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Following the breakup of their former band, guitarist Mujtaba “Muj” Habib, drummer Bill Manley, and bassist Nick Valese formed DYSKA, but when they’re sound lacked the desired complexities they dreamed of creating, they began auditioning potential members to join them to help realize their concepts and bring them to a wider audience. From these auditions, three new members were found: Thomas Newton, Justin Smith, and Dimitric Casey. Newton filled in the vacant guitar slot, Smith became the lead vocalist, and Casey joined as the synth/keyboard player, as well as trombone player and backing vocalist. With a full lineup, the band began getting to know each other by jumping headfirst into their songwriting process, which resulted in their debut EP Broken Things. Now almost two years later, DYSKA is quickly making a name for themselves in the Hampton Roads vastly growing music and arts scenes, as well as Richmond and the rest of Virginia. We spoke with Habib, Manley, Valese, and Casey about their love for the music scene in Norfolk, their role in the indie music genre and how they fit as part of the music scene as a whole, and their upcoming projects to be released next year.

I read on your Facebook page that the band originally started in 2013 with three members and then expanded to six. Can you tell me about how you guys got started and why you decided to double in size?

Bill: Back in 2013, three of us were playing with a group called ADURO, and that group disbanded. We decided to hold auditions to find some musicians in the area, and that’s how we ended up finding Dimitric, Justin, and Thomas.

Were you guys living in Norfolk at the time?

Bill: Yeah, [we were all in] Norfolk, Virginia Beach, literally the Hampton Roads area in general. We brought out a lot of people for the auditions. Like how many would you say, Muj?

Muj: As far as the vocals, we auditioned like 15 people.

Nick: We probably contacted about 40-50 people when all the auditions were said and done.

In January, you guys released your debut EP Broken Things. What does each of these songs represent to you as a band?

Bill: That whole EP was an awesome experience between six guys, three of which had no prior interactions with any of us in our entire lives, coming together from all different ways of life, music backgrounds, and things like that, learning to write music together. The whole EP was us trying to learn how to write music together as a group over the course of a year.

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Can you tell me in detail about what the songs are about and how the writing process went for them since you guys didn’t know each other very much as you began writing it?

Nick: Pretty much our writing process started by someone presenting an idea, a riff, or some type of groove, and we just kind of jammed out on it for a while. Then we got some semblance of something that felt good to the whole group, and we fleshed it out into a song. We added guitar parts, Thomas would as some leads to it, and then we would come up with some cool synth parts. Justin would try to fit in words for the melodies he heard going on, and that’s really how we got the first batch of songs together. We just kind of stumbled through it with a lot of jamming out to see what sounded good and what didn’t.

Have you guys been working on new music for your next album?

Nick: We’re constantly writing and working on new things. It’s an ever-going and evolving process.

But is there a concrete project in the works yet?

Bill: Absolutely! We have about 10-15 songs done that we’re gonna be sifting through to decide which ones we like, and we will be starting to do pre-production over the next couple of months for the new EP coming out.

Muj: A year ago we released Broken Things, which were just three songs. After that, we wrote a bunch of songs. We have about 18 to 20 songs now, and we played them in front of a crowd to test how people reacted to them. Now we are going to choose 10 or five to seven to be our next EP, maybe even an LP, and we want to release that within the next couple of months before summer. That’s the next goal for the band.

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You guys recently have been playing a ton of shows in the local scene, including at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk, Shaka’s in Virginia Beach, and The Canal Club in Richmond. Where is your favorite place to perform in Virginia?

Muj: We play a lot at Belmont, and as a band, we gotta give a shout out to Patrick, who does the booking and sound for Belmont. That’s one of our favorite places in Norfolk to play. They treat us right, and the sound is on point. In Viginia Beach, we gotta give a shout out to John, who does sounds and runs Shaka’s. They also treat us really nicely. Those are two places that we really enjoy playing. But also, there’s The Parlor, Tap House, and many more. All these places are great, but if we have to choose one, it would be Belmont in Norfolk and Shaka’s in Virginia Beach.

Can you tell me about the Embrace the Culture indie music and arts festival that you guys played on Sept. 13, 2014 at Town Point Park in Norfolk, and about how you guys got involved with it?

Muj: On ETC’s Facebook page, they had a slot open, and they put up a post [asking their followers], “Which local band would you like to see?” Some DYSKA fans that we didn’t know about put our names out there; the director that did the booking checked out our music and figured out that our sound fit will with the whole concert lineup. So they contacted us, and we were more than happy to fill the spot. They had some really stellar acts in the lineup.

Why were they doing the show?

Muj: This was the second year that they had done the show. They find indie rock acts from around the country that are up and coming, and they host a music festival in Town Point Park. They have local vendors, such as local clothing stores and artists.

Bill: They also had some local craft brewers, like O’Connor, Smartmouth, and Dogfish Head.

Muj: It basically was all about the indie mentality, doing your craft by yourself, and coming together to deliver that indie spirit.




What would you say are the most important values DYSKA has as a band?

Bill: I think that one of the best things, when it comes to writing the music, is that we’re all very open minded. We’re from all over the place, and we’ve all had different experiences. Really, when you get six people writing music together, there has to be a lot of compromise. There can be conflict and arguments, sort of, but you have to learn to talk your way through it to figure it out together.

Do you have any more shows coming up in the next couple months?

Muj: We actually have a bunch of shows. For December, we don’t have any shows because we are actually practicing and writing a bunch of new songs, but right at the beginning of the year, January 2, we are coming back at Belmont. 757 Bandwire is putting together a showcase. January 16 will be at The Parlor, and then January 30, we are doing a headlining show at Belmont. February 6 will be at Shaka’s, and we are currently in talks with William and Mary about joining their spring concert series. Hopefully by January, we will have all of our spring dates lined up.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Virginia music scene?

Bill: Honestly, it’s growing. We’ve got places like The Parlor opening up, and Belmont is always a hot spot. There are definitely a lot of little things going on out here where you can see the culture growing, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

Muj: I’ve been in this scene for a decent amount of time, and over the last couple of years, I‘ve seen the different types of bands, like genres of bands, really expanding. It’s a really exciting time to be part of the Hampton Roads area. You see free form jazz bands, indie rock, noise rock, rap, metal, pop punk. There’s a ton of genres out there, and they’re all creating great music.

Demetric: I travel quite a bit, and I came from North Carolina to Virginia. Just being here, I realize there is a lot of passion going on wanting to get the arts scene to bloom, and it’s amazing. Alchemy [NFK] has a huge part in that, and they have been reaching out and pulling a lot of art into the area. We are just going with the flow with that. It’s pretty amazing.

For more updates on DYSKA, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and listen to their music on Bandcamp.

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