The music scene in Pakistan over the span of the last couple of years has really evolved. Not like there weren’t any bands performing or making original music. There was very amazing talent playing small shows in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. But that was it, small shows. Limited audiences. Not much mainstream exposure. The only exposure was at the helm of people who made Bhangra or pop songs. There wasn’t general acceptance of more heavier forms of music.
But that changed with the very famous “battle of the bands” airing on national television.Sponsored by Pepsi and having Ex-Vital Signs members Rohail Hayat and Shehzad Hassan as judges along with media person Fifi Haroon. The show saw some of the best bands come up. Bands like The Mekaal Hasan Band, Aaroh, Entity Paradigm to name a few. Ever since then lots of people have stepped up to the forefront backed by the ever growing styling industry and a large number of Music Channels and “apparent” record labels. Only a few have actually maintained a qualitative approach making good music, good videos and playing good live shows.
One such band is Overload. I remember when they came out with their first album I heard many critics deem them “short-term fun” and giving out remarks like ” who will listen to an all percussion band”. But they defied all “critics” and made their way into the Industry and quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Not only did their album get acclaimed by avid music listeners, their live concerts were an experience. Overload has since then played concerts all around the world making Pakistan proud.
They have recently released their second album titled “Pichal Pairee” through their own record label and it’s available for download on their website:-
I got the chance to interview their new vocalist Meera Rahman and talk to her about her role in the band, their new album, the new sound and the plight of the current music industry:-
1) Being a painting graduate, a model, and now the vocalist for Overload, do you think that these three forms of expression differ in their approach even though the core of all three is “creativity”. If yes, then how do you approach them differently?
The three are actually very similar, each is a creative process which develops steadily after you realize what it is you are trying to express. Writing a song or figuring out what to paint on an empty canvas can be quite alike. The only difference is input. When producing a song, I’m working with the other musicians in the band. Their input can influence me to steer the lyrics into a different direction. Or to soften the melody, build up the tempo etc. Every painting is a completely solo project. Even if there are influences or inspirations that show in a painting, an artist has to seek them out for him/herself. Modeling is probably the most different of all. Often, a fashion model has little or no creative control. Although, I have observed over the years that if your opinion is credible, your team will be very receptive.
2) Who are your favorite singers/musicians and who did you listen to when you were growing up? Being a musician myself I know how your first influences have a deep impact on the way you make music.
I grew up listening to any and all kinds of music. But what always appealed to me more as a vocalist were big, powerful voices. Vocals that come from the pit of your stomach, as opposed to hoarse, whispery crooners. Breathy vocal delivery and acoustic guitar strumming type songs which became very popular in the early 2000s were not my cup of tea. To name a few, some of the artists I have been listening to for many years now are Fiona Apple, Jill Scott, Robin S, Erykah Badu, Laurin Hill and more recently Moloko, now a solo artist calling herself by her real name, Roisin Murphy.
3) How did you come across joining overload as their vocalist? How do you think you added to the sound scape of the already very unique overload sound i.e their first album which had ethnic beats and papoo sain magic on dhol?
The band wasn’t looking for a vocalist, neither was I looking for a band, we both realized that their was an exciting potential in putting together my vocals with the band’s sound and we took it from there. The biggest difference obviously is that before, Overload was an instrumental band, and now it has lyrics, vocal melodies and a more user friendly language. We are musically very complex and our compositions can be quite complicated, I feel that my band members have become a little less intense on some tracks because some of my lyrics and melodies are happier than the moody music they are known for. But we still have many intense, brooding tracks on the second album.
I joined an already very well established band. So I have had to carve my way into their signature sound which was challenging but exhilirating at the same time. Their sound was unique before I joined them, and is unique still. This was one of the biggest reasons I was proud to be on board. The band consists of musicians who have been playing their respective instruments for over a decade now, they have immense knowledge, aesthetically, they have very high standards and they do not compromise on their music for popularity. The sound has reinvented itself with the second album, but in order to keep your work from stagnating, it has to evolve with time. That is what I have seen since starting jamming and then recording with them. The new album has a lot more electronic music, has a lot of heavy guitar parts, and is less dhol intensive. But without a doubt, it is still loud, fun and sometimes aggressive.
