In April 2008, under a different name and style, who we now know as Jelly Shot, came to life. It wasn’t until 2009 that they found their groove and established themselves as the Blues-Rock band that you’ve come to know. With more band member changes than most would care for; from a 5-piece, to a 4-piece and finally to their current trio – This is their story.
How did your musical journey begin?
Mubarak: It was an impulse thing, really. I started listening to general rock music ranging in styles, primarily metal at first and always enjoyed some of the bass work done on records by my favorite bands at the time. I thought about it for at least a couple of years before deciding to actually start trying out the electric bass. That’s fundamentally how it all began.
Hashim: I’ve been playing guitar since high-school, so about 9 years now. Friends of mine at the time had a band that I always wanted to be a part of, so I worked and worked at it until I could join them. After joining them, it was just uphill from there. I practiced for hours and hours every day much to my parents’ dismay but I just kept at it, and here I am now.
Khalid: I was the school drummer when I was in kindergarten and I used to drum basically on anything in front of me. My parents bought me my first drum kit on my 16th birthday and that’s when it all started.
What/Who inspires you to write your music and lyrics?
Mubarak: This is a trick question for me. I simply can’t pinpoint one major inspiration as it all comes in from my everyday events. That can range from a lot of different feelings and factors, which would serve as the basis for what I’m trying to send across. I’m not one for complex song-writing because I’d love to keep things simple and groovy in terms of lyrics and music, but on occasion I might dive into something new and different than what I’m used to. A lot of stories can serve as the basis for some songs, as I’m recently looking into supernatural and faith-related stories just so I can get an idea of where I can go with my lyrics, without going beyond the limits I’ve set for myself. In terms of actual music, I simply look into where a normal riff is capable of going and build on it from that very point, with the results either being positive or negative.
Hashim: Personally, inspiration comes from a wide array of places, a lot of the time I write based on what I hear or experience in life and from people I see day-to-day. However while writing this new album and working on my solo music, I’ve been diving into the fictional ‘what if?’ scenarios of writing, so some of the lyrics are quite different. Musically, my writing has been based on typical chord progressions but I tend to break the music down and see where I can change it to make it all a little unorthodox.
Is the final sound of a musical track an individual or group effort?
Mubarak: Definitely group effort. It just doesn’t really work with one person writing out the entire track and having each member play what he or she wants them to. No, each member is going to eventually add something to it that gives a bit of their touch. Like, one of us could write an entire track completely on his own but once that song is given to the other members, we’ll all eventually give the track our own personal signatures in terms of beats, riffs and solos, and that’s where a track becomes a group effort. The band has its own sound and that sound is only achieved when all members collaborate.
Hashim: The final sound of a track in my opinion is the grouped effort of every member’s individual effort. Of course, as a band, everyone needs to be able to work together and there’s this chemistry that is needed, but each individual member really needs to hold their end and bring everything they can to make the overall sound as good as it can get.
Who/What in your early beginnings influenced your music?
Mubarak: This is funny actually. Throughout the 4 years this band has been alive, we’ve gone through a number of styles until we eventually settled on Blues-Rock. It was something that just clicked and made me personally feel good about the kind of music I want to play in front of a live audience. It started with me watching a local Blues band play live and I thought to myself, “This is really good. I’m enjoying this kind of stuff.” So, from that point on I tried to bring forth the Blues into this band while also maintaining a Rock N’ Roll feel so the band could have its own sound. At first, I’ll admit that I figured an all-Blues band could work, but eventually will each member’s style, I thought it would be best to go Blues-Rock instead. Through a number of practices and studies of the two genres, I felt that if it were possible to combine the two genres while maintaining their respective fundamentals, we could give it our own various touches that have developed from each of our inspirations and backgrounds, and create something just a little bit different. I’d like to think that we have done that, while still developing our own sound at the same time.
In your opinion, what was the hardest challenge you faced in your musical career so far?
Hashim: As I have said a number of times, the main challenge to any band in Kuwait, including us, is the lack of shows we get. I have lost count of the number of times we had a show confirmed which cancelled on the day of the show, or even mid-show! That being said, thankfully a lot of people are putting in the effort to bring shows back to Kuwait, or at least increasing the awareness of bands in Kuwait.
Khalid: So far, what I’ve faced during my musical journey is the image associated with our music in society, which leads to the slow progression of the music scene in Kuwait.
Has the continuous change in band members deterred your will to keep going?
Mubarak: Admittedly, yes. Being the founder of the band and to this day, the longest serving member, I’ve witnessed each member-change we’ve had and to be honest, some were actually for the better. For the ones that helped build Jelly Shot, it was a bit of a roadblock. Thing is, you grow so close to those members throughout the time you spend together and when one leaves, it almost feels like you’re starting from scratch, so one could easily lose hope if it happens more than necessary. However, with each member we’ve lost, we’ve developed a different outlook on our style. Starting off as a 5-piece band, then a 4-piece and now a trio, the past experiences give us a view on what we can become as we are now, with different opportunities to try different things in our style of music and the way we write. I guess you can call it a good thing, as well.
