Satya Graha is one of the best reasons why more people should pay attention to the band scene in Chicago. The band's explosive raw talent is a well-kept secret of the Windy City: Their stage presence sweats energy and enthusiasm as they communicate in silence above the music, feeding off each other like a tight team in combat.
Technically, they are a band of eight: Six members playing their hearts out on stage and two others working on a daily basis to create, organize and write songs. All members work together as one to produce Satya Graha.
Joined together by a love of songwriting, David Vella (lead singer and guitar) and Nora Kolar (lead vocal) hit the right notes and blend in just the right dosage of emotion and harmony needed to give a song an edge and make it one worth remembering. Guitarists Lou Carouso and Kent Van Der Kolk play with passion, joined by Scott Pazera on bass and drummer Terry Keating.
Excited with my new discovery, I set out to talk to what I believe could be the next biggest thing to grab everyone's attention in the music scene. I was able to track down Satya Graha prior to rehearsing in a large warehouse close to Elk Grove Village. As they set up and began to conjure the energy to perfect their songs, I picked their brains on what Satya Graha was really all about ...
Deborah Cottington: I am sure a lot of people would love to know what your band's name means -- fill us in.
Scott (bass guitar): Satya and Graha are two separate words from the Sanskrit put together by Ghandi in the 1920s when India was trying to break away from British reign. He basically translated it as the force of truth and love. Satya as love or truth and Graha as steadfast. It was not only the banner for his movement of peaceful resistance, but also reflected his philosophy of life. It was his contention that if you stuck to doing what you knew was truthful and right you could accomplish anything and you could do so with out harming anyone. One of the things Ghandi preached was that music is the only universal language that everyone can understand, which is so true. This saying sums up how we have really stuck with this band over the years. And however hard or long it took we have made it through. The saying has really become us.
D.C.: How would you describe your music?
David (lead vocal and guitar): When I think of our music, I want to say soulful, especially compared to today's music -- made for the record companies by the record companies. It's just so juiced up with Pepsi Cola and heroine. Our songs mean exactly what we want them to say. We don't try and write a particular type of music. We will do country, rock, Al Green -- whatever style matches the emotions of the song.
D.C.: Who writes the songs for Satya Graha?
David: I have written many songs. Everyone writes, everyone contributes a lot. I write mostly the music. Two of my main pieces are "Grace" and "Lovely Waste of Time." I've written others ... they're insignificant.
Nora (lead vocal): I wrote a song for my father -- it's the only song I have written so far. I wrote it for him as he passed away when I was 14. It is simply called "A Song For My Father." Kent came up with the music one night at my apartment, and that's when we completed it -- we play it all the time.
D.C.: What are your hopes and dreams for the band?
Terry (drums): Our hopes and dreams are that our success is measured in terms of doing what we want to do, and with the money to do it.
D.C.: Tell us about your new CD release.
Terry: It consists of 14 songs -- we put our best work into it. They are all really strong tunes, and we have nothing but the highest hopes for them.
D.C.: What is the band's favorite place to perform, and where would you all love to play?
Nora: Fitzgerald's has got to be our favorite place; it is always a blast to play there just because it is our home turf. We want to play everywhere! We hope to go out on the road on a huge tour.
D.C.: What do you think about the band touring the country?
David: What the band really needs is to get on the road and try to play 200 to 300 shows a year. It sounds ridiculous, but if we could we would be unstoppable. We would be so good just because we would be so used to performing. That's how you get good -- you play live.
D.C.: Tell me about your hopes of promoting the band.
Terry: Right now we self-promote our band and are actively pursuing WXRT [93.1 FM, Chicago]. We really hope to catch the attention of college radio stations around the country -- that would create a demand for us to play at the schools live. We still would have a long way to go, but that would be a start. We're doing the best we can... we're not brain surgeons, we don't have all the answers, we just do the best we can at any given time.
D.C.: For you, what is the greatest thing about playing in this band?
Lou (guitar): It has got to be the fact that as I grew up I listened to a lot of Beatles, Led Zepplin, The Who and The Rolling Stones. And when I first heard Satya Graha play I heard all of those influences in their music. It became just so natural than to play with them their style was so similar to mine.
David: That our shows are really energetic. We are all so enthusiastic and feed off the music and each other.
D.C.: What other ingredients make Satya Graha so unique?
Lou: Our passion, talent and interesting singing arrangements. Nora and Dave are just spectacular singers. It's so great to work with them. It is easy to make music, because we just start creating and the next thing you know we have a song. I just think the greatest thing about them is their drive. They have an undying drive to play shows, practice and record.
Kent (guitar): It is our love to play and our passion. We all want to make it just as bad as the next band and we won't stop until we get it.
What's different about Satya Graha is that they are not reaching for a new sound like Nine Inch Nails, but instead trying to push their songwriting to a point where each record is distinct, with its own feeling and texture. Satya Graha is definitely not about a consistent sound; their primary influences range from folk to Led Zepplin to Aretha Franklin. Check them out and you will be pleasantly surprised when you hear what Satya Graha has created.
Satya Graha interview Copyright © 1999 Deborah Cottington
Black and White photography Copyright © 1999 Deborah Cottington