Interview with Robby J. Fonts of SICKSENSE
By Stephanie Stevens
I have followed Robby J Fonts career in the music industry. He took to some of the biggest stages with his band Stuck Mojo, he has had numerous projects that have helped him grow and showcase some of his vocal capacities from one spectrum to another. He has followed his dreams in the wrestling world and married one of the baddest women in the metal scene, Vicky Psarakis of the band “The Agonist”! Now this duo is forging into the latter half of 2021 with a brand new band called SICKSENSE. A band that is ready to break down barriers with their touch of pissed off groove, hard hitting and melodic tones and a raw sense of reality given to you in the lyrics. The band’s first single, ‘MAKE BELIEVE’ is catchy as fuck, brutal in parts and an all-out addicting song that you will have on repeat for days to come.
The band is based out of Chicago, IL & Montreal, QC, and consist of Vicky Psarakis aka “Killer V” (Vocals/Synths), Robby J. Fonts aka “Rob The Ripper” (Vocals), Branislav Panic aka “Breakdown Bran” (Guitars), Samuel Bedard aka “Spot-On Sam/SOS” (Bass) and Cody Taylor aka “The Trve Cody Taylor” (Drums). Knowing the background of Robby and Vicky the rest of the band have had some quality time in the world of music as bassist, Sam is also in the metalcore band, “Day Of Change” and guitarist Bran is from the black metal band, “Bane [Serbia]”. Both Bran and drummer Cody are formerly from the rap rock band, “Keychain”.
So, this band has an alluring diversity in the music community which brings to life a whole new refreshing, exciting and vibrant atmosphere when you hit play to a SICKSENSE track. I can’t wait to hear more of what this band has to offer. But for now, get your ears all up into the newest single ‘MAKE BELIEV’. It is a very solid and intriguing Platform track and I think it’s going to solidify that this band is here to break the mould and show that diversity is something we all need in our music lives.
I had the pleasure chatting with Robby to find out about the new band, creating music from a distance with his bandmates, and what the future holds for SICKSENSE with touring and releases! Plus, a look into his life with Stuck Mojo and his love for wrestling.
Q: Since you guys are very new to the scene how can you describe the style you have put together for SICKSENSE?
A: I’d say we are a hard rock band, with hip-hop, R&B, heavy metal & hardcore influences. There’s something for everybody.
Q: I got to check out the song ‘MAKE BELIEVE’ and the first thing that came to mind is the diversity in the song, it seems like all your past chapters have been intertwined into this band. When you were putting this band together was that a goal you had for the music?
A: I think because I was always “joining” other bands, only after the music was already written and the instrumental songwriters already had their ideas and “vision” in mind, including what they wanted the vocals to do and be. I was only able to add parts of what I was capable of doing vocally, but when I began working with Bran and Sicksense, we came up with all of our ideas from the “ground up”. I finally felt like I was actually part of the group and making the exact kind of music that I want to be doing.
Q: How are you guys taking the lyrical content, are you focusing on certain themes & elements or are you trying to diversify the topics like you are with the music?
A: Just as Sicksense creates the kind of music I want to be creating, I’m also free to write lyrics as I please as well. Topics may range from societal critiques and personal issues. Nothing is off the table here. Our lyrics are just as diverse as our music itself. In previous bands, I either had to write with certain guidelines in place or had to write about specific topics in mind. With Sicksense, I’m truly free to simply write as myself and how I see fit. I don’t feel like I’m being put into a box with this band.
Q: You’re working with your wife Vicky Psarakis, how is that going? Is it easier to work with a partner in that capacity and what are the struggles?
A: Working alongside my wife is awesome. I’ve been helping her behind the scenes with her work in other projects, including her features for other bands. When we work on her stuff, she takes charge of the lyrics and I simply provide suggestions or place minor input, at the end. In Sicksense however, I tend to take the lead for the majority of the lyrical direction on our songs. In general, I don’t mind working alongside other vocalists or lyricists though. I had a great time collaborating with Rich Ward for the record I did with Stuck Mojo as well.
Q: Other than Vicky, who else is working with you on SICKSENSE and why did you choose these particular people to take part in this project?
A: Sicksense is actually the successor band to our guitarist, Bran and our drummer, Cody’s previous project, “Keychain”. The duo were holding auditions online to find a new “singer” for their band back in late 2017. I hit them up and worked on three demos (one of those three ended up becoming ‘Make Believe’) for them. Bran liked what he heard from them and he introduced the idea of possibly working with a second “frontman”. Since Vicky had worked on the backing vocals for the demos I sent him, I suggested we get Vicky to join the band as this second “front-person” and we adjusted the demo songs to include what ended up becoming her main vocal parts for those songs. We wrote the remainder of our songs with both of our vocal abilities in mind. So, the band was started by Bran and Cody, Vicky and I ended up joining them, then Bran discovered our bassist, Sam from the local Quebec metal scene. Bran “tried him out” with his other band, “Bane”, got good vibes from him and asked him to join Sicksense, completing our line-up.
Q: For people who may be living under a rock Vicky is the front woman for “The Agonist”! Once this band gets off the ground have you thought ahead about touring and how will that unfold with her having that commitment also? And will other band members be in the same boat?
A: When touring and live show opportunities present themselves, we’ll fit in dates to work with everyone’s schedules and prior engagements. Every member in this band has something else going on outside of Sicksense, be it other bands, businesses or endeavours. Vicky’s in “The Agonist” and she does a bunch of solo work including her weekly Twitch stream segments. I’m in “Stuck Mojo” and I also do professional wrestling on the indie scene. Bran is in a black metal band called, “Bane”. Sam is in the metalcore band, “Day Of Change” and he’s also in “Bane” alongside Bran. When he’s not drumming for us, Cody does heating & cooling system repair work in his hometown. If things start picking up for the band, it might end up being the top priority for all involved, but we can’t compete against existing projects that have so much tenure over us. We’re still young and fresh as a project. Only time will tell where we end up.
Q: I’m sure it’s normal now to create and make music via the internet and I see your other band’s members live in other areas than you. What are the main struggles when putting music together and what is the positive about being able to create over internet world?
A:The biggest struggle is probably just the traveling distance and money spent in order to get everyone in the same place at the same time. But other than that, it’s awesome being able to create music over the internet. I personally prefer to receive tracks/demos online from the instrumental songwriters that I work with. It allows me to sit down on my own time and focus in my own world on what to write about and how to present my vocals. Long distance songwriting is no trouble at all. As long as everyone’s practicing their instruments and know their parts, we’d just need a few days of rehearsals and we would be good to start playing live shows. That’s how I’d do things with Stuck Mojo and it’s how Vicky does things with The Agonist.
However, we actually suffered delay after delay with this band. I’m actually an immigrant from Canada. Early during my immigration process is when I first joined Sicksense in late 2017. It took me until the end of 2018/early 2019 to actually get my Permanent Residency here in the States, allowing me to be able to travel outside of the country again and return to Canada (where the rest of our bandmates live). So, Vicky and I ended up going back to Canada to finally meet the rest of our band mates in person and we jammed our songs in person, fine-tuning the little details together, before we entered the studio with our producer, Christian Donaldson (who also works with The Agonist on their records). We recorded a full-album’s worth of material in early 2020, right before the pandemic happened…but because of the pandemic, that again delayed us once more by yet another year! We hadn’t had the easiest time putting ourselves out there, but here we are. Finally!
Q: You put together a very unique video for the song ‘MAKE BELIEVE’! In your own words what does the vibe of the video mean to you?
A: The concept of the video was to partly pay homage to Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ video (during our verses), but to also add our own spin to it, by including the two dancers who represented our clashing styles of sound that is found present in our music. There’s elements of calmness and serenity in our music, but then there’s also this “in-your-face”, loud and pissed off element to our sound as well. We wanted to portray an obvious clashing of styles through not only our sound, but with our visuals as well. It kind of symbolizes what we’re living through here in the States as well. I feel like there’s just so much division and a lack of understanding between different groups of people, so we’re trying to open up that discussion and bring people together here through our music. I’m not concerned about what people believe in or how they live their lives. I personally judge people by the content of their characters, after I’ve actually met them. Music’s an excellent way of bringing people together: 1) you find others who have the same tastes in music as you. 2) going to live concerts and festivals is one of the best social experiences you can have with others. It truly brings people together and allows everyone to forget about their troubles and just have an awesome time.
Q: Are you working on an album or EP to come out and if so when and, as of now, how many songs have you finished or are in the process of finishing off?
A: We actually recorded a full-length album’s worth of material back in early 2020. Because of the pandemic, all these delays and being completely independent with no record label, we have decided to split the recorded songs into two separate EP’s. So, we’ve launched the band with our ‘Make Believe’ single and we’re planning on releasing our debut EP in early 2022. We have plans to release the follow-up EP later in 2022 (around autumn time). We’ve noticed that people have such short attention spans and lack enough patience to pay attention for much time nowadays. So, we decided we’re going to slowly release music over time to help us maintain our hype and relevance. We’ll see how successful this release plan ends up being for us, and that will help us decide how to release more music in the future.
Q: Also, do you feel the way to go in the music world these days is the single release, what is your opinion on album releases vs going with numerous single releases?
A: To break into music nowadays, I believe it’s best to start off with a single release first. We’re going to try the EP release route for Sicksense, but new artists should definitely start off with a single to “test the waters”. Like I mentioned earlier, I just think fans of today are living through this “immediate gratification culture”, where they are swiping up and down so quickly, it’s becoming so difficult to catch people’s attention long enough for them to focus or actually sit down and listen through an entire 40+ minute album. I think more and more bands will stick to releasing singles or at the most EPs moving forward. I LOVE listening to full-length albums, but they’ve become somewhat archaic during today’s times and aren’t really getting the attention that they truly deserve.
Q: I think, way back in the day, the EAST COAST ROMPER interviewed you in the band STUCK MOJO! Now that we can look back on that era, what did it mean to be in a band like that and what is your best memory of those days?