Hashim: We’ve been through a lot since I joined the band 3 years ago, I mean the change in members really takes its toll on you and makes you wonder how much longer you really have to go before it all falls apart. However, with every member that came and left there was a change in how we looked at the music and how we wrote. It’s frightening but at the same time exciting because we never knew what was next, what the new member could bring to the table, and what the old member took with them.
How has the change in band members impacted your group dynamic, if at all?
Mubarak: Our sound was much different than it is now. We had a more heavy and upbeat sound as a 4-piece and as a trio than we did when we first started out. We had to learn to balance out the sound to the point that it shows how well-organized we are with what we do.
Hashim: In all honesty, the only main changes we’ve seen in our sound is having to adapt to a more rocky style due to Khalid’s heavy musical background, and now with the departure of Wahab, we’ve learned to take more of a major role in filling out the sound where he left a void.
Khalid: Since I joined the band, I’ve seen a slight change in the music writing, where it has become a bit more groovy and funky as well as the original ‘Jelly Shot blues’ sound. Personally, the departure of Wahab didn’t feel right. Musically it didn’t take a lot out of our sound but as far as band chemistry and band presence goes, it doesn’t feel as comfortable as it was, but I guess change is good and a trio seems exciting and new.
How has the Middle East influenced your sound?
Mubarak: Honestly, it hasn’t done much yet, but the idea that we could experiment with the different Middle Eastern sounds and see what we could come up with to give our sound a bit of originality is there. With lyrics, it all depends on what’s going on at the point. We’ve done a song that refers to one massive dust storm that occurred about a year ago.
Hashim: Well, I don’t know much about how it’s affected our sound, that being said, we do plan on throwing in a bit of culture to our next release. Up until this point we’ve been trying to find, define and refine our sound to something we truly think fits what we do, so once we’re dead set on who we are and what we sound like, we plan on throwing in more of a cultural influence into our music as a way to stand out.
Have your different backgrounds as band members influenced your sound over time?
Mubarak: Definitely. No question about that. I was essentially a rock and metal guy, influenced by driving riffs and galloping rhythms. After I discovered and studied the blues, I found it hard NOT to incorporate my roots even if I tried. The roots will always show, whether it’s through the music or the lyrics. I personally play harder than most bassists who play the blues do, and that’s all from my previous background. With each member, it’s what they can bring to the table.
Khalid: I started off with ‘nu-metal’ and heavy metal as my musical background, and I’ve now settled with the new metal genres along with groovy music. Having that added to Jelly Shot’s sound, I can’t say it didn’t change our sound at all, but I do feel it’s become a bit more progressive and funky rather than a the typical straight 12-bar blues track sound.
Hashim: Well my background was all over the place, I was primarily a punk rock and heavy metal fan but over time I started to listen to, and play, a lot of psychedelic rock and blues, so I think my relatively aggressive background shows its face now and again in the music we play, but it’s very subtle when it does. It’s considerably more evident in Khalid’s playing.
Do you feel that music should always serve a specific purpose?
Hashim: I don’t necessarily think it should ALWAYS serve a purpose, music could just be written for the sake of being written, but music normally is written for a purpose of sorts, be it to make you feel a certain way, to tell a story, songs of revolution, songs of protest, the list goes on. However I try to write music that tells a story, or evokes some sort of emotion just for the sake of giving the song some sort of direction.
Khalid: Since is so inspirational to me, it should serve a specific purpose, however it doesn’t always need to serve a purpose. Music sometimes is just a way to just kick back and simply let go and enjoy the tunes.
What are some of your favorite tracks, and why?
Mubarak: I can’t really say I have a favorite track. I can have a new one every week until a new comes along and takes it place. For some odd reason, my most played song at the moment of writing is “Welcome To My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper. Is it a blues song? No. It’s a straight-up, old school rock and roll song that I just find groovy despite its dark nature and lyrical theme. It’s just an uncomplicated song that does the trick, and everything in it works perfectly. As far as Jelly Shot originals go, without being completely biased I have to pick “Katy J”. Everything about it was just great, I feel. It’s the softest track on our EP, so it doesn’t mean that the heaviest or most upbeat track has to take the note. It’s a beautifully structured song and I feel it captures the band at its very best in terms of lyrics and music.
Hashim: My favorite song changes pretty often, but as of right now, one of my favorites has to be ‘Consoler of the Lonely’ by The Raconteurs, it’s got that grungy post-rock, heavy fuzz sound with a great groove that really gets your head bobbing to the beat. The guitar, bass and vocal work are simple but truly effective, a brilliant song by a brilliant band. However if I’m to pick an original to name my favorite, it’d be a tie between “Finest Thing Alive” and “The Jam”, they both have a great groove to them and they’re a whole load of fun to play!