4) “Pichal Pairee” is a rather interesting name for an album. What made you guys name it that and having said that, is the music on the album as unique as it’s name?
The music is definitely unique. Altogether, the tracks on the new album make for a very eclectic sound. Everyone of us has very different tastes in what we listen to, what we have grown up listening to, what has influenced us and inspired us. Pichal Pairee is not the only unique title you’ll find on the album. The album is named after the title track, which is actually an English track but has a desi name. This track has vocals that we thought sounded a bit haunting and crazy. In Punjabi folklore, a pichal pairee is a mythical witch with inverted feet.
5) Having seen the first video titled ‘pichal pairee” I can’t stop but think how slick the camera angles and the overall production were. Who directed the video and is it just your usual performance based video or does it have a theme?
No theme, no storyboard, no characters. Personally, I am quite sick of everything having a theme just for the sake of having a theme. I think it helps people decide where to start when developing an idea. We wanted a very clear, crisp, no-nonsense video and we got it. The video was directed by Hasaan Ashraf. He is a film making major at the National College of Arts and was our junior. We picked him because he is formally qualified and trained in film making, and understands music since he himself plays bass and has great musical taste and plenty of exposure.
6) You guys decided to release the album via your own label. Do you think releasing an Album in Pakistan is tough business keeping in mind the expenses are way more than the actual income?
The state of affairs as far as the legal infrastructure of our music industry are appalling, virtually non existent and highly useless. There is no copyright law, no royalties, no payback even if you go through a distributor or a label. We’re at least a hundred years behind the rest of the world as far as artists’ rights are concerned. Our primary objective is to get our music across to as many people as possible, that’s what makes us happy. Our audience and our fans are what motivate us. Releasing the album online on the 5th of October on www.overloadbeats.com is the way we want to do this.
7) Being the daughter of one of the best Actresses Pakistan has ever seen, do you see yourself acting or have you ever tried your hands at acting?
I have done a lot of theater and some T.V. Both take a lot of time and I have too many other things to concentrate on to be able to take out that kind of time for something I don’t have too much passion for. I don’t want to be a jack of all trades. When God blesses you with talent you shouldn’t be ungrateful, you should master what you are good at.That for me is not T.V. Besides, Pakistani T.V is not what it used to be, there are some great plays being made these days, but the glory days of our plays are gone. Maybe they’ll be back, when we stop following in the footsteps of all the horrific Star Plus, Zee T.v soaps.
8) Since this IS for the Islamabad Metblogs, have you performed in Islamabad? If yes, how was the response, if no would you like to perform here?
We have indeed. Since I joined the band, we’ve only performed once, but what a night that was. The crowd was a lot cooler than I expected, but it was a very select crowd, consisting of only the rich and famous, the movers and shakers, whatever you want to call it. Also it was invitees only, I’d love to get the true feel of the average Islamabad crowd at a proper, big concert. Besides, the youth is where the energy always is!!!
9)How do you feel about breaking the norm of the female pop star image (hideous make up, no substance, out of scale vocals) and standing out in a genre where girls in general are virtually non existent?
I’m not moving towards becoming a pop star at all. What that asks for and represents in Pakistan specially, I am not ready to do. My standards are high and my quality control very strictly administered. I’m all for doing crazy things and taking chances, but sub-standard and tacky are words you will never use to describe me. And that’s a promise!
Competition is always a good thing, unfortunately I don’t think I have any. The only successful female artists we have are making very different music from mine. They and their music is in a whole different catagory. Besides I’m the only girl I know who’s part of a band and not just playing with session players.We write, produce and record together, we make videos together. That in itself is a first, and yes, it does challenge the norm here. I joined Overload to sing, not to become famous. I see a lot of girls in this industry concentrating on everything but how they sound. Very sad.
10) Any message for the Youth?
With the passing of youth, start focusing on what your strengths are. Work towards realizing what you’re good at and what you’re great at. When you’re young, you want to try giving everything a shot, which is great. But with time, It’s essential to prioritize and focus on what you can really achieve. Otherwise, you’ll just end up being mediocre at a lot of things and outstanding at nothing.
I also want to take this opportunity to tell everyone who’s reading this that we have released our album for free, and you can all download it at www.overloadbeats.com