INTERVIEW: POLYBIUS (ROCHESTER, NY)

Photo: Emma-Jo

I saw these guys for the first time at Montage Music Hall in Rochester on a Friday night in January 2022. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the eclectic metal vibes, the ripping riffs, the satisfying solos, OR the fucking KEYTAR. Nevertheless, here we are. It was so great to see a band like THIS at my FIRST SHOW BACK post pandemic as well. I’d go on and on, but I should probably just get into my interview with these folks at this point. Let’s dive in!

1. What’s the story behind the band name? I’ve noticed a few bands online with this

name, but I purposely didn’t Google it, because I want to hear it from you!

Alex Zillioux: The name comes from an internet urban legend about a fictional arcade game called Polybius. Supposedly the game was used in the early 80’s by the government to test methods of mind control on unsuspecting players.

The name was chosen because I wanted this project to sort of pay homage to everything retro/80’s, and I felt it was a cool sounding name for a metal band that also has a fun/cryptic backstory if you get the reference.

2. Did this band form immediately after Nuclear Winter disbanded, or is there more

to the story?

Alex Zillioux: That’s sort of a two-part answer. The project started as a side project after our first hiatus, and was originally meant to just be a studio only project where I played all the instruments/wrote everything. The first album was somewhat into production when Nuclear Winter reformed, and since that project was always my main focus, I sort of put Polybius on delay because at the time Polybius was only supposed to be a solo/side project, so I figured there was no push to get anything out super quick.

As things sort of started falling apart with Nuclear Winter the second time, I started taking Polybius more seriously and looked at turning it into a full fledged band. Since I had already known everyone currently in Polybius for years, it wasn’t too much of a struggle to find members that I knew would be the right fit both as players and people.

3. Talk about the incorporation of the keytar into your music. Was this planned from

the very beginning, or was this something that was conceived after you had written

your first few songs?

Alex Zillioux: I did want to incorporate some synth aspects into the music from the jump, but more so in certain sections or as ambient background stuff, rather than a full time instrument that is used in every song.

Since the project was originally just myself, there wasn’t a lot I could do as far as synth stuff since the keyboard isn’t an instrument I can really play other than a little noodling here and there.

My partner, Kaitlyn, has been playing piano/keyboard basically her whole life, and is actually capable of using it to its full potential. I initially asked her to add some synth parts to songs as needed, but the more I sat with the idea, the more intrigued I was in the idea of making synth a full time instrument in the band. I know there’s plenty of power metal bands that use that kind of sound, but the thought of a death/thrash metal band incorporating keys in that way seemed somewhat unique to me. I felt it could add another level of heaviness to the music.

4. How did you all meet? I know some of you from the Nuclear Winter days, but others

I’m not so sure about.

Alex Zillioux: Drew, Zach and myself all met through being in Nuclear Winter. Both of them saw Nuclear Winter play when we had first started out and weren’t super solid yet. Drew offered to fill in on bass at the time cause our original bassist had just quit, and we just clicked so well musically/personally that he ended up staying in the band until the very end. We saw Zach in his first band B.A.S.H. (Bad Ass Shit Heads) opening up for Nuclear Winter, and we all hit it off right away. That kid really plays with passion every time he takes the stage. Kaitlyn and I met each other in a mutual friend group around 2015. We’ve been together for just over 3 years now, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner and band member. Mike was someone we would see at a lot of the Rochester shows we played. We didn’t know him that well, but we knew he was a killer drummer and just the nicest guy. I hit him up when we were trying to get an actual gigging band off the ground, and he seemed like the perfect fit for the job.

5. When you first established this band, who were the main influences you were trying

to emulate? When I played with you guys in January, your singer had an Anthrax

shirt on! I didn’t expect you guys to sound as you do after seeing that. It was a

trip.

Alex Zillioux: Influence wise, Polybius is sort all over the place. Some of the main influences on my writing as a whole are bands like Death, Strapping Young Lad, Gojira, System of a Down, Gwar, Toxic Holocaust, and basically every major thrash band from the 80’s (Sodom, Slayer, Exodus, etc). While we play slightly heavier music, we all love the style of bands like Anthrax and more classic/traditional metal bands.

I mainly try to capture what I like about all those bands in my music. The main aspects being speed, aggression, groove, and sort of prog elements at times.

While I’m into a lot of heavier modern bands (Gojira being a prime example), I find that the way a lot of metal music is written/recorded now just doesn’t hit as hard, to me personally. I can’t say if it’s the super crisp production or guitars seemingly getting tuned lower and lower, but a lot of that stuff isn’t what I fell in love with when I got into metal.

Something about the older metal albums from the 80’s and 90’s just hits different to me. That raw and imperfect sound is what I love about metal and what I’d like to bring back with our sound.

6. Following up question 5, talk about the bands and artists that inspired you all

to write and perform music in the first place!

Alex: The bands that really got me started in music were all the classics from the 70’s/80’s. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dio, Black Sabbath, Rush and too many more to mention. My brother Kyle and I would jam classic rock and metal songs in the basement for hours growing up, and I really think having the benefit of always having someone to jam with helped me immensely in my musical journey.

I would have to attribute my love of metal and all things heavy to Black Sabbath and System of a Down. Black Sabbath had me into the sound of distorted guitars and evil imagery for as long as I can remember, but when I was twelve or thirteen, a friend showed me System of a Down and I was blown away. I had heard Dio, Metallica, and the more “mainstream” metal bands by that point, but had never heard music as intense and as chaotic as System of a Down. I really think they’re the reason I jumped down the rabbit hole of more extreme music that got me into much heavier/faster stuff as I grew up.

Zach: Exodus really inspired my thrash styling, Nuclear Assault as well!

Drew: Primus – saw them in 2011 and I became a bass whore immediately.

