Review Fix chats with White City vocalist Ru, who discusses her life as a journalist and how it led her to starting a band with other musicians with equally as cool stories. A solid meld of progressive and classic rock, they’ll definitely appeal to both your modern and old-school rock cravings. Eager to change the face of Afghan music, they’re a band to keep your eyes on.
Review Fix: How did the band come together?
Ru: In the fall of 2009, I was in Afghanistan, chasing stories as a journalist. I heard of two guys in a cover band that played in Kabul, which sounded crazy. But when I met them I was even more blown away. Travka was a wild-haired biker, who had travelled the country on his dirtbike, training Afghans in photo journalism and even teaching camera skills to the Taliban. Andreas had been in Afghanistan off and on from 1999, well before the Taliban’s fall and both of them had this laissez faire attitude towards playing concerts and hanging out in the city. They also both had a permanent group of young Afghan hangers on with them, which I found really funny. We had a trial jam, during which Travka told me he initially didn’t believe that there was a girl in town that could sing and play bass! After a couple of jams, I realized these guys were far more talented than a covers band and suggested to them we might start writing originals. And we sort of went from there.
Review Fix: How would you classify your sound to someone who’s never heard you guys?
Ru: A bit of Hole, a bit of Queens of the Stone Age, a bit of Led Zeppelin. We’re punk based with lots of prog and indie influences. I’m the punk rocker, Andreas loves anything psychedelic and Trav is fascinated by stoner rock bands and any way in which he can mess up sounds through FX pedals.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite song in the album and why?
Ru: Mine, personally, is Breakbone Fever. We were writing and perfecting the album in Sri Lanka and Travka became very ill. We initially thought it was food poisoning and, as I’d had something similar and pulled through, told him to man up. We had a big gig, so we propped him up on a stack of amps and told him to play. He did amazingly and we rocked the place, but the next day he got a lot worse. Finally taking him to a hospital, we found out he had dengue fever, which can be fatal. He was admitted for a week! We felt kind of bad. Anyway, when he was first sick, I had a weird dream that his body was being invaded by a viruses that consisted of teeny-tiny US army forces like the ones invading Afghanistan in 2001. I woke up in a cold sweat, convinced Trav was dead. Thankfully he wasn’t and even better, made a song out of it.
Review Fix: What makes the band special?
Ru: The band is a heady mix of passion and belief. We don’t need to make music, we don’t claim to be the representatives of Afghanistan. But we have this undeniable passion to express ourselves through rock n roll, to convey to the world the frustrating, headbanging energy of being in a dangerous, amazing country where everyone is telling you to shut up and control yourself but what you want more than anything else is to shout and scream. Every time I’ve led a group of Afghan youths in headbanging or moshing, especially girls, I feel that.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of this year’s SXSW?
Ru: A little intimidating. We never intended to come to the west. We very were happy touring Central and South Asia and making music in the east. But the lure of SXSW was just too much. We’ve admired the festival from afar for a long time and the prospect of meeting talented artists, musicians and film makers and sharing our ideas and stories was just too much to resist.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2014?
Ru: We’d like to tour more and promote the album. But mostly, in this crucial year when international forces withdrawn from Afghanistan, we want to make sure that people don’t forget the country – the amount of energy and sacrifice on all sides that’s gone into allowing Afghanistan to find its way; the raw talent – artists, musicians, writers, authors, sportspeople – that are only just getting into their stride. If we can keep them in people’s minds for just a while longer, then our job is done.