interpretation of the EP.
That’s an interesting idea. But Jesyka, you started off in musical theater. How did you transition from happy dancing down the stage to rock ‘n’ roll life?
J: (Laughs) That’s a good question! I got my start in theater when I was very young. I was in my first theater production when I was about eight. So, right off the bat, I knew I was meant for the stage and that was the first live performance that I was a part of. It was great! At the time I was really young and just soaking music up like a sponge—all different oldies tunes and musical theater tunes, which even today was really important for my foundation musically.
So, I was doing show, after show, after show, and I was heavily involved with shows at Papermill Playhouse when I was young, which gave a lot of lessons on dancing and acting… Especially theatrics. I was all about the whole production of the show since I was very young. But, eventually, there came a time when I was doing so many other shows and putting time into so many other people’s productions—I was about 14 when the thought hit me, I was just like, “I don’t wanna do this anymore. I wanna write my own music and I wanna start putting time into my own show and my own ideas and my own creativity.”
So one summer, I took off entirely and I just wrote music. I locked myself away in my room and I just wrote. The music I was writing was kind of lightweight and it was influenced by what I grew up on—all the classics that my parents showed me, like the classic Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and it changed my perspective on a few things and I found that I liked the rock world, so then I started writing some darker stuff. That really hit me emotionally and since then, it’s grown a lot. But, also, what was a factor was when I met Gregg and he was heavily involved with the rock and metal scene. It was something that I kind of opened my eyes to when I met him.
How did you two meet?
Gregg Sgar: We met at a studio in Butler called Architect that I’d interned at the time and I’d been there for three months. And one day, Jess walked in looking for something to do, so they sent us on an errand to get some supplies and whatnot, so then we just hooked up from there. And we got acquainted and shared each other’s music, so we got to know each other really fast, she gave me her number and a month later, she asked me to play with the band because I told her I played bass. So, I played bass at the first show we ever did, and ever since then… Well, I started on bass, then went to drums, and now I’m on guitar, so that was it.
That’s a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time.
J: It was incredible. It was my second time at Architect and I was stuck doing paperwork and was like, “Oh please, make something happen today,” and then all of the sudden, Gregg walks in with his massive hair and I was like, “Oh, who is this kid?” Then we just started talking and we hit it off right away. It was awesome. Who’d of thought that three or four years later that this would’ve happened. But it was pretty cool.
A dream come true. But, Jesyka, what was your first show?
J: The first theater production I was in was Oliver in Pompton Lakes, but that was the first full-length production. I’d been in recitals before. But my first lead I had, I was seven years old or something. I was the ringmaster in a dance recital and I had a solo in the opening number. I’ll never forget it. The music is still in my head and it’s something that really stuck with me.
It’s what sparked your love for performing! And Gregg, I heard you were basically born a rocker. Were you born into a musical family, or did you just pick this all up on your own?
GS: Pretty much out of the womb, my parents just shoved real rock ‘n’ roll down our throats. I mean, my dad played the trumpet, but no one else played—not in the immediate family, anyway. But I just listened to Black Sabbath, Metallica and all that good stuff. I can remember, I was like, two or three years old, and then one day, my dad bought me my first Gibson when I was nine and I just took off and had lessons. But we just all grew up in the real rock ‘n’ roll world.
You mentioned earlier that you went from guitar, to bass, to drums—how’d that happen?
GS: It was actually around the same time that my dad bought me the guitar and I just happened to be at my uncle’s house in Long Island, like, that week. He had a drum set and I just started playing the drums. I started playing the drums first, before playing guitar seriously. (Laughs) And then that week, I decided that I wanted to do both! And then I just basically learned to play the bass after playing in Syka. Little by little, I just started slapping the bass.
How difficult was it to go from guitar to bass?
GS: Ah, it’s not too bad. Just, the hardest part is, at first, keeping your fingers steady and not getting in that Guitar Hero phase. But it’s not too bad. It’s a completely different instrument, but part of the rhythm section, but yeah. When you think like a bassist, instead of a guitarist—that’s the hardest transition.
You guys released a new EP, Stay Wild. What was the writing process like?
J: The writing experience for the Stay Wild EP was really super old-school and natural in the way it happened. We had the awesome opportunity to work in the Log Cabin studio at the Manhattan Center in New York. We had the studio’s resources at our disposal, so we wrote the whole record—and recorded—in the studio, which was just a fantastic experience. But that allowed us to be in a setting where… Well, most of the time, early in the writing, it was me, Gregg, our producer, and a guitar player, who were doing a lot of the writing. And then later on, the rest of the band, Steve [drums] and Gino [bass], would pop in with ideas and whatnot. So, that was the whole vibe on the Stay Wild EP. Ideas just kind of came together.
GS: Yeah, Steve came into it a little bit, like, two weeks into the writing process.
J: Yeah, he’d just joined us about two weeks after we had started writing. We were building our relationship with him throughout the entire process of creating the Stay Wild EP.
That was the process for your newest release. Was it different prior to Stay Wild?
J: Yeah, prior to that, it was just Gregg and I really working. We had done an unofficial EP called The Beautiful Nightmare and that wall written and recorded from Gregg’s basement. That was a lot of hard work between the two of us. A lot of work between the two of us, a lot of creative exhaustion between the two of us (laughs), because it was a lot of work for that EP with just the two of us, but we knew that we had to do it. It was something that needed to happen. It was a major step that allowed us to hit the next level and write the Stay Wild EP. And that was the reason why certain people came into the picture.
But yeah, on the Stay Wild EP, we had the amazing opportunity to work with Kareem “Jesus” Devlin. He’s worked with Gaga on a couple of her albums and toured with her. And we did a cover with him in the studio and after that, he approached us about writing with us and that was the birth of Stay Wild. That was a complete step up—us working with him.
Good for you guys! Now: would you rather write, record, or perform?
GS: Eat! (Laughs)
J: That’s a really difficult question! It changes all the time. See, writing is awesome. It’s amazing. Performing and writing are two completely different worlds. Performing is amazing. You get the glory of performing the songs you’ve spent so much time on, but writing and creating is like, just the most beautiful thing. I could not tell you which one I like more.
GS: It’s a special feeling you get when you write a good song, or know that you’ve recorded a good song. There are a few times throughout the process when you go, “Damn, this is good.” And then a couple times listening to it that I was like, “Holy, nuts, this is incredible.” But that only happens a few times when recording. But that happens all the time when performing. I get that feeling every time we perform. I would have to go with performing.
Can we expect another album anytime soon?
J: Yeah. We’re currently in work of new material, so yeah! I would say definitely expect some new music in the future.
GS: Yeah. The hype will be in the near future.
So, what do you have planned after this tour?
GS: Uh, play some more shows.
J: Yeah, we’ll be playing around the Tri-State Area. We’re also working on a show at Pianos coming up this December, which we’re hoping, eventually, to build a residency. So we’re working towards a Stay Wild rock show, bringing the rock ‘n’ roll vibe to the Lower East Side, which is really important to us.
And we’re working on some really killer support opening slots for some bands who come over to New York, New Jersey, and PA. We’re hoping to make it out a little further, up north and down south. Always trying to build up the Sykos on the East Coast and, of course, just working on new material. Always thinking six months to a year ahead.
Don’t miss Syka as they pull into Webster Hall with Gwar, Born Of Osiris and Battlecross on Nov. 15 and Starland Ballroom with Dragonforce and Kamelot on Nov. 21. For more information on the band or their new EP, Stay Wild, visit them at facebook.com/SykaMusic.