Mike: Musical inspirations for me currently have mainly consisted of alt-indie projects and rap. Kendrick Lamar, $not, Denzel, Curry, Logic, Lil Uzi, Lil Yachty, Carnage Tee, Grizzley, Kayne West, KNOWER, Crumb, Mojjo

My overall inspirations are bands like Bullet For My Valentine, A7X, Foo Fighters, Protest The Hero, Mercyful Fate, 1000 different underground metal bands lol. My musical taste is all over the place…

Kaitlyn: Starting out and continually one of my biggest inspirations will always be my grandfather – watching him have fun playing keyboard in the house while my grandmother would sing along really showed me how simple and beautiful music can be in a way like nothing else. More recently, I became really inspired by Marc Rebillet – seeing someone make so much from barely anything, just a guy in his apartment with his keyboard, a looper and a mic making such wacky and funky sounds gave me more confidence to lean into the wackiness of synth and what weirdness comes out. Dan Deacon and Strawberry Mountain are also big synth influences for me that I hope will seep into my playing more as I progress. But most of all, I’m inspired by my bandmates – their constant energy and creativity and open-mindedness has really helped me start to grow into my own as a musician and I’m so grateful for that.

7. Talk about any shows you have coming up in the near future.

Alex Zillioux: Come check us out opening for Power Glove at the Montage in Rochester, April 20th! For right now, that’s our only scheduled show as we’re focusing on recording for our second album.

8. Discuss the evolution of your music and where you see things going on your next

release.

Alex Zillioux: My goal as a musician has and will always be to push myself as a whole. I would like to see this band go in the same direction as all the bands that inspire me the most.

Bands like Death constantly pushed their sound and were always evolving. Throw on “Scream Bloody Gore” back to back with “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” and it almost doesn’t sound like the same band. That’s my goal with Polybius, always trying to push the envelope of our sound and metal as a whole, while sticking to those classic roots that made us want to headbang to begin with. Hopefully our next two releases will live up to that goal.

Our upcoming album, Nuclear Undead, is more of a personal send-off to Nuclear Winter than a real representation of our sound/writing. That band got me started in the metal scene and I wanted to pay homage to that music with the Polybius style, as well as feature some previously unrecorded songs that I felt were too nasty to be lost to time. That album will also feature two new Polybius tracks that I feel give a good example of how our sound is already evolving.

Our next fully original Polybius album, Rejection of Self will be much darker in tone and feature some heavier/more intense songs as compared to the classic thrash style of Nuclear Winter. It’s too early to tell a release date for that album, but we’ll try to hopefully have it out either this year or mid next year depending on scheduling.

9. Where do we find you online?

facebook.com/PolybiusWNY

instagram.com/PolybiusWNY

10. For Zach: how long have you been playing guitar? You’re the one I know the best in the band and you’re just a beast, bro. I can’t handle it.

Zachary Bushey: I’ve been playing for 11 years, starting when I was 9, pushed very hard by my guitar teacher Lamont Humphrey, who still is teaching lessons to this day! As well as my dad who was paying for all of it (laughs). It’s an honor to be a part of this project and if you haven’t seen us yet, it’s truly a performance you’ll never forget! So make sure you stay in the loop and catch out shows!

11. Everyone else: how long have you been playing your respective instruments and how did you get started?

Alex: I actually started trying to learn guitar when I was just getting into music around nine or ten years old. It just didn’t make much sense to me back then, so I switched to drums because it was much easier for me to get the hang of at first since it was just rhythmic and I didn’t have to worry about scales, chords, etc.

Years later, I felt an urge to revisit trying to learn guitar. I had reached a plateau in my drumming at the time and wanted to start a new instrument to try and make my brain think about music in a different way, while also giving myself the ability to write riffs I heard in my head on an actual instrument instead of always having to rely on finding someone who could play to bring them to life. February 3rd, 2018 is when I picked up the guitar again. I learned a sloppy version of the main riff to “Blacklist” by Exodus, and I must’ve played along with that song 15 times in a row in my bedroom that night. Even though it was probably the worst rendition of the song you’ve ever heard, I instantly became addicted to the melodic capabilities of the guitar and I’ve been feeding that addiction for a little over four years now.

Drew: 13 years and believe it or not cause my girlfriend at the time played guitar and I wanted to get better than her. I was in lessons for 6 months and completely self taught from there on.

Mike: I have been playing drums and percussive instruments for about thirteen years now. I got started beating the crap out of pots and pans as an eleven-year-old kid to Slipknot songs so my mom bought me a drum kit so I would stop touching her kitchenware lmao.

I started out in marching band in 7th grade and I really think it was my teachers that really drove me to play beyond my own limits, so I owe them so much for their hard work and dedication for making me into the person I am today. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the names of my first two teachers because I was only 12-13 years old at the time. But, I would like to shout out Greg Gascon who was my last drum teacher. He was by far the best teacher and one of my biggest inspirations to continue doing what I do. I owe him so much for making me into the drummer I am today and dealing with all the bullshit I put him through as a kid lmao.

Kaitlyn: I’ve been playing piano my whole life basically, so about 20 years now. I started learning piano when I was in pre-k, really wanting to take after my grandfather. I took lessons through elementary school but really fell in love with clarinet/wind instruments so I switched gears for a while and eventually graduated with a music degree from that. For a long time, I never really considered myself a true pianist, but I kept up on it enough to take gigs as an accompanist and church director through college so it was always at least passively improving on the side. For a while I felt like I had lost my passion for music after working for-hire way too long, and being a part of this has reignited that love. Joining Polybius has been such a switch up to everything else I’ve ever done musically, there’s so much I want to learn and improve on now that it almost feels like I’m starting over completely, and it’s just so exciting to see how we’ll all develop over time.

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