Meet the game-changing musicians who are on their way to putting Dubai on the global map
Why wait for international A-listers to announce their global tour dates? There’s incredible music to be found right on your doorstep. Meet the game-changing musicians who are on their way to putting Dubai on the global map
13 Daze The resident band of Lock, Stock & Barrel (our Bar of the Year 2017), 13 Daze are a musical force to be reckoned with. The members started out working at a kite surfing station in Egypt, before being discovered there by the company that set up Lock, Stock & Barrel.
“[They] came down the beach one day and said, ‘You can play guitar, do you fancy putting on a show?’ And that’s how it started,” recalls Gaz Hanford, frontman and the band’s remaining original member.
“I only ever wanted to do one show. I like to sort of collect stories, you know, such as, I’ve jumped out of a plane or I’ve done that, or I’ve played a show once in my life.
“But after doing it, it was so awesome that I’ve kind of kept chasing that ever since. And every time we do something bigger, we want more.”
Once Lock, Stock & Barrel opened up in Dubai, 13 Daze were brought over as the resident band, where they keep the crowd guessing with their rock sets tinged with nostalgic crowd-pleasers.
“We like to play The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army, and then turn it around and turn it into Backstreet Boys,” says Hanford. “Because why not?” If you’re not much of a rock fan, it’s worth heading to the bar on a Monday, when 13 Daze takes to the stage unplugged for a more mellow acoustic set.
The band, who have finally settled into a solid line-up after several changes – frontman Gaz Hanford, Bengan Hovgard on bass, Tristan Surina on lead guitar and Santiago Torres on drums – are now working on polishing their first album, though, as Hanford tells us, the fact that they are all full-time musicians hasn’t completely sunk in yet. “Nope. I’m still waiting to wake up and get a proper job,” he laughs. “[It] sort of became real when we played Party in the Park with the Kaiser Chiefs and it started to sink in that this is what we do now.”
Chronicles of Khan “We never thought the band would last two years,” Faraz Khan, lead singer and founding member of Chronicles of Khan tells Time Out Dubai. “But it has, and as we speak, we’re in the recording studio. We’re planning to launch an EP in November.”
This is a band that began, as most do, with a few friends – Khan, guitarist Shez Mo, lead guitarist Sean Walters, drummer Nick Arieta, bassist Joe Roy D’Souza and percussionist Ross D’Silva – jamming. The jams snowballed into acoustic, and live shows, and before they knew it, they were writing their own music.
“Musically we all clicked,” says Khan. “Which is probably the most important thing, that chemistry between band members. We weren’t in it to get popular, or to try and make money. It was always, and still is, about the music,” which, says Khan, isn’t as easy to fine-tune as you would think. Ultimately, they are perhaps first and foremost a rock ’n’ roll band, he says.
“Our influences are different eras of rock music,” he says. But although a lot of their sets are loud, and full of drums and electric guitar, their sound oscillates between classic rock, hard rock, metal and even acoustic.
Their tastes and influences are diverse. While Khan grew up listening to ’90s rock, Mo is a blues fan, Walters is into metal bands such as Metallica, while Arieta is a big fan of hip-hop and R&B.
“Eventually that kind of comes out in our recording or live performances. I think it’s safe to say we end up doing something that is different,” says Khan. “As long as we have one person who comes up to us and says they had a good time watching us, listening to us, that drives us.
“If you’re a musician, you’ve just got to keep playing,” he adds. “The only way you’re going to perfect your craft, improve your songwriting and get your song out there. That’s important to us.” Where to see them play: Follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/chroniclesofkhan) for gig updates. www.chroniclesofkhan.com.
Doug Heath We can’t describe Doug Heath’s soothing vocals and gentle acoustic guitar music as anything but captivating. His original music (he has an EP in the works) is something completely different to his musical contemporaries here in Dubai. There are whispers of Bon Iver and Hozier in his music, which is unapologetically mournful at times, but has elements of folk and punk to it, too.
“I’ve been playing for five or six years,” he says. “But when I first started I was playing stuff I thought people wanted to hear, rather than stuff that I wanted to play. So now I’m going back and taking down all that stuff.”
His new music, he says, eschews the poetic, in favour of tongue-in-cheek, observational lyrics. “Love songs from a Friday night out rather than anything too deep,” he says. “[My music is] folky, but it’s also folk-punk. It’s got a bit of drive behind it.”
