We first ran into The Afterthought at the Taste of Q8 Food Festival and were so impressed with their sound that we knew we had to feature them. After a small amount of stalking we were finally able to convince them to sit down for an interview about the band and their musical influences. The Afterthought is an acoustic/rock group that has been playing together since 1997. The group’s core members are Bassam “Buzz” Shuhaibar and Zakariya “Zak” Musawi, but the rolling cast of musicians that have lent their talents to the cause over the years is part of the charm of this act. The Afterthought has performed at a number of local and international venues, and has made several appearances on national TV and radio stations. They have produced a number of original tracks and also do covers. Though Buzz and Zak are the musical nucleus, the current line-up also includes 28-year-old bassist Husain (Max) who joined as a permanent member in 2013, 25-year-old lead guitarist Hashim and 22-year-old drummer Aziz. We sit down with Buzz and Zak to see what makes them tick.
How did you first get into music?
Buzz: Both my parents love listening to music, so it seems like my life has had a soundtrack as far back as I can remember. I was exposed to everything from The Beatles to Julio Iglesias, mainly from the back seat of their car. I was always into drama growing up as well. Those 2 factors got the ball rolling until I was around 12 when one of my oldest friends started to learn the guitar. I would sing along to anything he could play. We ended up writing our first song a couple of years later, and the rest is history.
Zak: Similarly, I grew up in a household that loved music and loved to enjoy life. I was exposed to all kinds of music when I was young. As far as I can remember, my dad and mom would be blasting ABBA then Michael Jackson and Madonna. My love for Rock N Roll I guess came later.
How long have you been playing?
Buzz: I have been singing since I was 12. I joined my first band in high school, which is where I first met Zak. A few years and another band later, we hooked up during the summer of 1997, and never looked back.
Zak: I picked up the guitar at age 14. I did dabble in piano keyboards before that too. Soon after that, I joined that high school band with Buzz.
What/Who inspires your music and why?
Buzz: I draw my inspiration from rock music, especially from the Grunge era. I am a huge fan of Pearl Jam, whose front man Eddie Vedder inspires me both through his style of lyrics as well as his vocal prowess. Bono from U2 is another… his lyrics could be standalone poetry.
Zak: I was an 80’s kid. The Glam Rock Era was where I found myself…and in particular, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and other melodic rock bands. I was at an age where I was finding myself still…and that Rock music summed up how I feel inside, loud, rebellious, yet undeniably catchy.
How did you get into your style of music specifically?
Buzz: Early on I really loved listening to and singing 60’s music, especially the Beatles. I was also into a lot of RnB/Hip-Hop for the early part of the 90’s. In 1994, someone lent me a copy of Ten, Pearl Jam’s first album, and I was hooked from the opening track. It may have taken me a good 4 years or so to get on the grunge bandwagon, but once I was on there was no going back. While in our high school band we jammed to a lot of GnR, then my next band was heavily grunge-centric. By the time I met Zak, we may as well have been called Pearl Jovi. We also shared a passion for acoustic rock, which we have carried with us to the present day. My early love for RnB and Motown also influenced the heavy harmonies you can hear on most of the songs we write.
Zak: As I said…I was listening to Rock Anthems like “Livin’ On A Prayer”, “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and all I can think about is: “I wanna play that!!” Meeting other musicians with different influences definitely expanded my horizons further, and that’s when I met Buzz and got introduced to this ‘new’ genre of Rock…Grunge…and loved it!
Tell us about any recordings you have done?
Buzz: We have recorded a lot of stuff over the years, some professionally, and others using our constantly evolving home studios. You can hear some of them on our Facebook page. We are currently working on an EP that we hope to have finished by the summer. It’s quite similar to stuff we’ve done before, a mixture of rock and ballads. We have drawn from our entire spectrum of work, from the old (“All I Want;” “I Try to Understand”) to the new (“Belong;” “Poison (Poisout)”).
How much would you say of your set is covers, vs. your own songs and which do you prefer?
Buzz: At the moment, the sets we do live are predominantly covers, with a split of around 80/20. The covers we do are songs we really like, so they are very enjoyable to perform. Having said that, there is a real rush you get when sitting with an audience who sing along to the lyrics you’ve written…it’s a surreal feeling.
How has the Middle Eastern world reacted to your music?
Buzz: The feedback we have gotten after various gigs we have played here and in Lebanon have been really positive and encouraging so far. We are still growing as a band, and we hope to expand our horizons to other countries in the region like Bahrain and UAE, and eventually farther afield. The thing I have always found fascinating is that our music doesn’t appeal to one single group or demographic; I have been approached by all sorts of people who tell me they loved what they’ve heard, and why aren’t we doing this for a living? That never ceases to amaze me.
What is your dream for your music / what would you like to accomplish in the future?
Buzz: I would love for the EP to become an LP that will be the platform from which we can launch a career, with recognition that transcends the region and beyond. I would also really like to go on tour to promote it, even though these days it works in the opposite direction: you hope the music gets enough props to support the tour! Ultimately, I hope our music inspires more Kuwaiti musicians to tap into their talent to shatter taboos and build bridges of creativity. It is my sincere opinion that music is the only true universal language: some may argue mathematics is, but the representation of numbers and symbols differs between countries and cultures. When it comes to music, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in New Zealand or Zimbabwe, a musical note on a piece of sheet music always ends up meaning the same thing on whatever instrument is being played. This is a language that I hope every Kuwaiti learns to speak.
Zak: I love performing LIVE. And around here, it’s a dying art. I would love to play more concerts, see more live shows with real musicians. Put on LIVE show spectacles as they do in the US, UK and now even UAE.
What is your favorite gig you have ever played?
Buzz: You never forget your first! Beirut, Lebanon in 2002. We played this lounge in Mono called “Chill Out” which was our first paid gig as a band. The energy was crazy electric, and the crowd was awesome. Up until that point we had only played at friends’ houses and a few open mics. That was a great gig.
What do you see next for the band, and for music in Kuwait?
Buzz: I am a firm believer that, when putting a full band together, five is the magic number. It’s awesome that, even though Zak and I have been the band’s common denominator over the years, the pool of Kuwaiti musical talent to choose from keeps getting bigger and better, with almost limitless potential and possibilities. Take the current band members, for example. Hashim plays with other local bands and has his own projects; Husain (Max) has played bass with several other bands and Aziz is a multi-talented musician who plays drums, guitar and bass, and whose day job is spent composing music for a local TV network. We are blessed to be surrounded by homegrown musicians in every sense of the word, especially those who can showcase our local talent in such an impactful (and hopefully inspirational) way.
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