"Ultimately the music you write should be what you love"
It’s not every day that you come across an alternative rock band made up of individuals from South Asian backgrounds – but in come Redhanded.
Hailing from London, the group consists of four incredible musicians.
Bellowing out the vocals is Sohail Ajaz, on drums is Saif Malik, leading the strings is guitarist Faizan Baig and providing the bass is Adil Azim.
The school friends birthed Redhanded in 2015 and began commanding the stage at Enterprise Studios in London.
Covering 90s rock anthems, the four-piece slowly gained notoriety from fans and musicians alike.
Whilst they adore and continue to pay homage to these iconic tracks, the band began writing their own music to showcase how truly creative they are.
Redhanded’s sound is exhilarating and has all the elements you expect from a classic rock band.
However, their intertwining of melodic blues and electrifying jazz helps create their signature alternative rock sound.
This is especially seen on the band’s debut album Retrograde (2022).
The songs ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ and ‘Circle’ and ‘Lila’ are beautiful, hard-hitting renditions of Redhanded’s versatility.
The project oozes with raw vocals, metallic guitars and fantastic bass and drum work.
Retrograde has already surpassed 100,000 streams on Spotify, highlighting the unique reach the band has.
Especially being of South Asian heritage, their exploration into alternative rock has attracted a new audience.
So, we caught up with Redhanded to talk about all things rock and how their debut album is setting the tone for their careers.
How did your passion for music begin?
One of the things we have in common as a group of musicians is our undying passion for music.
For most of us, it was a friend or an elder sibling that exposed us to music, particularly the rock genre.
We grew up in the 90s and it was a really exciting time for listening to everything from grunge to progressive metal with some remnants of 80s music still widely followed.
Most of us have explored far older music, including the roots of blues going back to the 1920s.
While we have our own original and fresh take on the genre, there are clearly some callouts in our music to the era that sparked that passion in the first place.
Which artists or songs inspired you the most and in what ways?
We feel our sound is fairly unique because the range of influences for each band member is quite different.
From root blues to progressive rock, a bit of metal as well as industrial, our sound has been influenced by a broad palette of artists and genres.
“The list of bands that we have named in the past includes Incubus, Muse, Led Zeppelin and Tool to name a few.”
Individually each of us also has non-rock musical genres that we enjoy and it’s cool to have some elements of that seep into the songwriting process as well.
How would you describe Redhanded’s sound?
One of the unique things about Redhanded is the mesh of different styles that each of the musicians brings to the table.
What we’ve gotten to is a high-energy and bold sound that aims to electrify the audience but also provide some introspective lyrical content.
We draw on influences from classic rock, grunge and progressive metal.
Although, the band has established an individual modern interpretation of these styles.
At a Redhanded gig, you should expect to feel the need to jump and bob your head a lot!
What elements about alternative rock led you to follow that genre?
There are musical acts and bands who could describe themselves as purists of a particular genre such as metal or punk.
For Redhanded that was never really an option considering the characters involved, nor was it an exciting enough prospect to write music for.
The fun thing about writing music together has been exploring how far we can pull a song from one genre into the realm of another.
“And then pull it back again to create songs that feel unconstrained by traditional limitations.”
Alternative rock, therefore, is a great middle-ground where we feel free enough to be able to deliver the music that really speaks to us.
How does it feel to release your debut album ‘Retrograde’?
It has been the joy and experience of a lifetime. The entire process has been a learning experience for the band.
Starting with recording demos and experimenting with various layers and instruments, was amazing.
Then to sitting in the studio with our incredible recording and mixing engineer Prasheen Naran and continued on to record the album itself.
Releasing the album itself across various platforms and shooting our music videos to support its release has been absolutely incredible.
We are still working on visualizers for a few tracks which you should expect to see very soon!
Can you tell us about the project from the early ideas to its production?
The work on this album started many years ago when the band would meet at the legendary Enterprise Studios on Denmark Street to bash together all sorts of ideas.
Over the years the ideas were developed and refined further.
“The full list of songs was curated to be able to represent a body of music that we feel brings a mix of energy.”
As well as creating a lot of emotion, intellectual curiosity and entertainment.
The feeling of putting the album out into the world has been special, and the reception to it has been fantastic.
Which tracks are your favourite from the album and why?
That’s a great question to ask us if you want a healthy debate among band members!
We feel each of the tracks evokes a different type of emotion and explores themes that can vary to some extent.
We are really proud of the release of ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, it’s a song we absolutely love playing live.
It has been racking up views and listens across YouTube and Spotify faster than all the other tracks.
While the numbers are important, we feel this song showcases the creativity of the band in a great light, and if you haven’t heard it yet – you must give it a listen!
What kind of themes do you explore?
We didn’t deliberately look for specific themes but undoubtedly we’ve all been having a shared experience lately with what the world’s been going through.
It’s natural for some of it to come through in the writing.
So there are definitely recurring motifs such as feeling stuck or trapped, the cyclical nature of events and the illusion of progress.
And then of course the fight and aspiration for a better tomorrow.
“It wasn’t that hard as it wasn’t part of some grand design. We didn’t try to force a meaning where it didn’t belong.”
Things just seemed to fall into place as we went and eventually ended up being guided by those motifs
What has the reaction been like to the project?
We weren’t really sure what to expect on releasing our debut album as an independent band – so far the response has been absolutely amazing!
We have received positive feedback from members of the press.
We’ve been featured in a number of major online publications (including Rolling Stone India) and have been offered a headline slot to play at 93 Feet East in August 2022.
Additionally, some of the singles have made it onto popular Spotify playlists and our music has been played on a few radio stations.
In the end, the response has far exceeded our expectations, and we hope to build on this momentum to continue making more music!
As South Asians, have you found it difficult exploring this space as musicians?
Some of us went to school together and just happened to fall in love with this type of music at the time coincidentally.
There were numerous bands in school and some of us were part of them.
“It’s certainly not a mainstream genre in South Asia, although bands from the region have had quite a bit of success in the past.”
Additionally, we have seen crossover of certain hits from the genre make it into popular music through TV or film.
We’re very proud to have followed this direction – ultimately the music you write should be what you love and not an imitation of something you think is just popular.
Would you ever consider exploring other genres of music?
Absolutely! I don’t think we will depart from our rock roots but within that prism, there is room to explore influences from many other genres.
Mainstream electronic music and pop provide plenty of interesting things to think about.
Although our South Asian roots provide an avenue of differentiated thought when it comes to music.
There is a natural inclusion in the guitar playing that draws on South Asian raags (scales).
While areas of singing such as qawwali are things we’re all major fans of and would love to draw influence from.
Could you tell the fans about any exclusive future projects?
At the moment we are finishing up the final bits of releasing for Retrograde, with some visuals on the horizon.
The band will be playing a live gig next month (August 19, 2022, at 93 Feet East) with potentially more to follow!
We have been writing new music as well.
“Currently, we have identified a single that we feel could be exciting to release ahead of our next album.”
So keep an eye out on our socials for more info on that in the months ahead!
There’s no doubt that Redhanded are full of energy and their love for their craft speaks volumes.
It’ll be very interesting to see how the band explore other genres, especially when incorporating South Asian sounds.
South Asian rock bands are few and far between but Redhanded are trailblazing their way to breaking down this narrative.
Still reeling in the success of Retrograde, the group hope the album highlights bigger things to come in the future.
Check out Retrograde and more Redhanded projects here.