He has some serious credentials, too, having played the Leeds Festival and making it into the final of a UK open mic competition, out of around 12,000 contestants. But despite his success in the UK, he’s equally keen to make it as a musician here in Dubai.
Jay Abo Pigeonholing Jay Abo into just one genre would be pretty much impossible. His (very) long list of influences spans Stevie Ray Vaughan, Erik Satie, Biggie Smalls, Michael Bublé, John Mayer, Cat Stevens, The Beach Boys, Fat Freddy’s Drop and more. Plus, he says, he’s something of a techno aficionado and plans on incorporating that into some of his new material, too.
“I’m heavy into the blues and that’s something I’ll never put away,” he says. “[But my style] has changed three or four times in just the past two years. And that’s going to keep happening.”
He’ll write anything from “sappy love songs” to “reggae lines”, he says, and tells us that he even bought a violin a few years ago (though has yet to use it). But there are days when he’s inspired to simply write a piano instrumental.
But when it comes to his live sets – currently on a Tuesday night at Iris – you can expect soulful, lyrical music reminiscent of John Mayer.
“John Mayer taught me so much about writing lyrics and song structure, but I sometimes hate mentioning him because I’m constantly compared to him,” says Abo.
“I don’t want to be a second-rate John Mayer, I want to be a first-rate Jay Abo.”
And he’s well on the way. After graduating from American University in Dubai with a degree in finance (“to keep my mum happy”), he threw his heart and soul into his passion for music. He says timing was on his side, and thanks to some hard graft and the sense of family and community present in Dubai’s still relatively young music scene, he started booking gigs.
“Collectives like The Sound Gaarden, Go Play The World, and Freshly Ground Sounds have the most passionate minds at their helms,” he says. “Without Zain Khan, Abbo Abbondandolo, and Izzy Abidi, I’m not sure this conversation would even be happening.”
So what’s next? Abo is working on some new material, including a new single, No Gravity, which he will release soon. “I’ve never had this much fun making music,” he says. “I’m gonna take the city by storm. Believe me.” Where to see him play: Tue from 9pm. Iris Dubai, The Oberoi Dubai, Business Bay (056 951 1442). www.facebook.com/jayabomusic.
Jay Wud “Dubai got us together,” says Jay Wud, the frontman of the four-piece rock band that bears his name and are currently taking the international rock scene by storm.
Wud linked up with guitarist and backing vocalist Bojan Preradovic and bassist Eriks Dilevs here in the city, while drummer Joe Rickard joined the band in Los Angeles, while they were working on their latest album, Transitions. “The new record got us working together fully,” says Wud. “It was our transition, if you will.”
They’re one of the first bands from the region to achieve such recognition, with Transitions receiving rave reviews from the likes of Kerrang! magazine, which said of it, “[It’s] pure, polished metal, hitching speed-metal riffs to prog bits and crisp, soaring melodies… the true global language is metal, and Jay Wud speaks it fluently...”.
Their inspirations, Wud says, are numerous, but mainly come from the human condition and their experiences in the Middle East. And although the band are fans of different genres, what unites them is a love for the “heavy stuff”. As Wud puts it, “Hard rock with a hint of grunge, layered with thrashy goodness and an alternative twist on top.”
Even so, they never really nurtured that heavy rock sound, and weren’t heading for bigger things until they met their producer, Howard Benson.
“There was no one feeding that fire until Howard came into the equation and pushed us further towards our potential,” says Wud.
And with a set at Download festival on the horizon, if there’s a band to watch, this is it. Where to see them play: Keep an eye on the website for upcoming tour dates. www.jaywud.com.
The Boxtones This passionate band have been on our radar for a while, but they really took the city’s music scene by storm after signing a record deal with Universal.
“It’s such a nice recognition for all the hard work we’ve put in,” says Gary Tierney, the band’s singer, guitarist and manager. “It was great to be picked up by a label and give us such worldwide exposure.”
It’s one small step in a much bigger picture for the band, which also sees Louise Peel on lead vocals, Gill Tierney on drums and vocals, Will Janssen on keyboards, guitar and vocals, and Patrick Thibault on bass and vocals. They’re aiming to take things further, to the international market.
“That’s the plan, anyway,” says Tierney. “Every time we reach something like a milestone, we look at the next one. So right now we’re focusing on what’s next and then, after that, we’ll probably focus on what’s next again and it will keep on happening like that.”
