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Charged Middle East Magazine

Charged ME - December 2013

The Boxtones

This year's winner of Rolling Stone's Street to Stage competition, coming out first out of 2000+ artists Gulf-wide, The Boxtones are a well oiled machine, as CHARGED discovered when we met.

With a repertoire of over 400+ cover songs and a new original album scheduled for an immediate release, The Boxtones are a 5-piece band of full-time professional musicians performing their own original tracks as well as popular covers.

Formed late in 2008, the band is made up of Gill Tierney on Drums / Vocals, Louise Peel on Lead Vocals / Percussion, Gary Tierney on Lead Guitar / Lead Vocals, Will Janssen on Keys / Guitar / Vocals, and Patrick Thibault on Bass / Vocals.

Ahead of the launch of their debut album, and before the celebratory-factor kicked in, CHARGED met up with the quintet for a lowdown ahead of the showdown.

So where do you perform?

Louise: "We're pretty much all over the place. You can catch us most Thursdays from 9pm and Fridays at 7:30pm for an after Brunch party at The Stables Bar. Other than that keep checking our website, Facebook, Twitter and social media sites to find out where we are next as we have a whole bunch of exciting gigs in the pipeline. We played at Gulf Bike Week all three days from the 24th to the 26th of October and in November we will be supporting the awesome 80's band Europe (who sang Final Countdown) at Dubai Tennis Stadium."

What makes your style unique?

Louise: "We like to think that after travelling and living abroad for so long that we have soaked up a little of the cultural experiences we've been exposed to, and that that is reflected in our music. We also have a huge range of musical tastes from punk and hard rock to Erykah Badu which I think helps. Of course we have a female drummer (which is a little unusual) as well as having male and female lead vocals, which we hope adds a lot of dynamics to our sound."

What and whom inspires you?

Louise: "As I said before we all have our own influences. Patrick is a big Punk Rock fan, he loves The Clash, Gary loves Biffy Clyro, Gill is inspired by Dave Grohl and Will is a big Opeth fan. I love anything with powerful vocals, Erykah Badu is an inspiration for me for sure."

What distinctive experiences have you had in this field to date?

Louise: "We've played some incredible shows in the past. Gary and I played at the G8 Summit in Scotland and we've played across the world from China to Nigeria, from the UK to the Middle East. We had some amazing shows in Bahrain, The Abu Dhabi Film Festival closing party, and here in Dubai - there are too many to mention. A highlight was definitely playing and winning the Rolling Stone Street to Stage competition last month and that has opened a lot of doors for us. But what we're really excited about are the gigs to come. Supporting Europe next month is going to be awesome as the Dubai Tennis Stadium is an incredible venue! And we have a few sneaky little support slots coming up early next year that we are sworn to secrecy for but are extremely excited about too!"

How has your style developed and/or changed over the years?

Louise: "I think our sound has matured and solidified into a kind of cohesive feel. It's hard to find your definitive sound early on especially when you do come from such an eclectic background but it's been a hell of a lot easier this year and I guess that comes with feeling settled, confident with your line up and of course inspired to find the good stuff deep down in you and pull it to the fore. We're in a good place right now."

Do you play original music or covers?

Louise: "We have made our career bridging the gap and unusually doing both in tandem. The covers are what pay the bills until we (hopefully) get somewhere with our originals. We are in the process of just coming out of the cocoon with our original stuff. We have honed our craft working hard 6 nights a week churning out covers ridiculously varied in style. No genre was left untouched and I think that elements of that show in our original style. We have recently set up as an independent company (THE BOXTONES FZE) and with this came the freedom of creativity and the time to put in the work to finally complete an album we are proud and excited about."

Have you had any work professionally produced?

Gary: "We have recorded in studios all over the world. The guys in the band have worked in a variety of studios, with all sorts of engineers and producers. I personally never released a record that I was 100% proud of. Me and Gill have done 4 records in our career to date."

How did you come to reside in the UAE?

Louise: "Well Gary and Gill are brother and sister and are from Glasgow in Scotland but have lived most of their lives here in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain and now Dubai. I'm from Edinburgh in Scotland but have spent years living in Turkey and backpacking around the globe finally residing between Bahrain and Dubai in the last 7 years. Will is from Winnipeg in Canada and has been out here in cover bands for around 3 years. Then there's Patrick from Montreal in Canada representing the more exotic side of The Boxtones."

"Gary, Gill and I started The Boxtones back in 2006 with another couple of friends and have since then had a surprisingly small amount of band changes in the 7 years since its invention. However, last year we managed to bag our Canadian contingent into the ranks and things have just snowballed since then. We've had a lot of success so far and we're excited to see where it will lead."

"I think collectively we all left our respective homes and countries for similar reasons; to engage a bit more in the wider world, to make money, to escape our previous lives, to have an adventure and of course to pursue what we love, music!"

What is your impression of the UAE music scene?

Gary: "It's a tough question, and one you sometime have to be very diplomatic about. I mean there are some really talented people here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And there are some really great venues. The problem is it costs a venue a considerable sum to put a night on, if you are looking to have live bands play - the reason? Permissions! Event organizers here take a risk every time they put a night on. I think the people want it, but charging high ticket prices to cover the cost of a night, isn't what the fans want, but its unfortunately what the Dubai music scene has to do in order to survive.

"Corporate is another kettle of fish, there's too much work out there, and it's varied, fun and sometimes very, very grand."

What do you hope to add to the local music scene?

Gary: "I started writing songs when I was pretty young. I still have all the demos and tracks from all the songs I've ever written. I've been complimented on some, ridiculed on others, and persevered through them all. Four albums, touring the UK, travelling abroad, and doing it all again and again. It's the most fun and sense of accomplishment I think I'll ever have, if anyone takes this new album and enjoys it, shares it, and gets The Boxtones added to people’s playlists around the world. We want to add a sense of accomplishment; that something can come from the Middle East, and do very well around the world.

What is your favourite UAE venue?

Gary: "We've done a tonne of shows at The Music Room, but we really enjoyed Hard Rock at Festival City when we won the Rolling Stone Award."

Who do you admire most at present?

Gary: "I admire anyone who does something with his or her talent and ability. I admire people who push themselves, be innovative and try something new and fresh. I admire a lot of musicians, but I don't admire pretenders, fakes and those who actively try to cheapen the market or the music scene."

What artist do you most like to cover?

Gary: "I've been a fan of Led Zeppelin for years, and I love Black Dog. I also like Biffy Clyro and Ed Sheeran - I enjoy playing their songs whenever we get the chance."

What advice would you give to those trying to break into the music scene?

Gary: "I would advise them to get out there and to really work hard. Whatever you do in this line of work you can't lay back and relax waiting for it to happen to you. That's a myth or at most reserved for the insanely lucky! Being aware of your market, competition and coming across well and knowledgeable about every aspect of your craft are all important elements that should accompany your initial talent and ambition."

Finally, what can people expect to take away from one of your gigs?

Gary: "The Boxtones sound is pretty mainstream rock music, but we try to be a bit different with our approach to song writing. So I'd hope that whoever came to see us would take away a sense that they had a good time, listening to songs they've probably not heard before, that it got stuck somewhere in their head, and they would be humming it in their car on the way to work the next few days. Then they'd come back, know all the words and sing along. I just want people to have a good time listening to our music. Let them take that away with them.