Meet Vandalye, Lionel Richie’s indie-rock openers

The young folk rockers performed in front of more than 25,000 people

Image Credit:
From left to right: Alexander Tombrink, Lucas McCone, Thomas McCone, Nimmer Khokhar and Scott Attew.
Tabloid

UAE-based rock group Vandalye have earned obnoxious bragging rights around the Christmas tree this year.

On Thursday night, they perform at the Fridge, a narrow, artsy space in Al Quoz that lends itself to small local gigs.

But on Saturday, the boys opened for Lionel Richie at du Arena in front of more than 25,000 people as part of the F1 after-race concerts — an incredible feat for a group that only formed last year.

“We’ve gone from playing all these open mic stages and smaller stages at Stereo Arcade and Tribeca and now to a massive stage in front of this huge crowd,” said 19-year-old lead singer Scott Attew, talking to Gulf News tabloid! ahead of the gig.

“It’s not so much nerve-wracking. It’s a lot of excitement building up.”

For Attew, performing is second nature: he’s been doing it since he was seven. He met his musical soulmates in Dubai, at an open mic night last September — 23-year-old twins Lucas and Thomas McCone.

“I’d seen them prior to the summer, but never spoken to them. I was just intrigued by what guitar Lucas was playing,” said Attew. The conversation flowed from there and, every day for the following week, they would meet and write together.

“We sat there and said, ‘Should we form a band?’ It was casual. What’s the word? Serendipity — that’s the one,” said Attew.

The band worked fast. They released From the Beginning, a polished folk rock EP, in May. The five-track effort is marked by a compelling fragility in Attew’s vocal and poetic storytelling, vacillating between naivety and ferocity. Harmonies and melodies — comprised of guitars, drums, keys, tambourines and the odd harmonica — balloon from innocuous ballads into strikingly produced chorales.

“We’re not the biggest fans of playing covers. We feel like that’s one limitation that bands here have. There are a lot of bands that play residencies and play covers people want to hear, and that’s good to a certain extent, but we’re very original music driven,” said Attew.

They’re inspired by the likes of Bloc Party, The Libertines, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Ben Howard, Bon Iver, The National and Mumford and Sons.

When they do perform covers, they like to do the Beastie Boys’ Fight for Your Right, flipping it from a rap song into something else entirely. Hallelujah by the late Leonard Cohen, one of the most covered ballads of all time, is another favourite.

“It’s very cliche. When we play that, it’s usually just me singing and Lucas playing the guitar. When we were practicing, Lucas said, ‘At the end of the song, Scott, just scream. Just really go for it.’ I literally just went for it and it came out sounding really cool,” said Attew.

Nowadays, he and Thomas have progressed into writing songs together, and their family of three has grown to include Alexander Tombrink on bass and Nimmer Khokar on drums. Over the summer, the band went to Hamburg, Germany, and did a couple of tracks there.

“Our next move is to go and start recording our album sometime next year in Germany,” said Attew.

*Tickets to see Vandalye at The Fridge on Thursday are Dh50 from platinumlist.net.

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