PERSONA (from l-r): Costas Themistocleous (lead guitar), CJ Kostaras (drums), Tom Spartinos (vocals/guitar), Sam Trestman (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Over the past couple of years, New York quartet Persona have had to cope with some unfortunate events, including one member being involved in a near-fatal car accident, and the lead guitarist’s home, and the band’s recording studio, literally going up in flames.
However, rather than be defeated by all that negativity, they have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and got to work on creating a layered sound that shifts easily between uplifting pop-rock and more progressive indie-rock, which has effectively shown how the four members have developed as a strong cohesive unit.
Having recently unveiled a new single, entitled ‘Indie Cowboy’, the American outfit spoke to me about that, their journey so far, and what they hope to achieve in the future.
How did the band get together?
Tom and Sam have played in numerous bands over the course of 15 years. In the summer of 2007, Sam went to college, and Costas took over on bass.
However, in the winter of 2009, Sam was tragically hit by a car in Binghamton, New York, which almost took his life. “It was such a life-changing experience for us, and a slap in the face at the same time” explains Tom.
Following the accident, the band started to connect on a deeper level, and formed a sacred bond. Upon Sam’s departure from college, and after a long period of healing, the trio began to jam, and Persona was officially born in the summer of 2011.
After a short period of playing as a three-piece, Will Suraci joined as bassist, and Costas moved over to lead guitar. Now a quartet, they spent the next few years releasing two EPs, touring, and opening up for acts such as Third Eye Blind and Twenty One Pilots.
However, in the spring of 2014, after releasing ‘Mayday, We Crashed’, Persona went stagnant, with a number of personal issues resulting in the band laying low, but throughout this time, Tom and Costas were still writing and demoing new songs and ideas.
In the spring of 2017, Will departed the band and was replaced by drummer CJ Kostaras, formerly of Giants at Large, resulting in Sam returning to bass.
How did the name Persona come about?
The name was inspired by our sound, which we like to describe as “bi-polar“, and having split personalities, as we believe that each song is different and relates you to a certain emotion or feeling. Some songs are edgy and very progressive, others have a bright and happy pop-rock feel to them.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Any of us can bring a song to the table, which is a great thing. We typically come up with riffs and ideas, present them to each other, and if we are all feeling the idea, then we get to work on it collectively.
Typically, it’s always a riff or piece of music that comes first, as the feel of the music usually inspires the emotion and where we will bring the song lyrically.
What inspires the band lyrically?
Costas has always been somewhat of a poet, and has partaken in several poetry slams and creative writing bits. Him and Tom will sit down and start playing ad-libs to Tom’s melodies.
Lyrics are inspired by how the music makes us feel, and whatever emotion these chords or riffs touch the most, which will then be expanded upon to make the finalised lyrics.
In late 2012, you brought out your debut EP, ‘Take Me To The Moon’. How was the reaction to that?
For a starting band, we got a really good reaction. We had our debut release show opening for Dave Melilo (formerly of Cute Is What We Aim For), and we generated a nice little buzz, which brought enough attraction in for us to be able to open for Third Eye Blind, Twenty One Pilots, and a whole bunch of other established acts.
That also propelled us to take the next step forward, and record our sophomore EP with Gary Cioffi at Maximum Sound Studios (Transit & Four Year Strong).
The band have had their fair share of misfortune in recent years, what with Sam being involved in a near-fatal car accident, and Costas’s home, and the band’s recording studio, burning down. How did you cope with all that?
We definitely have had our share of dark and gloomy clouds lingering over us, but we truly believe that made us much stronger human beings and brought us closer together.
We were recording ‘Take Me To The Moon’ at Costas’s house when it burned down, and for a while, we thought we had lost all of our session files, but fortunately, the computer they were on was salvaged and nothing was lost.
Even though it could have been very easy to go off track and get lost in the lingering darkness, we prospered, both as individuals and as a band, and now, after a rough couple of years, we are happy to say that things have settled down.
We truly believe that those situations did not define us, rather, they helped to shape us as the individuals that we are today.
You’ve just released a new single, ‘Indie Cowboy’. How was the recording process for that?
The writing process was rather smooth and natural. The initial riff in the song was written by Tom prior to the band’s formation, and was revisited in 2014 during a dark and gloomy time, but it transitioned seamlessly between us into what you hear today, as due to situations and circumstances in our lives that we have mentioned, we took a step back, became isolated, and we think that the anger and hurt we felt at the time is reflected within the song.
And how will it differ from ‘Take Me To The Moon’?
‘Take Me To The Moon’, we think, paved the way for us to grow a multi-dimensional, multi-genre sound. Since we released that in 2012, we have gone through a lot individually and collectively, and we believe that with ‘Indie Cowboy’ and the two other singles that we will be releasing over this summer, you can hear our growth, as there are something a bit more grown-up and mature, and we think that we have found a better way to write out our emotions, therefore making it more relatable from a listener perspective.
The band have played gigs across their home state, including supporting the likes of Twenty One Pilots and Patent Pending. How is the experience, for you all, of playing live?
Playing live is such a rush. There is literally no better feeling in the world then being on a stage, and sharing your blood, sweat, and tears with people who appreciate and love music just as much as you do. We love seeing kids go wild, as when we watch the crowd’s energy, it drives us to give them everything we have for that moment.
Playing that show with Patent Pending was incredible, as they are such great dudes. Their frontman, Joe Ragosta, actually had a real deep talk with us for 30 or so minutes before the show started, and it was such a mind-opening experience, so we’re truly thankful for that conversation.
When we play shows with bigger acts, and they take the time out to come and talk or hang with us, it’s truly a blessing. We appreciate it so much! However, we have had shows where bands (large and small) will not even recognise your presence, and pretend like you are not even there, which is lame.
We appreciate bands of all sizes taking the time to speak with the other bands on the bill and speak with the fans. We hang around the show and try and get to know whoever we can!
And finally, what else have you got planned over the next couple of months?
We are kicking the summer off at Revolution Music Hall in Amityville, New York, with Belmont, Rarity, and Stickup Kid, and we will also being doing a small north-east US run next month.
Following that, we will be releasing two more singles accompanied by music videos, but we are taking the month of August off to go on vacation and travel with our friends and families.
Then this November, we will be hitting the studio in to start production on what will be our third EP, and we are currently scouting a booking agent so we can start heavy touring come December.
‘INDIE COWBOY’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM PERSONA, IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD, OR PURCHASE FROM SPOTIFY, iTunes, APPLE MUSIC, BANDCAMP, SOUNDCLOUD, AND THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE personaofficial.com
FURTHER INFO ON PERSONA CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: