The story of THE WHISKEY VIOLETS began when co-founder/singer- songwriter Jon Nistal crossed paths with future co-founder Rich Mckenna. After being in several semi-successful local bands (Chance of a Lifetime, Dakota Grace), Nistal spent his time writing new material while searching for the right project with the right people.
At a young age Nistal showed a strong talent for songwriting and crafting memorable melodies which led him to be featured in a book, as well as multiple appearances on national radio and television including two live performances with legendary rock star Eddie Money. Nistal also toured the east coast twice as a frontman and principal songwriter.
When Nistal first met Mckenna, he sought a songwriting partner as dedicated and passionate as himself. During this time, Nistal auditioned for a hard rock project looking for a singer led by McKenna and future Whiskey Violets drummer Luke LaGrega. Although Jon performed well, the project was not the right fit and Nistal/McKenna went their separate ways. Mckenna recalls that "It's been three years and I still remember the melody Jon wrote on the spot to use over our chorus section from his tryout."
Above all, Mckenna always ha had a passion for writing his own material. He began playing guitar and taking lessons from the age of twelve. He studied music during college, studying classical guitar with legendary guitarist Bill Zito. After years of frustration of performing without a singer, Mckenna began a new project in search of a vocalist. He decided to go out and find the best singer/songwriter he could to help develop his songwriting skills. This was an easy decision for Mckenna who already had Nistal in mind.
Mckenna set up a rendezvous with Nistal via the internet despite not even remembering who Nistal was or even what he looked like. Upon entering Nistal's apartment, the two hit it off immediately, exchanging their strong passions for writing new original music. Thirty minutes later, they created what would be the foundation for their single "Sunrise" which is featured on their debut album. As a songwriting team they could write and record the best material, and then set out to put together their dream band.
After writing some quality tracks that they eventually began to record, Mckenna was forced to cut ties with Nistal to work out some personal matters. During this time, Nistal created the short-lived Still Young Poets. On the same day Still Young Poets ended, Nistal called Mckenna to see if he was interested in resuming their songwriting partnership, and they were together the very next day.
After almost a year apart, Mckenna and Nistal picked up right were they had left off. Joe Ferrera of Still Young Poets remained loyal to NIstal and his drumming is featured on three Whiskey Violets tracks. He was later replaced by Luke LaGrega, who was a longtime band mate of Mckenna ,and, coincidentally, was in the band that Nistal originally tried out for when McKenna first caught a glimpse of Nistal's talent.
Luke LaGrega began playing drums at the age of nine and received his first drumset as a gift for his 12th birthday. By the time he was 14 years old, he was playing and recording with bands all over Long Island and New York City. He began studying with Marko Djordevic at age 20, and has been playing a variety of styles including jazz, metal, rock, hip hop, fusion, bluegrass, and r& b.
Alex Leicht rounded out the trio after replying to an internet advertisement for a new group looking for a bassist. Multi-instrumentalist Alex Leicht was impressed with Nistal's prominent use of vocal harmonies and memorable melodies, as well as Mckenna's creative guitar writing. Leicht's melodic and bouncy style made him an easy fit for the group. Leicht also teaches music at the Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway Park, New York. His strong knowledge of music makes him very easy to work with and was recognized as the missing link, completing the "core four" lineup of The Whiskey Violets.
The Whiskey Violets passion for creating original, accessible music with a focus on melody and creativity shines on their debut release (recorded at The A Room Studios in Seaford, NY with producer Steve Ronsen). Their diverse influences are what help to give them a unique sound. Nistal's admiration for Jim Morrison of The Doors and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys can be heard in the lyrics as well as felt amongst the vocal arrangements. Some of McKenna's biggest influences as a guitar player are David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Eric Johnson, and Jimi Hendrix. The band's other influences include: The Shins, Jeremy Enigk, Pearl Jam, Ween, Stone Temple Pilots, John Mayer, Soundgarden, Miles Davis, Alice in Chains, etc.