Hessler is proof Chicago spawns more talented, driven musicians than any other city in the United States. Sure, people in New York have a fun Rock ‘n’ Roll attitude and fifteen minutes of fame; Musicians in Los Angeles have the “the look” down pat and a myriad of record label execs eager to exploit them. But in Chicago, artists (of all genres) often have the luxuries of space, time, hungry audiences, and the opportunity to simmer, develop, and tour throughout the U.S. Up and comers, Hessler, have taken the time to research their idols (ranging from Queen to Rammstein), learn the music business, put in the endless hours to learn and improve their instruments, and keep an ambitious focus as they play the Rock ‘n’ Roll game.
Looking at the band, one might be quick to assume they’re another 80’s Metal revival group. Indeed, many of their drum beats, aggressive bass lines, and guitar riffs are reminiscent of that era. They also borrow heavily from the Hair Metal costume closet, in addition to front woman Lariyah Daniels’ custom gladiator-meets-goth stage outfits. But what most 80’s bands lacked in substance, talent, and hard work, Hessler demonstrates with grace and determination. Only at the beginning of their music careers, they’ve got the right stuff and are ready to pay their dues on their way to the top. And do not be fooled by the stunning blond vixen fronting the band. Daniels is far more than just a pretty face and body gracing their album covers. She takes her role as a singer as seriously as she approaches her professional fitness coaching and modeling careers. On Facebook, Daniels cites eight-octave range opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (the Fifth Element character performed by Inva Mula) as her vocal inspiration. She is a feminine dynamo.
Watching this band interact, it is clear to see they all have one common goal: the success of Hessler. Prior to their House of Blues performance opening for legendary rockers UFO, all are in the band’s dressing room, channeling various energies for their upcoming performance. After a few minutes of applying stage make-up, vocalist Daniels sips hot tea and slithers into her vinyl pants and corset. Nobody in the band notices. She’s just one of the guys, their sister-in-arms. Minutes before curtain call, she takes a moment alone in the hallway to shake off some nerves and exercise her vocal chords. The youngest member of the band, 21 year-old Frankie “Snakes” Sripada, sits on the couch clumsily (and adorably) painting his fingernails black, then practices a few licks on his B.C. Rich Mockingbird. Slight and meek bassist Eric Michael applies kohl eye make-up, tries on a cornucopia of metal-studded accessories, and quietly collects himself. Drummer Marcus Lee jokingly loosens up with a few wrestling warm-up moves, then adopts the arm of a couch as his drum practice pad. Hessler’s main songwriter, founder, and guitarist Igz Kincaid is perhaps the most amped up—as any person would be to see his “child” become what he’s envisioned all these years. This is not the kind of raucous backstage scene one might imagine for a hard rocking, voracious, young band. It seems, even in the freshman stage of the band’s career, they know the pitfalls of debauchery. Rock first, celebrate later.
Seconds before they step in to the spotlight before a near-capacity crowd, the band does a quick huddle and pep talk. A select few documentarians stand near to capture Hessler’s magic, energy, and kinship. Kincaid leads the pack: “Umm, on three… Poontang.” All together, they chant, “One! Two! Three! Poontaaaaang!!” and take their positions on stage. It’s time to slay hundreds more unsuspecting music lovers with the chops, sex appeal, and Heavy Metal extravaganza that is Hessler. Daniels paces in the wings, waiting for a precise music queue to make her bombshell entrance to Kamikazi. The band makes their way through a set of solid, high-energy material. When they get to sultry Confessions, Daniels dons a blindfold and manages to prowl the stage as she hypnotizes the largely male audience. Throughout their set, there are numerous choreographed moves. As with any great entertainer, Hessler understand the subtle ways in which a fully-loaded, physically and visually provocative performance enhances the concert experience. This also sets Hessler apart in a contemporary music world full of “shoe gazers”. In addition to Kinaid’s seductive guitar licking, Michael’s precise yet animalistic bass attack, Lee’s demonic drum smashing, and Sripada’s flamboyant guitar grinding, Daniels turns up the heat by incorporating extremely flexible acrobatics, high jumps, and impressive hair-tossing. Her perfect cleavage doesn’t hurt either. Smartly, the band saves their catchiest tune Windy City Wild Child for last. Even fans who’ve never heard of Hessler before this night’s performance are singing along by the end of the song.
For being such a young, ambitious Rock outfit, the members of Hessler are incredibly grounded. They know the importance of building an excited, loyal fan following. They also know the value of a conspicuous multi-media presence. As soon as they finish a sweat-drenched live set, you won’t find this quartet indulging in “sex, drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll” antics. All of them freshen up, grab a quick beer, and immediately head out to the merchandise area to greet fans and sign autographs for hours. Even as the openers for popular acts (W.A.S.P., Skid Row, Lizzy Borden, Cinderella, and festivals like Rocklahoma, Summerfest, SXSW), Hessler always manages to pull a large post-show crowd anxious to snap a photo or have a poster autographed.
Hessler takes great efforts to reciprocate the admiration fans show them. One might find the Hess Express team sharing fan photos on their website or thanking integral individuals on social media pages like Facebook. Their gratitude is sincere and highly interactive. At this stage in the band’s life and in a more D.I.Y.-friendly music industry, Hessler’s marketing is a grassroots effort where every single admirer and contributor plays a part in the band’s success and evolution.
Two of the bands biggest fans have recently become collaborators, documenting the band’s meteoric rise. Chicago-based sisters Biliana and Marina Grozdanova recently launched a Kickstarter.com campaign to fund their travels and production, as they follow Hessler on their southwestern U.S. tour. Sponsored largely by Hessler fanatics, the burgeoning documentarians’ goal of $3,000 was more than doubled. Under their company name of El Jinete Films, the sisters will shadow the band on their largest tour to date. Keep your eyes peeled for a DVD release of their final project entitled Hessler: The Last Kamikazis of Heavy Metal sometime after the Hessler wraps.
On December 1st, Hessler takes their high-energy, rock solid performance on the road.
Dec. 1, 2012 St. Louis, MO – Cusumanos
Dec. 2, 2012 Tulsa, OK – The Sound Pony
Dec. 3, 2012 Dallas, TX – TBA
Dec. 4, 2012 San Angelo, TX – Deadhorse Saloon
Dec. 5, 2012 El Paso, TX – Kickstandz
Dec. 6, 2012 Tuscon, AZ – The Irish Pub
Dec. 7, 2012 Tempe, AZ – Big Fish Pub
Dec. 8, 2012 San Bernardino, CA – Garage Inc. Pizza
Dec. 9, 2012 San Diego, CA – The Shakedown
Dec. 11, 2012 West Hollywood, CA – Viper Room
Dec. 12, 2012 Las Vegas, NV – Country Saloon
Dec. 13, 2012 Flagstaff, AZ – TBA
Dec. 14, 2012 Albuquerque, NM – Hooligans
Dec. 15, 2012 Denver, CO – Juggs
Dec. 16, 2012 Kansas City, MO – Jerry’s Bait Shop
Hessler’s first full-length album Comes with the Territory is available for pre-sale through their website, www.hesslerchicago.com and releases worldwide on November 27, 2012. If you get the opportunity, do catch their live show and meet the band afterwards. Then watch their accession to Rock stardom over the next few years so you can say “Oh, hey! I knew them back when…”