The Rise and Fall of Babylon is an insightful mirror of our times
Rock ‘n roll isn’t dead, after all, and Disciples of Babylon proves it. Frontman Eric Knight chatted with The Vivant about their latest album, “The Rise and Fall of Babylon.” Produced by GRAMMY winner Andres Torres, who produced the Luis Fonsi mega-smash hit Despacito, Disciples of Babylon breathes new life into hard rock with a big sound that has been missing from the rock scene for so long. Disciples of Babylon have created their own unique brand of hard-hitting tunes and meaningful lyrics in a combination that is sure to become the next rock legend.
Disciples of Babylon is on the cutting edge of a musical Renaissance of sorts, reviving an era when bands used music as a reflection of important social and political trends which are changing the very fabric of society. In today’s hyper-charged political environment and in the face of a divided country, it’s only natural that the zeitgeist would be reflected in the music of the day. Disciples of Babylon offers up timeless rock music that is a powerful mirror of our times.
Eric, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. The name is just wonderful, “Disciples of Babylon.” It’s such a great and memorable name. How did you come up with that?
I had the idea for the project for many years. It was something that I was doing research on the internet about and just studying about the history of Babylon and the old society. And in one of the texts I was reading, I saw this expression, “Disciples of Babylon.” It was just a striking phrase to me, and I said, let me immediately write that down in my list of cool band names. And the rest was just history.
Your latest release, The Rise and Fall of Babylon, it just came out when, a couple weeks ago?
Actually very late last year, and we have been in the middle of promoting it right now. We’ve just released a new single from there, Without You, that just came out a couple of weeks ago.
What has been the response to it so far?
The response has been fantastic. We got very lucky with the very first release we did. We released a three-song EP back in 2015, and one of the songs from that EP called “Karma” started taking off for us and people immediately resonated with the song and they immediately connected with it, and that started putting us on the map. It started taking a life of its own, and we’ve been getting a lot of great reviews and critical acclaim about the record, so we’re super excited. We worked very hard on it, and we are our own worst critics. We set the bar high with our song writing. It’s not the typical hard rock fare that you don’t think of as having a message behind it.
Tell me about the message behind the release.
We’re a socially conscious band, and some of the songs lend themselves to that, like “We are the Ones” which is our cry to the people of unifying everybody together as one voice and speaking for the ones who don’t have a voice. And in songs like “Freedom,” which is about oppression and tyranny. When I was thinking about what the title was going to be, I thought that would be the perfect title, because here in our country, we’re considered the modern-day version of Babylon. I don’t know where you stand politically, but we’re definitely not with the program of what’s happening right now.
I think Trump is a moron and I am married to an immigrant, so I do resonate with that!
In this band, we do have a couple of immigrants. Even though I am Cuban, I was born here in the United States, and my parents were immigrants from Cuba. Ramon comes from Spain, and Gui comes from Brazil. Chris was born here in the US. So this band was based on the whole idea of guys coming from different parts of the world, coming to this music school where we all met. It’s the whole idea of the American Dream, and what that version of it is to you. For them, it was to come to one of the top music schools in the world to get better with their craft, and put a band like this together and creating something out of it. I think that’s what the whole country is based on, no matter what industry you come from or whatever your background, that’s what this nation was founded on. So the whole idea with “The Rise and Fall of Babylon” is what’s happening now. This whole thing is being turned upside down, and you have such a division that’s happening in this country. And this is something that has happened even before Trump came in, it’s been steadily brewing for a while. And I’ve always said one thing, that this country is going to enter into a revolution at some point. I don’t know when or how, but this pressure cooker that we’re in right now, where half of the people think one thing and the other half think another, and if you don’t think my way, that’s it. That’s got to come to an end in a hurry, because we’re going down a really bad path. So that was the whole concept. It’s not a concept record where every song is based on that topic, but the whole idea of the title and some of the songs on there are bringing to life what’s happening now.
I think you’re really onto something. If you look back in the history of music, those important social and political messages have come and gone. I’m thinking about the early days of 1960s rock, when it was more than just music, it was a very important message about what was going on at the time.
The Vietnam War was a big part of a lot of different bands’ messages. We fell away from that for a while, it came and went, and now you’re on the cusp of the resurgence of the use of music as a means of effecting social change.
I think some of the newer materials we’re writing for the next project , which won’t be for a while yet, a lot of those topics are coming from this. So everything that is going on around us is obviously influencing me heavily from a lyrical standpoint and even musically, where we’re going to go with this. And some of the newer songs we’re writing are really talking about what this is. The idea behind what we’re doing is, we’re definitely protesting and we’re not in agreement with what’s happening. But we always try to put a silver lining in what’s happening, especially with our music. We don’t want it necessarily to be all gloom and doom, we want there to be hope. Which is what everybody hopes for, that we’re going to come out of this stronger, better.
So with your style of music, you’re all young guys, but there’s something definitely old-school about your music. It’s got that classic sound. How would you describe your musical style?
