Words and photography by Jon Reino
After forming in early 2019, Nova Charisma quickly began making waves in the alternative music scene. The post-hardcore duo consists of Donovan Melero of Hail The Sun and Sergio Medina, formerly of Stolas. "We met in 2010 at a Zia Records show Hail The Sun was playing on a DIY tour," says Medina. Together they made up 2/5th's of post-hardcore supergroup Sianvar, featuring Will Swan of Dance Gavin Dance and Michael Littlefield of A Lot Birds. He continues, "Donny wondered what kind of music him and I would write with the two of us at the helm. Around seven years later, after [Sianvar] broke up, we were finally able to give that vision a shot. With Sianvar, we'd all write together in a room. It was usually 4 or all 5 of us together. That worked really well for Sianvar, since most of us knew when to contribute or sit back when necessary. With Nova, it's just less cooks in the kitchen- it works really well, thankfully."
"We have always enjoyed the musical chemistry we shared, so it was a no brainer to continue doing it in the form of Nova Charisma," says Melero. "It's also easier to make decisions outside of writing when it's only the two of us." Nova Charisma released their first EP, "Exposition I", on August 22nd, 2019, soon followed by "Exposition II" on December 6th.
"I started [playing guitar] when I was 9 years old," recalls Sergio, "but I didn't really start taking it seriously until 12 when I started taking lessons. My early influences as Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Paco De Lucia, but slowly evolved from flashy guitar playing to how one uses the guitar in a unique way. Using pedals and tones to accentuate one's playing. I would say that sentiment is the same in the process of writing Nova Charisma vs my other bands. My other bands showcase the flashy guitar player in me, while with Nova I'm trying to focus on song structure, sonically unique guitar playing while maintaining the parts simple. Not leaning on technically proficient playing."
Nova Charisma marks a departure from both artist's typical styles, while keeping a sound that remains unmistakable. Heavy yet reserved, technical yet modest. An accessible and almost pop vibe from two of progressive music's finest minds.
"The music that has been created so far has felt different than my other bands, so I'm naturally inclined to write accordingly," says Donovan. "I try my best not to overthink it, which is easier said than done at times. I have a way that I write that works, with anything I'm involved with. When I let the process take hold organically, I feel like I get the best product. A more tangible difference is I am writing and recording bass guitar in Nova Charisma. I've played and written bass for over a decade now, so fully diving into that role has been different."
"My life with active addiction feels like a whole lifetime ago, and I have experienced so much since then, both related and unrelated to substance abuse. With Nova Charisma writing, it hasn't felt as prevalent, although a point could be made that it's led to everything I am and therefore write today. The best advice I could give to someone struggling with [substance abuse and mental health] issues is to reach out for help. Don't take on those demons alone."
- Donovan Melero
In December 2019, the band hit the road to bring their sound to the live stage for the first time, including a stop in Brooklyn, NY at Elsewhere on 12/20. But to do that they would need some help. "Putting together the live show was a wonderful experience," Sergio describes. "A lot of the music came together in ProTools sessions. We didn't get to hear them live for ourselves until the full Nova live group got together and filled in all the spaces. All of the people in our live band are great friends of ours. That includes Carlo Marquez, who drums on all of the Nova Charisma music and writes with us as well." The live band also features Aric Garcia of Hail the Sun on bass and Joe Occhiuti of Ice Nine Kills on keyboards.
"The first shows were a testament to the path that led us to Nova Charisma," says Donovan. "The support of this new project in its infancy stage is humbling. It seems that the songs have connected with others. This is everything we had hoped for, because the songs connected with us."
According to Donovan, Nova Charisma has no intention of slowing down. "We have a performance in London coming up this month, on January 17th. After that we intend on continuing to write for a full length record, and releasing "Exposition III" in the mean time. We are hoping to tour the US and UK/Europe at some point in 2020."
Expositions I and II are both available online now via Equal Vision Records, "Exposition II" is also available on vinyl in their online store as well. Follow them on social media at the links below, and please enjoy their latest single, "Gemini".
Earlier this year, Chino, CA post-hardcore band Hail The Sun preformed at Knitting Factory to celebrate their latest album, 'Mental Knife'. The Mental Knife Tour reached 24 cities in 30 days, stopping in Brooklyn on 9/29. The sold out crowd provided no shortage of crowdsurfers, with not a silent voice nor still foot in the house. Few can reach the level of energy and style that Hail the Sun bring to their live performances, a perfect blend of existential angst and divine craftsmanship that sets a high bar for other acts to match. Their set included a selection from their entire catalog of work, prominently featuring new material while also throwing back deep cuts from their 2012 EP Elephantiasis. Frontman Donovan Melero, who provides both vocals and percussion, switches between playing both in unison and allowing a touring drummer to fill the kit while he leaps around the stage with charisma and flair. Guitarists Shane Gann and Aric Garcia noodle with technical wizardry, supplying both hypnotizing melody and chaotic math panic. Their recorded work is equality impressive and affecting. 'Mental Knife' feels like a spiritual successor to their 2014 masterpiece 'Wake' while building on the impressive catalog they have built since forming in 2009. Fans of Circa Survive or The Fall of Troy will feel right at home enjoying their math inspired, atmospheric soundscapes, but Hail the Sun truly does stand alone as one of the best progressive acts you will find today.
After the show, the band posed for pictures with fans on the sidewalk outside. As a special surprise, Donovan preformed an intimate acoustic set with guitarist Sergio Medina. Together they play in the band Sianvar, as well as their new project Nova Charisma, who's debut album is now available via Equal Vision Records. Hail The Sun's Mental Knife is also available from Equal Vision, please enjoy the music video for their latest single 'Devastate and Recalibrate' below. If you have the opportunity to attend Swanfest on April 25th 2020 in Sacramento, CA do not pass it up, they will be joining an incredible lineup including Dance Gavin Dance, Animals as Leaders, Veil of Maya, and many more.
Words and Photography by Jon Reino
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