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For local band Core 304, the phrase “don’t quit your day job” isn’t an insult — it’s the reality of making music in an underground music scene.

Guitarist Tolentino “Tolo” Fernandes, keyboardist Lynette Braganza, bassist and vocalist Santan Fernandes and drummer Anurag Tripathi, like so many other musicians in Dubai, subsidise their passion for performing by holding nine-to-five careers in advertising, IT and beyond.

They met through friends and friends of friends, and in 2011, they all ended up jamming at Anurag’s apartment in Al Khor Plaza. His unit number? 304.

“We thought if we named it Khor 304, it might only appeal to a certain section [of people],” Anurag said. “And then one of the guys came up, and he kept repeating the word Khor but he wasn’t saying it properly, so it sounded like Core. It evolved from Al Khor Plaza 304 to Core 304.”

Now, after four years of fusing covers of classic rock songs and creating original music that Anurag describes as “rock’n’roll with a little jazz sweetness”, the band is ready to embark on a international adventure — performing at Canada’s Macarts Festival on September 19.

Before then, the busy foursome will perform at Legends in Chelsea Hotel on September 4 and at the Music Room’s Classic Rock Festival on September 11. They tell tabloid! what their live shows are all about.

How do you choose a song to perform?

What we try and do is we don’t change the structure of the song in any shape or form. You might have heard fusion music, where different types of songs are fused on a popular tune. We’ve taken some of the concepts like that and completely refitted the song with it.

Could you give us an example?

There’s a song we do by Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way?, a straight-forward rock’n’roll number. There’s a very distinct break right after the lead, which goes into the next verse, and what we did was we took a very popular Indian folk tune, and we fitted it right after the lead. It’s kind of the same pace — the BPM [beats per minute] is familiar — but it’s a completely different tune. We didn’t fuse it, we didn’t try to work the chords around, we just took it and put it there — and then we go back to the Lenny Kravitz tune.

What’s the ratio of original to covers in your sets?

We try to tailor make our set lists to each show, but we try to do at least two songs that are original out of say, eight. In a 45-minute set, we’ll do six to eight minutes of originals. You need to give people stuff they love and connect to. We try and space it out.

What are some songs you go back to time and time again?

All our sets have a story. For example, we’ve got a mash-up of the Mission: Impossible theme tune, and it goes into [Europe’s] Final Countdown, and then it goes into AC/DC, Back in Black. The story there is, musicians with day jobs and anything else around us, find it almost impossible [to perform] — it’s like a mission, right? — you’ve got to achieve all sorts of things in order to put on a show. It’s not just a cover band getting on stage doing your favourite tune. It’s very deliberate, and very connected to our lives.

Check out Core 304 at Classic Rock Festival at the Music Room on September 11. Tickets are Dh70 on the door.