It’s been working for them so far. In recent months they’ve also been in the company of some of the world’s biggest stars, supporting Bryan Adams, and being announced as the official supporting act for Elton John, who’s due to play in Dubai at the end of the year. In fact, we’ve been so impressed by them that when the time came to crown the winners of our 2017 Music & Nightlife Awards, there was little debate over who would take Best Dubai Act.
And how would Tierney describe their mucic? “We’re Scottish, Canadian, Celtic, pop-rock. But Celtic with a bracket,” he says. “I don’t think it’s very Celtic, but some of our songs have been described that way.”
The band’s sound has changed since its beginnings (The Boxtones’ first album In the Pockets of Clowns was made in a basement and distributed independently), and Tierney says they’ve made their music more accessible.
“[When we started] we were kind of alternative, heavy rock music, basically.
[We were] children of the grunge era, so that’s where it all came from,” he says.
“When we got picked up by the label, we went back to the drawing board and went, ‘Right, how do we keep the rock element, but become more, sort of like, accessible to your mums and dads, or accessible to kids?’”
Though their signature style remains, tracks on their new album, Home, are more structured, and they’ve kept solos to a minimum. It’s also an album that’s dedicated, in many ways, to Dubai and the people who live here. After spending almost 30 years as expats, Tierney says they wanted to tap into the feeling that many of their ilk now have of being from Dubai, even if they are not UAE nationals.
“The whole thing is about us kind of giving a nod to all the expats out here, and home [being] where the heart is,” he says.
The Swing Revue There’s nothing dated about this spirited six-piece band, which is bringing swing back with a vengeance.
The band was formed three years ago, by “a group of jazz musicians who had a love for swing music and all things vintage,” says Dean Pratt, the band’s trumpeter. “There was nothing else like it in the UAE at the time.”
Ever since, they have been making waves with their authentic sound and captivating energy, mixing covers of famous swing songs with their own original compositions to truly fantastic effect.
Lead singer Laura Ingham’s smooth, lilting vocals are perfect for bringing the soul and energy of the 1920s and ’50s back to life, while the instrumentalists – Lakshmi Ramirez, Eric Bernabe, Artie Poghosyan, Janelle Bernado, Dean Pratt, who hail from no fewer than five countries: Australia, Denmark, England, Finland and the Philippines – drive their sets forward with rhythmic, dynamic beats that can pull anyone onto a dancefloor.
“We’re a high-energy band and we love to get people dancing,” says Ingham. “The music we play ranges from traditional ’20s jazz to Dixieland to ’50s rock ’n’ roll.”
“We play a lot of songs by Louis Prima.
He brought so much energy and humour to his performances,” says Pratt. “It’s very playful and infectious. People of all ages can relate to it and enjoy it.” Where to see them play: Mon 8pm. Seafire, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2000); Wed 8pm, Jazz@PizzaExpress, Cluster A, JLT (04 441 6342). www.theswingrevue.com.
Vandalye A dark horse of Dubai’s music scene, this indie band comprised of Scott Attew, Lucas McCone and Thomas McCone, have become a huge success in what feels like a matter of months. Their debut EP, From The Beginning (which made it to the No.1 spot on the regional iTunes chart last year) is packed with heartfelt, original music that stays with you long after you listen to it.
And they have already supported Lionel Richie in concert, playing to an audience of nearly 25,000 people. No small feat for such a young trio, but they’re not content to rest on their laurels. “We’d like to think that this is just the start of our journey as a band,” says the multi-instrumentalist Lucas McCone. “Our greatest fear is to stagnate, we constantly want to keep improving.”
Their style is difficult to pin down. Though they use folk instruments at times, they wouldn’t call themselves a traditional folk band. Their sound is driven by piano and guitar, written for “the new generation of young people [who are] living globally” and inspired by their diverse backgrounds (the band’s members come from New Zealand/Belgium and England).
The trio are currently in Hamburg working on their debut album over summer.
“If anything. We think [it] will showcase how much we have matured as a band,” McCone says. The process was a big learning curve. Our producer, Stefan Knoess, has really helped us with the song structures and the album’s direction. Our songs have got more drive and strength, and sound-wise, some surprises might occur.”
They’ll be back in Dubai in November, with their debut album under their belt and, we hope, a string of gigs around the city. Make time to see them live, this is one band on the cusp of very big things. Where to see them play: Follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/vandalyeband)for gig updates. www.vandalye.com.