Frank DeSando, Anthony Viola and Jesse Viola used many names for their band since picking up their instruments in 2000.
After playing around with several monikers, the trio won a battle of the bands show at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple as Family Animals.
“There was a good crowd and the show went well, so we decided to keep the name,” guitarist Jesse Viola said.
Since that show in 2008, the group has performed live, written music and recorded albums in and around Northeast Pennsylvania. Its newest album, “Don’t Expect a Climax,” debuted Sept. 30 and is available for purchase on all major streaming platforms, at shows and online at familyanimals.bandcamp.com. The musicians recently went On the Record to discuss their time playing together in the region.
Q: How did you all meet?
Jesse Viola: Anthony and I are brothers. We met Frankie when we were just youngsters, too young to recall the moment exactly, but we grew up two doors away. So we’ve basically known each other our whole lives.
Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Anthony Viola: We all in some way or another have a life-long passion for music. Growing up, we all always loved it.
JV: My brother and I started taking guitar lessons together when I was 9 and he was 12, while Frankie took bass lessons at 11, all at Gallucci Music in Scranton. We all started together and all knew we wanted to play in a band together.
Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
AV: The first time we ever played in public was actually about six months after we all started, and it was Jesse’s fifth-grade dance. I remember some kids were scared, and as soon as we finished, the DJ came out and started blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out” and all the 11-year-old kids went crazy.
Q: What was the process like for writing your new album?
JV: We are always writing new material and probably have more unreleased songs than released ones. So for “Don’t Expect a Climax,” it was more a matter of picking the right compilation of songs to record. Once that was decided, we recorded and mixed the songs ourselves with our own equipment. The whole process took a little more than a year. Then we really lucked out with Eric Ritter at Windmill Agency generously offering to master the album. We cannot thank him enough.
Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
Frank DeSando: We’ve always kind of made it a point to not limit ourselves musically and play what we enjoy, whether or not it stays true to a particular genre. I think, because of that, we’ve always ventured into trying to play different styles of our respective instruments, even pulling in new instruments we aren’t too familiar with to achieve a sound we want. I feel like we are still growing and learning as musicians to this day, and (I) don’t feel like that will ever change. There will always be something new to discover. I think that’s part of why we love it so much.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
AV: I just love being able to do what I love with my best friends. I feel like we are always hanging out anyway, and the friendships kind of just blend into the music somehow. It’s hard to remember specific times when it feels like a constant adventure. Some things that come to mind though are being flashed, meeting some bands I really love to listen to and just that feeling when the night comes together perfect, where we all feel on and the place is packed and the roar of a couple hundred people just feels amazing.
Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
FD: It seems to me, in recent years, the NEPA scene as a whole has really come together more as some kind of crazy family. Everyone seems to know everyone on some level and has each other’s backs, from the musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers, journalists and even the bar owners. I don’t know if social media can be credited for that or what, but it’s pretty cool.
Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
JV: Being an independent band, it’s a challenge having to learn the business aspect of the music industry. Anthony does most of the promotion and booking, which can be an overwhelming task, but we’ve all been trying to help out in that area.
AV: Also, I feel like we grew up in a weird time; we picked up our instruments in 2000, and when we were playing in high school, it was still an age of hanging flyers and calling bars. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 19, and it was a flip phone. So, adapting to this new marketplace that is social media has been a challenge in itself. I don’t really want to be on Facebook and Instagram all the time, but as a band we have to keep up on stuff like that. It’s just a different time where people can access so much material and so much art, and the bar is always being raised for entertainment and what’s entertaining.
Q: What are your future goals for the band?
AV: I have so many goals for the band. I’d really love to tour a lot more and go further and further. I want our ad mats, flyers, artwork, everything to always get better and portray the band’s vibe better. I want to release albums quicker than every two years, and most of all I want this to be my job one day. Not because I see it as a good money-making prospect but more because I love doing it. It’s what we do for fun, and I can’t imagine the happiness that comes with making a living through what you’re passionate about.