On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Ahwatukee band 23 Valkyries will take the stage at SoZo Coffee House in Chandler for 90 minutes at 8 p.m. – their longest set to date.
Their set will conclude with a performance of their newest single, “Breakthrough,” which will be released on all major streaming platforms this November.
23 Valkyries consist of three friends, Cameron Kulik, Hunter Tisdale, and Chris Kontos – all three graduates of Arizona State University. Kontos and Kulik are Desert Vista High School grads; Kulik graduated in 2012 and Kontos the following year.
“I had taken percussion my freshman and sophomore years and was part of the symphonic band one semester. I took percussion in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at Altadena Middle School as well, and had private lessons before that,” says Chris Kontos, the band’s drummer.
The trio has been playing together since 2018.
“I met Cameron in August of 2015, which was the start of my junior year of college. We discovered our mutual interest in music and jammed together a few times, but didn’t take anything too seriously,” said Kontos.
Before starting 23 Valkyries, Kontos played drums in Gram Negative, another Ahwatukee-based rock band, and had the opportunity to perform at music festivals in Grenoble, France, and Chengdu, China.
Kulik and Kontos jammed together for several years before adding Tisdale on guitar in 2018.
“I first met in Cameron at Chandler-Gilbert Community College,” said Tisdale. “We found that we shared similar musical tastes, which is always hard to find within our generation. Later, Cameron asked me to come and jam with him and his drummer friend Chris, and from there, everything is history.”
With a third member in the works, 23 Valkyries was born. Half of the band’s unique name was inspired by the song “23” by Jimmy Eat World.
“I had wanted to play music for so long but was always finding a reason why I shouldn’t,” Kulik explained. “That was one of those songs that I came across when I needed it most. I wanted to pay tribute to that struggle to remind myself this exists simply because we tried.”
Initially, the three friends weren’t sure that anything would come from their jam sessions.
“At first I figured it was something that would just be an occasional session, I thought there was no way we could keep writing like this, but the ideas kept flowing, and we still feel like there’s more to say,” said Kulik, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist.
Now, the three guys can’t imagine doing anything else.
“We’re able to connect and bring out the best in each other regarding songwriting. Each time someone has a new riff or a new chord progression we turn it into something even better than the last thing we wrote,” Kontos explained.
The members of 23 Valkyries love the band life, saying they’ve become a second family to each other.
“There’s a certain connection you form with each other that doesn’t happen anywhere else in life,” said Kontos.
The band released their first single, “Hypnotist,” this summer, and their newest single, “Breakthrough,” promises to be the first to showcase the group’s refined sound, drawing influence from both classic and modern rock.
“It’s taken us some time to develop our sound, which has become definitively more rock,” said Kontos.
Each member draws inspiration for their sound from different rock artists from throughout the years.
“My music taste and influences are centered around 90’s rock, particularly Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl of Nirvana, and Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins. I find that they take an almost melodic approach to the drums that really complements the rest of the music,” Kontos explained.
Kulik is most inspired by artists like Fleetwood Mac, Jake Bugg, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Kings of Leon.
“You listen to a song that master songwriter musicians put out, and you can’t help but be inspired to analyze the song and pick out what makes it so good,” he said.
Tisdale’s guitar inspirations include Angus Young of AC/DC, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Alex Lifeson of Rush, and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.
In addition to having favorite influences, the band has favorite songs to perform as well.
“We all have a different favorite song. Mine is ‘Breakthrough.’ We’re currently working on a studio release of it that we expect will be available this November,” said Kontos.
Kulik’s favorite song to play is “5 Minutes to Freedom” saying, “it’s got the perfect classic rock vibe.”
Tisdale said, “I personally have a blast playing any of our songs, but one that really lets me go at it from a lead guitarist’s perspective is “5 Minutes to Freedom.” It has great solid rhythm parts and a great open spot for me to improvise a solo.”
Writing gets the group just as excited as performing.
“My favorite part of being in a band is the writing,” Kulik said. “I think it’s the same feeling that a craftsman or painter gets. When you create something that never existed in the world, that’s pretty cool.”
Working together and creating music with one another keeps these guys going every day.
“Everyone in life has unique perspectives, personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to utilize everyone’s individualism and put them into something like a song is very special,” said Tisdale.
The 23 Valkyries hopes to expand their repertoire and create even more music.
“Our biggest goal is working on releasing our EP,” Kulik said. “We have been working on a ton of original content that has been behind closed doors, so we are looking forward to sharing that with the world.
“No hard date on that, but rest be assured its coming. Will also be working on scoring some more gigs around town as well.”
The band frequents the open mics at SoZo Coffee House, but their upcoming show will be their second official performance.
The band’s performance on Friday will be opened by a performance by The Reigns, another group consisting of Desert Vista graduates.
“You can expect The Reigns to blast you with some relaxing and chill hypnotic rock. With the 23 Valkyries, you can expect us to hit you with some good old-fashioned rock and roll in addition to some great covers with original twists,” said Kulik.
The group is looking forward to the show.
“We have each put a ton of work and creativity into this upcoming event and cannot wait to share it with the audience,” said Tisdale.
Follow the band on Instagram at @23Valkyriesmusid