Anthony Viola has been playing music for 18 years with his best friends, his brother Jesse, and Frank Desando, his childhood friend. With Anthony Viola on drums, his brother singing and on guitar and Desando on bass, the three have performed as a band, Family Animals, for nearly 11 years. They recently released their third album, “The End Is Mere.” Anthony Viola is a graduate of North Pocono High School and Luzerne County Community College, where he studied music recording technology. He lives in Mount Cobb.
Meet Anthony Viola…
Q: What is your music background?
A: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been extremely passionate about it. When I was 13, Jesse was 10, and Frankie was 12, we started taking guitar lessons. We took lessons for about a year and made the band and loved every second of it. I was always drawn to music. Jesse and I got all my parents’ old records and were into those. My dad loves the Allman Brothers, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, so discovering that music as a kid was great.
Q: How did your band, Family Animals form?
A: We’ve known each other our whole lives. Frank lives two doors down from where I grew up. I don’t even remember meeting him. It was way back before I started taking music lessons. We always talked about forming a band. The three of us started as the Tonix; it was that horrible name you think of when you’re 13 years old. Then we changed our name to something fairly more decent, Family Animals, in 2008. We were in a Battle of the Bands competition in 2008 and needed a name, so we went with Family Animals, and we ended up winning Battle of the Bands, so we kept the name.
Q: What is it like to be able to pursue your passion with your brother and best friend?
A: It’s a dream come true. If I can make this work and make a living off of it, it’s just what I want to do. They are my best friends. This couldn’t be cooler. I only hang out with them. We play music constantly, we’ve learned together, and we know each other so well musically and personally, it only helps us click even more musically. I see siblings who don’t get along or have different interests, but we are extremely fortunate that we have the same dream, we’re a team, and we are on the same page.
Q: Describe Family Animals’ sound.
A: We’ve been describing ourselves as a psychedelic, indie rock band. There are so many genres these days, and they’re all so niche. The whole idea behind our band is to try to be fluid with the genres we play. Even to say we are a psychedelic rock band is so broad. Our influences come from all over the place. We listen to reggae, classic rock, hip-hop, Jack White and Frank Zappa. There are so many influences, and we want them all to come through without every sound sounding the same or being stale. We’re big fans of Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Butthole Surfers, Nirvana and a little bit of everything.
Q: You recorded your first album almost 10 years ago. Your most recent album, “The End Is Mere” was released in February. How have things changed?
A: We recorded our first album with our professor, Paul Sinclair. We started recording it in the beginning of 2009 and finished a little over a year later. We released it in 2010. We wanted to produce “The End Is Mere” ourselves since we went to school for this. On our previous albums, we recorded them and produced some ourselves, but we were still honing in on our sound. We’ve also changed our writing style. For the most part, Jesse did the writing. This time, we all collaborated, wrote together and had a bunch of ideas. We wanted to do better with the producing. We went crazy looking up microphone techniques and bought some old vintage microphones. We really wanted to make the production aspect better. I really hope it shows.
Q: What can people expect to hear on the album?
A: It’s kind of a concept album in a sense. It’s about a fantastical other universe world. We hired Brian Langan to do our art; he’s a great artist, and he really pulled it off so well. We wrote this song last year called “Gimme Jim-Jims,” and that had all these fantastical characters, and we decided to write the album about that. It’s really it’s own self-contained story.
Q: Outside of music, what hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I like collecting records, buying and selling old stuff. My brother and I have been fixing up old guitars. I really enjoy taking pictures. We’ve also been filming our own music videos for this album, and so we’ve been getting into the video production aspect. That’s a big hobby, learning that. We filmed something in fall that we are just getting ready to release now. We’re doing the sets, filming and editing, and we like it that way. I also love movies and animals; we have a lot of animals.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A: Throughout high school and as a kid, I always had so much social anxiety. I always worried about what everyone thought of me. I guess through music, being around Jesse and Frank and just reading a lot, I’m becoming more sociable. In my 20s, I had a bad time with some tough personal things. Trying to come out of that and relearn who I am hopefully turned me into a better person who appreciates life more.