A: Working with Stuck Mojo was awesome. Rich’s bands Fozzy and Stuck Mojo are two of the early bands that really got me into “my own music” and helped me figure out the kind of bands that I liked as a kid/teenager. My favourite memories were recording the “Here Come The Infidels” album at Rich’s buddy’s Chris Chandler’s farm, with legendary producer, Andy Sneap. Chris is unfortunately no longer with us as he passed away, due to cancer, in June 2016. I had a great time recording there. Chris was an amazing and humble human being who offered us his beautiful studio to record in with Andy. It was great taking breaks and hanging with the animals out in the fresh air in between song recordings. Chilling with cows and horses was sweet.
Most people don’t know this, but pretty much all my first ever live shows were with Stuck Mojo too. Most people’s first shows are at their high school talent shows, mine were headliner sets and international main stage festival appearances, doing vocals for one of my favourite bands! It was wild. I played on stage only twice prior to joining Stuck Mojo. I had truly been “thrown in the deep end” when I joined the band with such little live experience. No better way to learn than to open up on the main stage for “Twisted Sister” during your first time in the UK, right?!?
Q: What has it meant to you being able to perform, inspire, influence and really create your passions for the world to hear?
A: I believe that life is supposed to be about giving back and creating things for others to enjoy and appreciate. I’m just playing my part and it’s my pleasure to know that I’ve entertained someone or somehow got them thinking in a different way, thanks to my music. The work I’ve done so far in music hasn’t gotten too much attention or exposure, so I’m always humbled to hear someone else has heard and appreciates any of my work-past or present.
Q: I see you are also into wrestling, what is your background with that and will SICKSENSE dabble in possible projects with wrestling organizations?
A: I got trained by WWE Superstar Seth Rollins, Marek Brave and Krotch at Black & Brave Wrestling Academy in Davenport, Iowa back in early 2019. I made my in-ring debut and had my first match in August of that year and have been wrestling regularly on the independent circuit ever since. I mostly wrestle under my “Renegade” gimmick alongside my tag team partner, “Sabotage”, as the team, “Collateral Damage”.
I think our music fits really well for the wrestling world. I’d love for one of our songs to end up becoming the theme song for a major professional wrestling company’s PPV or have something featured in a video game or used as another wrestler’s theme song. You never know what can happen, so if an opportunity presents itself, I’d be open to weighing our options.
Q: Other than music, what is one thing that inspires you in this world to keep creating and why does that impact you so much?
A: I’m motivated to do my part and help out as much as I possibly can. I believe people should do what they can to keep themselves healthy and take care of themselves first, then work on getting the means to take care of the rest of their family, and if they’re lucky, put themselves in a position where they can comfortably help out others. You can’t truly help anyone if you keep yourself in the same boat that everyone else is in. I strive to be a person who creates opportunities for myself and the people around me. Simply being the best I can be and helping to build up my communities each day. These are the things that inspire me the most.
Q: If you could collaborate with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and what kind of song would you want to do with them or maybe even remake with them?
I would love to work on a straight-up hip-hop song alongside rapper, “Yelawolf”. To me he’s one of the mainstream rappers who has consistently released great songs over the years that are “true” to hop-hop as an artform and I respect him. There are so many great artists, groups and bands out there killing it though. I’d love to work with plenty of people out there. So many creative possibilities that can potentially come to life. We’re living through incredible times. So, we’ll see what happens.
Q: How long has it been since you fully toured and, with this band, are you looking into touring or waiting till you have a secured EP out? And what do you miss most about the road life?
A: I actually have yet to do a “proper” tour! Unfortunately, none of my prior projects ever picked up enough momentum for us to hit the road for a proper month-long tour.
The last time I had a “string of shows” in a row was over a period of 2 weeks, doing 4 shows with “Stuck Mojo”, shortly after our album release in the summer of 2016. We did 2 headline club shows in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively. Then the following week we had 2 festival dates on the main stages at “Bloodstock” in Derbyshire, UK and “Brutal Assault” in Czech Republic.
The last time I played music live, was with my former band, “Repentance” .We played an outdoor festival show, playing right before “Product Of Hate”, hit the stage at R’Noggin Fest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020.
Once our Sicksense EP comes out in early 2022, we’ll definitely start looking to play live shows.
Realistically, with all these prior tours from other bands being postponed and happening in 2022 instead, I can only see Sicksense playing live shows in the fall time of 2022, the earliest.
I do enjoy and appreciate my time at home, so the only thing I really miss most about playing live shows is the opportunity to meet and hang with fans/friends who enjoy my music. Aside from that, traveling can be rough: we don’t get much sleep, food options aren’t the greatest and everything is constantly “go, go, go ” while we’re on the road.
Q: Anything I missed you want to let fans know and any parting words to the music world?
A: I’m super stoked for the future with Sicksense! Truly feels like I found my “home” here and it’s nice to be creating music alongside a group of people who are all 110% on the same page. We’re all friends and the band feels like a family. Can’t wait for our new music to come out. We’ll be working hard in the meanwhile and I promise it’ll be worth the wait for anyone excited to hear more.
Thanks for having me, Stephanie! Cheers.
CONNECT WITH THE BAND:
‘Make Believe’ (Official Video)
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