Since their inception in 2006, Atlanta-based The SixxiS have amassed quite a résumé, having shared stages with an impressive list of bands that includes Buckcherry, Wishbone Ash and The Winery Dogs.
They haven’t let early setbacks such as line-up changes deter them, and their hard work, toil and seemingly endless tour cycles have paid off, as their latest album Hollow Shrine testifies.
Letting go of the need to ‘categorise’ themselves has been a large factor in the band’s development – that, and taking every opportunity that came their way.
“The toughest question we get is how we define our genre. We don’t really know where we fit in: we just play,” explains lead vocalist and guitarist Vladdy Iskhakov. “When you’re a band in its early days, beggars can’t be choosers. We made sure every opportunity was doable for us, and with every audience we’ve played to we’ve got a really good response. We felt that the music we play translates into lots of different genres.”
Another string to add to their bow is that Iskhakov and the other members – Mark Golden (bass), Josh ‘JBake’ Baker (drums), Paul Sorah (guitars) and Cameron Allen (guitars) – are all highly musically educated. In fact, Iskhakov could play before he could run. “I’ve been playing violin since I was three,” he says. “I come from Uzbekistan [which at the time was part of the Soviet Union]. Over there it’s appropriate for kids to do something other than school. It never stopped – my degree is in violin performance and music education. I’ve been doing music my whole life pretty much.”
Many modern progressive bands employ unusual instruments to add a new dynamic to their sound, such as Shining and Trioscapes, who include saxophone in their music. But Iskhakov had doubts about incorporating such experimental elements: he didn’t want that to be the only reason people took to The SixxiS. However, his playing was embraced by audiences and, ultimately, by Iskhakov himself.
“When I took out the violin and started playing, people were looking at us thinking, ‘What is that!?’” he recalls. “To be honest, I needed a lot of convincing from the guys to play the violin on stage – I didn’t want us to be known as ‘the violin band’. But I was convinced when I saw the reaction and it’s now a staple of what we do.”
Iskhakov feels that he has become more confident to put the temptation to please others to one side. “The one thing we’ve learnt is that you can’t, or you shouldn’t, be worried too much about the audience,” he says. “Just be yourself and if they like it then great, but if they don’t then that doesn’t matter. All you can do is show off who you are. At the end of the day, we’re just playing music for the sake of music and nothing else.”
Vladdy Iskhakov (vocals, guitar), Mark Golden (bass), Josh Baker (drums), Paul Sorah (guitars), Cameron Allen (guitars)
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Hollow Shrine is out now via GlassVille