Will the Real Aunty Please Stand Up?

When Yasir Qureshi and Imran Lodhi decided to attend a jam a local coffee shop, little did they know that it would be the beginning of a long journey. That night, they met up with fellow musicians, Omar Khalid and Omar Akhtar (who were also performing as part of a different group). Whereas all previous associations were lost that night, another was formed. That entity also had a name, Aunty Disco Project was alive. They are electrifying on stage: with tunes that are catchy and make you think. If you're new to ADP and you'd like to hear more about them, you've come to the right place. They still have a lot to answer for. Do they still hate record labels? Did they bite off more than they could chew? Were there members of the Third Reich within the band? They sat down with Images to answer and reveal all.

ADP started mainly as a jam band, a group of musicians gathering together to play live music. And after only 5 months of playing gigs, both big and small, they took on the ostentatious step of releasing an album. The talk of the town was how ADP had come about to release this album, completely by themselves. Their critics panned them for doing so, but the band remains adamant about their reasons. "We can't wait for 5 or six months just so that we can get a large distribution of our album," Imran says. He – and the band – also adds that the labels have simply lost their relevance in this country, and that courting studios and their services is not worth the wait. But that isn't their only beef with the labels, as Oba (Omar Bilal Akhtar) tells me, "This was our first album and we were (and are) very close to these songs and these people [labels] tell us, Okay these are your hit singles and you need to re-work these songs and just didn't want to do that, simply because we knew these songs, all of them, were perfect."

On the other hand, just exactly what did the fans think of the album? I asked them the one criticism that they got the most. "Our fans say that the album doesn't justify our live performances," Omar says. "However, we recorded it a year ago and we've come a long way since then." The band refers to the lesser time the spent recording the album than the greater time they spent playing the songs live. "We also hadn't gotten [the songs] down either; we were still making last minute decisions in the studio during the recording process." And indeed, if you do happen to stumble upon a copy of the album or hear them on the radio perchance (and if you've heard them live before), you'll find a stark difference. The album sounds rushed, incomplete and often very amateurish. However, if you see them live you will see a totally different act on stage which will make you realize that the band has indeed come a long way. "All the critique aside, I'm still terribly proud of what we did, and thankful of the people that helped us at New Shadab Studio," Imran says, with Yasir adding, "And we also got some help from our friends who are musicians or in the industry."

The band accepts that criticism wholeheartedly and has learned their lesson, so to speak. "We definitely learned the importance of a proper producer," Yasir says, referring to album being produced by all four of them. "And as musicians ourselves, we've only learned just the basic producing skills, the bits and pieces for the refinement process," says Omar Khalid. But having accepted most of the criticism, the band still defiantly stands behind the album. As do other bands. "I belong to this little group of underground musicians who think that we've done a great job." But the band is incredibly wary of getting an established producer to work with them, "Just because if you do get someone established and he works with you, he'll bring his own approach to the table and it will sound like his thing rather than ours," states Omar Khalid.

As for the fans getting a hold of the album, Imran adds, "If they like the music, they will get to it, whether it's through the internet or friends passing music along to each other." Omar says, "I have cousins in California, who've I've never even met that are listening to our music!" It is true; a music fan will always find a way to get to his music. Just ask Napster.

The creative process for a band is very crucial, and whereas there are no two bands that are alike, the fact remains the same is that when you have extremely different people working together for long periods of time, there will be volatile moments indeed. "I think I was the Nazi at times," Oba admits, figuratively speaking of course, referring to his role in the band and the making of the album. And it just goes to show as he discusses his meticulous nature that the other members in the band do not mind at all. "I think my dynamics with Oba work out really well," Yasir says. Imran is of course the impatient one, repeatedly stating that he, "Just wanted to get the music out as fast as possible." Omar Khalid's encapsulates the nature of the band very simply, "We're incredibly fluid as a band, that we've now learned more about the music and about each other too."

And what band, upcoming or established, doesn't have its fair share of rumors? It's been speculated that prior to the release of the album, Aunty Disco Project was on the verge of a total meltdown. Comments? Every member had similar comments to that, which was: Yes, we do have fights, but that's all part of the creative process. Oba says, "When you have diverse people like us of course there will be tension." Yasir quickly adds, "I don't remember a point in time where we actually fought over a song, because we have a strong chemistry as a band. Having said that I think every band has bad days and fights and the rumor just got started because someone had just caught us on a bad day, at a bad time." They also speak of their learning to accept creative criticism, from denial at first to then accepting it as a part of album making. It seems that though they have come a long way, they still have a long way to go.

The future for the band remains very interesting, besides releasing an album and getting extensive airplay on the radio, the band had also released two videos, Sultanat and Is Tanhai Ko. Would they now get another video out, after the album? They had in mind a few songs, notably Such, Sheher Key Aansoo and Nazar, but planned on concentrating more on touring rather than releasing videos at the moment. And whereas Oba has stepped back from tackling any future video directing opportunities, Imran is eagerly looking for that opportunity. But present company excluded, according to the band, they've been approached by many famous faces for the chance to direct their videos. "Saqib Malik and Babar Shaikh have expressed their interests," Yasir states. "Zeeshan Pervez was really interested, he's a fan of our music," Oba adds, saying, "And there was Fasi Zaka who talked to us about directing something." But not being in the same city would be a factor to consider for the band. The fact of the matter remains, the band would actively seek out a director rather than indulging in it themselves.

And with that statement one would realize that through their criticism and their journey, they know what they're capable of and what not. They've admitted their flaws and falls, but they're still standing proud and anxiously looking forward for what the future holds for them, as do their fans.--Khaver Siddiqi (Originally appeared / printed January 13th Edition of DAWN Images. )

Photography: Amean J.

Artwork: Sarah Pirzada @ 18% grey.

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