Musiqa Mustaqilla’s ongoing series „In Conversation With“ continues with a talk between Musiqa Mustaqilla’s editor and Dirty Backseat, a Cairo-based band influenced by lo-fi garage rock music from the 70s and early 80s. Dirty Backseat is comprised of Noha Amin (Vox/Guitar/Keys), Moe Hani AKA Psycho (Vox/Bass/Guitar/Keys) and Marwan Wahid (Drums/Backing Vocals). They released a single in October 2017 and an EP will be released this summer.
MM: You have been around since 2013, what is the story behind Dirty Backseat and why did you choose this name for the band?
Marwan Wahid: It is like they say: what happens in the dirty backseat stays in the dirty backseat. The name speaks for itself.
Moe Hani: It’s actually true. Noha and I met in September 2012. She was working on some songs on her own and I was in a band back at the time with Marwan, but we used to hang out a lot and listened to music together, mainly music that influenced Dirty Backseat later on. Noha and I started dating in 2013 and that’s when we thought it would be cool to work on music together. Noha took the initiative by sending me some demos recorded by her phone via WhatsApp. I loved her style of riffing, it was so inspired by psychobilly and garage rock kind of sound and from there we got the wheel rolling.
MM: How much has the sound changed since the release of the single Hypnotize Me and the time of the band’s formation?
Noha Amin: We always listen to a lot of new music that by time your taste changes by default. We just like to keep ourselves up to date with what’s new and get to know more about maintaining your sound and developing it. We’ve been investing in guitar pedals, in order to explore and experiment more and thus, finding the right sound that is as authentic and genuine as possible, just the sound that we would like to produce.
MH: „Hypnotize me“ was written three years ago. It’s just that we couldn’t find the right way to record it until I learned mixing and mastering last year in 2016. This song was my kind of a final project.
MM: How did you all meet, have you learned your instruments by yourself, and is it your first time playing in a band or did you have all other projects before?
MH: Marwan and I met back in 2007. I remember that I was on drums and he was staring at me trying to figure out what exactly that I was doing because at the time he was kicking off his drumming life, I suppose. 6 years later, we met Noha in 2012. She used to go to the same studio that we used to rehearse at. She was shooting a documentary about the underground music scene in Egypt. She interviewed both of us at the time because Marwan and I were in a band already together called the Cadillacs since 2011. So, It’s not our first band. It’s actually Noha’s first band. It’s a very exciting thing i believe. I learned the guitar by myself back in 2006. I was 15 and I actually wasn’t able to watch any YouTube tutorials back then. My family didn’t want to buy me a guitar in the first place. I borrowed a guitar from school and started discovering what this instrument is all about.
MW: I’m a self-taught drummer. I learned from youtube tutorials back in 2007, when Moe and I used to hang out at a studio called “32”. We got to jam with lots of musicians as a kind of practice, but we never played in a band together until 2011 when we founded a rockabilly band called the Cadillacs.
NA: My father got me my first guitar when I was 16 years old. I was in the US at the time, and when you’re young rock n’ roll is everything. As the time passed by I took guitar lessons at home, I remember these days, I used to tell my guitar teacher how much I wanted to play Metallica & Godsmack’s songs. My family actually wasn’t that supportive, they thought it’s kind of a hobby and there will be nothing coming out of it. In Egypt, families don’t usually support their daughters to play rock n’ roll or to be in a band whatsoever.
MM: How is the process of producing the EP going so far?
MH: We are kind of taking our time a little bit. We pretty much recorded everything at our place except for the vocals which was recorded in EPIC 101 studios in Cairo. We used a vintage Ludwig drum rack on Ableton live for recording the drums, and that was actually one of the hardest/toughest things that we faced during the EP recording. Marwan wanted to record the drums in one of the studios in town but I honestly thought that it’s a lot of money to spend on recording drums only because renting a recording studio in Cairo is going to cost us a lot for drums recording sessions for an EP. So, instead of spending a lot of money we spent some time trying to find the perfect drum rack that fits the sound that we exactly want for this EP and it’s there. When Noha and I got married in October 2017, we had the liberty to spend more time together jamming and experimenting with sounds more than we used to. So, basically that’s how we wrote this EP and structured everything around it.
MM: What kind of equipment do you use? Is it different when you play live in exchange when you are recording the songs?
MH: Basically, everything that we use for recording is pretty much the same live and it was all recorded at home except for the vocals, like I mentioned before. We use a Gretsch electromatic guitar, a Fender P bass deluxe edition. Mainly we depend on Guitar and Bass pedals that constitute a cool twisted sound. There’s this vintage tape echo delay pedal by Line 6 called Echo Park that we used on this EP to create most of the noises partnered with another dope one called ARF by Dwarfcraft devices that basically controls the attack and release with an envelope filter that boasts an absurd range, to multi-measure swells and drops. We also use another cool beast on bass called Happiness also by Dwarfcraft devices, it’s a wizard. it’s all about pulsating synth-like effects, with a triangle-shaped low-frequency oscillator (LFO). It’s fully analogue. All of these sounds that we record in our bedroom studio is played live.
MM: What is the EP’s story going to be? Is each song on their own or are they telling a specific story?
MH: Actually, it’s the first time for me to write some personal stuff. It’s all about life and people who negatively influenced me in the past year and more about changes in my life, I’m not trying to be a philosopher but each song is mainly about personal experience. We called the EP “Goo Bad”.
MM: Why do you sing in English rather than in your own language?
MH: It’s definitely because of the way we got educated. The three of us went to language schools, when we first started listening to music it was rock (in English), we got inspired by American movies, the night lifestyle, the attitude, the clothing style, etc. In fact, the way we thought about was to write in both English and Arabic. When we started writing songs in the beginning they were all in English, but now 70% of our upcoming debut record is in Arabic and the rest is in English. We just thought “Why would we limit ourselves?” “Let’s just do whatever we feel like doing”. It was hard in the beginning but by time I found a way of writing in Arabic and we kind of like it and I hope people like it too.
MM: Do you think that you find yourself in the same direction as bands such as Living Too Late or PanSTARRS?
MH: Each one of us has his own approach in making music, even though we share almost the same music taste, I suppose. I believe we all share the same love for the music that we all make. The indie scene is rising and kind of improving and our generation got the chance to learn more about fundamentals of sound and music production. Now when you look at most of the indie bands’ records, you’ll find that most of them are self-produced, which makes the process easier for bands as it saves money, time and effort by making your record sound the way you want it instead of the hassle of working with some other guy who’ll never give you the exact sound that you want. It gives a big room for creativity. Speaking of the right audience, I think there’s no right audience, it’s just about the willingness of listening to new music especially when this music is completely out of the listener’s comfort zone. Something that we all notice in Egypt is that 99% of the population tend to love international bands more than the local bands regardless what they do. It’s a pity honestly and I believe it’s a cultural loophole that we really need to fix and raise awareness to it. I think there’s only a minority of people who actually give a shit about what we do and would love to hear new music coming out of indie bands like us but we always believe that we’re going to make it abroad and not in Cairo.
MM: What are your next steps?
MH: First we are releasing our debut “GooBad” EP after Ramadan in June. There will be a music video for a song or two soon. We already have an album that was written in full by last year, but we’re still not sure about releasing it this year or maybe we’ll hit the studio to work on new material because we’ve been interested in the electronic/rock kind of sound lately. Maybe we will do something about that soon, I’m excited about it.