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Young, talented ... and from Dubai

Asking Alexandria have been signed up by two record labels and will soon be embarking on a world tour. Daniel Bardsley meets them

Image Credit:Arshad Ali/Gulf News
Asking Alexandria - (clockwise from bottom left) Ben Bruce, Lucas Brown, Robin Everett, Hitesh Gandhi and James Murray - have signed with one record label in the UK, another in the US.

Is there anyone who hasn't at one time or another daydreamed of being a rock star?

The bright lights, the adulation, the jet-set lifestyle, the money — it certainly beats life in an office or factory.

For most people of course it remains just a dream. However, there is a five-piece band from Dubai who are on the verge of turning that dream into reality.

Asking Alexandria have signed with one record label in the United Kingdom, another in the United States, and are about to embark on a world tour that will take them to Europe, North America and Japan.

Ben Bruce, the band's lead guitarist and backing vocalist, admits he was stunned by events since he began sending out demo tapes to record companies last summer.

"I didn't expect anyone to reply and even if they did, I didn't think anything would happen very quickly," he said.

"However, we got picked up that summer by a US label [Sonic Wave International] and when we were recording our album back in the UK this January, we got picked up by a record label there [Hangman's Joke Recordings]. I was completely shocked. Not many bands get the opportunity that we've got. It's unheard of.

"Bands here concentrate on getting themselves big in Dubai; we've pushed ourselves internationally; it's paid off."

The debut album — a 12-track long player called The Irony of Your Perfection — drops on June 25, and soon afterwards the group will embark on their tour.

The journey

Although things have happened fast over the past year, getting to this point has not been easy — not least because of the transient nature of expatriate life in Dubai.

Ben, an 18-year-old Briton who has spent most of his life in Dubai, and Asking Alexandria's singer and synths player James Murray, 18 and also from Britain, were in a band called Amongst Us back in 2003, but maintaining a steady line-up was hard.

"It was ridiculously hard to keep the band going because people come and go in Dubai; but we stuck together and recruited new members," he said.

The pair's band later became known as End of Reason before Asking Alexandria was formed.

Hard choices have had to be made about who can and who can't stay in the band, which recently downsized from a six-piece to a five-strong outfit when it parted ways with a drummer.

"A few people wanted to be in a band simply because it was a cool thing to do. By all means we have fun, that's the whole point, but we work really hard too — that's why we are where we are now," Ben said.

"Some people didn't want to work, they wouldn't come to practise; so unfortunately we've had to kick a few people out, although we've managed to stay on good terms."

Meet the band

The other band members who have survived are rhythm guitarist Robin Everett, 18, from Britain, 20-year-old bass player Lucas Brown, who is also British, and Indian Hitesh Gandhi, 19, who is the band's drummer.

The band created a buzz with a six-track EP they released independently before they were signed to the two record labels, and it is this, along with various features in the relevant music press, that should generate enough interest for them to sell-out venues with space for 500 people or more.

"We've been featured in a lot of radio stations in the UK and in magazines as well, so our name is very much out there. We have got a solid fan base that's growing," Ben said.

"It depends how big we get and how much hype we create, which venues we book."

Their tour

Once the nine-month UK tour is over, the band will spend a couple of months touring Germany, Holland, France and Sweden before, midway through next year, they record their second album.

The tour — they will be headlining or joint headlining each show, not just supporting someone else — will certainly not be one long party, with as many as six gigs scheduled per week.

"That many shows over nine months will take a lot out of us. We've got to go into the gym and get fit. We've got to do it properly," Ben said.

Although their first full-length album is yet to be released, they have plenty of material for the follow-up. The band is keen to get back into the recording studio to avoid losing the momentum they hope their first album will generate.

When the second record is being mastered and mixed, the band will be back on the road, taking in the United States and then Japan.

It looks as though we will be hearing a lot more from Asking Alexandria.

Their music

Asking Alexandria describe their sound as being synth core music which, for those not in the know, is a blend of hardcore music — which came out of heavy metal — with synth sounds.

"It's as heavy as anyone else, but there's a softer side as well. There's more singing, there's clean guitar pieces. Rather than just being heavy the whole way through, there are elements of cleanness," lead guitar player and backing vocalist Ben Bruce said.

James Murray, the band's vocalist and synths player, said Asking Alexandria was difficult to categorise. "It's unique. I don't think people can relate us to anyone else," he said.

If you are looking for comparisons, then the band says they have similarities to groups such as Enter Shikari, Underoath and Bullet For My Valentine.

The music on the first album was written by Ben and rhythm guitarist Robin Everett, with lyrics then penned by James.

The band members

Asking Alexandria consist of lead guitarist Ben Bruce, singer James Murray, rhythm guitarist Robin Everett, bass player Lucas Brown and drummer Hitesh Gandhi.

Their parents

Many parents might be doubtful about the wisdom of their children trying to make it in the music business, but for Asking Alexandria, parental support has never been lacking.

In fact, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Ben Bruce's father Paul has helped to manage the band in its early stages. Paul recorded the demos that the band sent off; he made the band's website, and he designed the artwork for the album.

"He is very understanding — all the parents have been pretty understanding," Ben said.

Ben and his bandmates insist their goal is not to become rich and famous for the sake of it, but more to achieve respect within their musical genre.

"Even if we don't become super rich, we want to become a band that sticks in people's minds.

"Being rich is not the goal. It's being respected and looked up to. We want to inspire people to look up to us and follow in our footsteps. We want to be one of the bands that people know and remember for years to come," Ben said.

Their band name

Although Asking Alexandria might become a name known to many, that name came about by random — it has no hidden meaning.

"We thought if people are called names, why shouldn't a band just be a person's name as well. We came up with Alexandria because we thought it was a nice name, and we just threw the word asking in front of it," Ben said.

The writer is the travelling bard of Gulf News