Khalid: To me, basically anything by metal bands Meshuggah or Vildhjarta, as well as “Wonderful Slippery Thing” and “Waves” by Guthrie Govan, I consider them to be musically perfect tracks.
Do you prefer singing covers or your original music?
Mubarak: I’m going to say both. At first, we were just a cover band and for a while, I got hooked on to doing just that. With the recent writing that we’ve been doing, I find myself anxious to play our own material as well. I like to call it a split preference because we’re not only presenting our material, but also a whole lot of songs that have inspired our sound.
Khalid: My opinion is: If we have originals, why play covers? Playing covers takes away the band’s identity, having to perform originals gives the band the opportunity to establish a stronger musical ground and identity.
Hashim: I have always loved performing covers, because we can do it in our own way, with our own interpretation. However, there’s nothing better than being able to stand on stage, play an original song and hear the cheers that follow. Knowing that you wrote a song that actually gets a good response means so much more to me as a musician than rehashing someone else’s song.
Is Jelly Shot a hobby or a possible career?
Mubarak: It was always meant to be a hobby. As much as I love doing what we do, I can’t see myself making a career out of this. Sure, I think about it and the thoughts alone make me want to give it a shot, but what we have right now is something great that’s built on having fun. I really don’t want to change that to the point where I could get burnt out easily.
Hashim: It’s really just a hobby to me; I always say that if a hobby becomes your job, you’ll grow to hate it. However if the chance comes at the right time in my life, I’d most probably go for it, even if just for the experience.
Khalid: I never considered playing instruments or music as a career. I did however start my own studio, but even that’s a side job when compared to my future career. Putting pressure on yourself to play an instrument in order to afford a living can make you hate it. Music is my sanctuary and it’s where I am in my spare time.
Where was your very first live performance? And what was the experience like?
Hashim: Jelly Shot’s first performance was at the GUST Toastmasters event in 2010. It was really stressful before we played, because we were working with a sound technician who really didn’t seem to know what he was doing in terms of setting up the stage for a band. That being said, I think it turned out alright. It wasn’t my first time performing, but seeing as it was Jelly Shot’s first performance I was really nervous. I think the main downside to that show was that we were playing to a whole bunch of adults of which a rare few were actually singing along to what we were playing, but most of them were sat there really not knowing what to make of us—some were smiling, some looked pretty uncomfortable but the fact that the other performers were sat right in the front row cheering and pushing us along really gave me the drive to perform to the best of my ability. It was a rush.
Mubarak: I wouldn’t call it our finest moment but given the circumstances, I felt we did a good job regardless of what we had to work with. I feel that the very first show we did gave us an outlook on what to expect if we were to ever perform in similar conditions. At least we would now know how to present ourselves and our music.
Khalid: With Jelly Shot, my first live performance was Kuwaitstock IV in the British Embassy. It was by far, the most exciting gig I’d ever played and it was indeed a new experience having to share the stage with big bands from the UK, not to mention the amazing atmosphere and audience.
What is your dream performance space and destination?
Mubarak: I really don’t know… This is one of those trick questions. I don’t think I have a preference for where exactly I want to perform, but I surely wouldn’t mind doing it in other regions, at least to get the word out that we’re out there, doing what we do best. If I had to pick one, I’ll be predictable and say Mississippi, which alone is hard to spell! This is mainly because of its Delta Blues history, my personal favorite form of the blues.
Khalid: I’ve never really had a specific place in mind. Not that it’s impossible, but it would be really exciting if we, as a band, traveled abroad to play a show, I think I would really enjoy that experience.
Hashim: A dream destination to play for me would be Wembley Stadium in England, the sheer expanse of the audience gives me shivers whenever I see them, so to perform in front of them would be a dream come true. Other than that, I would love to perform on a rooftop here in Kuwait, nice and loud just to show Kuwait that we’re here and we want to be heard.
What would you like to accomplish in the future?
Hashim: I’ve a long list of things I wish to accomplish with Jelly Shot and personally, however I think the biggest thing I want to accomplish would be to tour around the world; the US, Europe and Asia, going from town to town performing and making Jelly Shot bigger than we could imagine.
Mubarak: I think Hashim said it best. There really is a lot for a small band like us to accomplish and touring worldwide would do us wonders. I expect it to be tiring, eventually, but that’s just me. Touring worldwide is definitely something that we would love to accomplish. Oh, and a personal goal of mine is to give our form of Blues-Rock a completely different sound and feeling than what one would expect from the blues. That is something we’re working on at the time of writing.
Will there be any Jelly Shot performances in the near future?
Mubarak: As I write this, we have two scheduled events coming up. One at the second installment of “Blend Music Festival” on March 22nd, 2012, organized by Avant Garde Projects and one that’s still in the development stages at the Australian College of Kuwait, sometime in early April we hope. More news to come on that so find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for all the updates and future developments and don’t forget to download our EP!