Hamdan Al Abri, lead singer of Abri, talks about their new album, hard work and robbing banks. Very interesting
Take a seat and spill the beans. What’s the new album about? You can call me Frank if you want to. We wanted the new album to sound raw, with more energy. We recorded the songs in one take, so it’s really energetic and powerful. Our first album, Sunchild, was more of a local release so we’re hoping Blank Notes will go international.
Goody gumdrops. On CD racks you’ll be stuck between ABBA and AC/DC. What do you think of that? It’s cool being next to AC/DC – and everyone loves those two bands. They’re two of the biggest, so who wouldn’t like that? If someone bought one of their CDs they may even pick up an Abri one by mistake.
Nice, sounds profitable. The promo shots seem to be inspired by Snatch-style gangsters and money grabbing. Are you trying to swindle me, son? [Laughs] The whole concept is about imagining how the world would be if there was no money, banks or currency. We did a photo shoot where we were bank robbers. We have the getaway car and everything.
So does that make you the Robin Hoods of Dubai? Are you gonna give all my hard-earned money away? Nah, it’s more about us trying to be revolutionaries. We want to wash all the ink off all the money so the world can start again.
What new music’s got your juices flowing at the minute? I’m listening to Kings Of Leon and I’ve just discovered Animal Collective – they’re great. I’m also really getting into Sam Cooke. I know he’s not new, but I can’t get enough of him. Andre [Atherley, drummer] likes Prince and electro, Julian [Symes, keyboardist] listens to Brazilian stuff and Rami [Lakkis, bass] listens to loads of jazz.
Right. What about the world tour? If you could play a gig anywhere in the world, where would it be? My ultimate gig would be in my family’s hometown in Zanzibar. There is a spot outside where bands play shows. It’s a derelict castle, a bit like an old abbey. It would be a great place to play live. At the moment, we’re looking for distribution deals in Canada, Japan, Europe and the US. We want to take this album to the world. Hopefully we can even do a world tour off the back of it.
What about the after-parties? A little bird tells me you’ve been hob-nobbing with the likes of Kanye West, Mika and Joss Stone. Most of the big international bands that come here fly in and fly out so we don’t really get a chance to party hard with them. But we hung out and jammed with Arrested Development. That was pretty cool.
What’s so special about Dubai then? Is it the enormous bag of dirhams promoters tempt you with? [Laughs] It’s really cool to be big in Dubai, but it’s all been done through hard work. If we’re injecting something positive into the music scene here then that’s great. The best thing about Dubai is that it’s so multicultural. The people who listen to music here are from all over the world and, if they take [the music] back to their home country, that’s great for anyone from the UAE.
So you think that you’ve appealed to that wide audience here then, son? Yeah, but I never thought we’d be accepted by the people in this area. I never thought that Sunchild would be so successful. Being nominated for the MTV Arabia award was amazing. If we get nominated again it would be incredible.
So what are you getting up to next? I just applied for an Indian visa – [the embassy] was crazy. We’re playing two shows in Mumbai so I hope I get it. If not, we’re in trouble.
Right then. Be a sweetheart and put the kettle on, will you? Blank Notes is available in stores.