You know, for me it’s all rock and roll. We’re not reinventing the wheel or anything, I definitely think we do have a unique sound to us, which is the uniqueness of who we are. But it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before and I definitely would agree with you, one of the early things that me and my guitarist Ramon, when I first approached him about putting the project together, I told him that I wanted this to be an amalgamation of the different eras of rock where you had the Beatles in the ’60s and Led Zeppelin in the ’70s, The Who, all these big bands from all these different eras and bring it into the modern era. We both agreed on all these bands we really liked and what they had to say. We went with that idea of putting together this thing where you hear that sound, but it’s got a little modern twist to it and we can call it our own. And that’s what we’ve done and what we’ve achieved. We’re getting a lot of people from different age groups who really are gravitating to it because it’s got a universal rock sound. We intentionally did that. We wanted to write songs that we would hear people singing back to us. When you think about those huge bands, when you go to see them it’s like a religious experience, because you’re hearing everybody singing back those songs to the band, and that’s what we wanted to create with our sound. We wanted these anthemic songs that would lend themselves to being played in stadiums.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. It does have that classic rock band sound but there’s something new there too. You’re your own band, I think what’s coming out is really great. So what do you think are a few of your favorite classic rock bands, as long as we’re talking about classic rock?
Oh my God, there’s so many of them. Too many to list. But obviously the bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, all those artists and bands from that era. That was such a great time for music. Music was part of the culture then, not like today where it’s almost like packaged. We’re such big fans of that old classic rock, we wanted to incorporate that into what we were doing, and I think it’s worked out really well.
Tell me a little about the history of how you first came together. What was your first defining moment?
I had this idea for a long time and I hadn’t acted upon it yet. I used to be in another band, and I missed the whole idea of the camaraderie and the brotherhood, where you’re all for one and one for all. I had been a solo artist for a while, and I wanted that feeling of being back in a band situation. I always thought that if I could put the perfect band together, what would that consist of? And that played in my mind for many years. Then I saw a video of my guitar player Ramon. We all went to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood except for our drummer Chris. I ran into Ramon at a school event. Then one day I was going through my Facebook feed and I saw this video of Ramon playing this guitar solo from a band called Alter Bridge, and I was blown away. He sounded incredible, and Ramon looks the part. He’s got that rock tar look. I go with my gut, and the minute I saw that, everything clicked in my head, and I said, I’m going to start this project right now and I’m going to reach out to this guy. So we met a couple days later at a Starbucks in Hollywood, and I gave him my pitch, and told him that I wanted to create the biggest rock band in the world.
We had a writing session maybe a week later, and I already knew instinctively that there was going to be a great chemistry, even before we wrote a note or played anything together. We got into the room and wrote the first song that was on our EP called “Arrived,” and we did it in about 30 minutes, beginning to end, the whole thing arranged, lyrics, and we were just so blown away. We had something super special there. It turned out to be great, and that’s what started the whole thing.
As a band, you guys have been together for a little while now and I think any band that has reached that level of maturity, they do evolve over time and go through changes. If you look at the Beatles 1964, and Beatles 1970 it’s almost two completely different bands.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in Disciples of Babylon, from the beginning to now?
The songwriting has gone to another level now that Gui and Chris have become more a part of the unit. They are both incredible songwriters and Chris is a great producer, so we have this four-dimensional thing with the songs. I think of a band like Queen, all those guys were incredible songwriters, and I believe they’re the only band where every member had a number one song they wrote themselves. With our bnad, I see that four-dimensional thing that starts with me and Ramon getting into a room with two acoustic guitars, and we start developing it and molding the structure and getting the arrangement done. Typically Gui will come in and add his stuff, then Chris will come in. Now what’s happening is we’re working on all this stuff together in the room from inception, and it brings a unique perspective because you have four different viewpoints of one idea. It’s us developing as songwriters and becoming more a part of it. It has been the biggest development, and why we keep evolving and why our sound keeps getting more mature.
Your first single was “Karma,” is that right?
Correct. It came out in 2015.
You had a lot of success and traction with that one, especially for a debut single. It’s hard to get that kind of success right out of the gate. What was the key there to getting so much traction with it?
When we wrote that song, it was the second song Ramon and I wrote. Ramon had initially brought the beginning riff and we developed it from there. I knew instinctively that was going to be the first song we came out with, because with a name like Disciples of Babylon, there has to be something stunning behind the name so it’s not just all hype. I thought that Karma was going to be a great opening single to come out with and make the statement about who we are as a band, and it just caught on. It was like this little song that could, and it just started getting out there. For whatever reason, that song just connected with people. I like to call it our calling card. It’s the song that introduces us to people, and once they’re hooked they can start delving in deeper to the other material.
In addition to playing around the LA music scene you’ve opened up for some big rock legends like Aerosmith and KISS. That must be a phenomenal experience to do that, what’s that like?
In my solo career, I got to open up for Aerosmith and KISS before this project formed. I can tell you how that was, it was an amazing feeling to be able to play with such legendary bands for sure. Those are the bands you grow up hearing about, and just to be able to share the same stage is incredible. You get to learn very quickly when you see a big production like that, whether it’s Aerosmith, or KISS, you say wow, this is so much bigger than you. There are so many pieces, so many cogs in that wheel to make everything function. It’s an amazing experience to go through. Yeah, it was great.
Give me a little hint about what’s up next for Disciples of Babylon. Do you have another album you’re already working on, a tour, what’s next?
We’re going to be touring now, that’s the big thing. We’re getting this tour booked and ready to go and we’re getting ready to shoot another video for “We are the Ones,” which is a really unique idea we’re working with this new director on. We’re going to hopefully have that in the next month or so. And we’re just constantly writing, and we will probably go into the studio at some point next year to start working on the next release. But right now we’re focusing on this project. We made it very compact, not in the traditional ten-song album, because we felt that less is more. Every one of those songs on that record could be a potential single, so we may release a video for every song on that, we don’t know yet. So that’s what is on tap for us.
When you go on tour, I hope you go through the Midwest so I can drop in and see you guys.
We definitely will! Rock is huge in the Midwest, and we love the Midwest. We can’t wait to visit everybody.
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.