Visuals and vocals: Q&A with UAE rockers Empty Yard Experiment

EYE utilizes a mix of sound and visuals to enchant their audience during concerts

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Empty Yard Experiment, also known as EYE, formed in 2006 and has built a strong UAE following with regular performances in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the years.

EYE has since developed a distinctive sound that continues to enchant audiences across the region. Their role models are as diverse as their cultural backgrounds, with their members coming from Serbia, Iran and India.

Al Arabiya News sat down with the group to find out more on the feedback they have received from the local community and what it takes to make it successful as a band from the region.

Tell us a bit about yourselves. What is the story behind forming the band?

EYE started out in 2006 with Kaveh Kashani (Bass), Mehdi Gr (Lead Guitar) and former drummer Sami Al Turki. Gorgin Asadi (Keys) came into the picture shortly after and EYE, in its initial basic form, was born.

‘E.Y.E.’ is an acronym for Empty Yard Experiment, the name stands for something with a little more depth.

EYE is about introducing a piece of music or art into a space that is devoid of prejudices and allowing the mind to do its own work when digesting it.

The band had exclusively played a more experimental form of instrumental post-rock and did not have a vocalist in the beginning.

Sami was crafting videos that would be projected during live shows with the aim of ‘translating’ the music from an aural to a visual format and, so to speak, ‘sing’ to the eyes of the audience.

When the time came to record the first album in 2010, EYE’s music was already in the process of evolving and the need for a full-time vocalist became clear. So, Bojan Preradovic (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar) joined and after Sami’s departure (and another drummer, Sasan Nasernia in between), Josh Saldanha (Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals) completed the band’s current lineup in early 2013.

How each of you got into music and a little about your backgrounds. How do you all know each other?

Josh is an Indian from Goa who, like Gorgin, Kaveh and Mehdi (all from Iran), has spent a majority of his life in Dubai. Bojan is a Serb who was brought up between his native Serbia, Lebanon, Italy and the UK. We all ended up in Dubai either because our families moved here or because we were seeking work opportunities.

How would you describe your sound?

We’ve been called everything from post-rock and prog metal, to post-prog. Our second and most recent album, Kallisti, is pretty much a schizophrenic expression of whom we are musically and that can be unsettling and unpalatable for a lot of people.

But we like that and it’s certainly what we want people to feel. And we’ve gotten used to not trying to categorize our music. At the end of the day, it’s really up to the listener or the reviewer/critic to do that.

Where have you performed?

The band has been playing shows in the UAE since 2007 and building a very loyal and supportive fan base. They’ve always been there for us and it has been a pleasure to take them along on the ride with us especially when we’ve been able to play in front of massive audience while opening for Anathema (2011), Evanescence (2012) and Metallica (2013).

We’ve also played Lebanon’s Fete De La Musique festival for the past two years and we did a 2-week UK tour in December 2014.

What would you say is EYE’s biggest break so far?

Playing in front of almost 25,000 people when we opened for Metallica in 2013 was definitely one of the biggest highlights of our career so far. Our UK tour was also a really valuable experience - traveling across a country with such a rich musical tradition and connecting with an entirely new audience.

What type of feedback have you received from the community here in the Middle East?

The regional scene has been blossoming into something very exciting in the past couple of years and we have been thrilled to be a part it.

But the level of overall support for local and regional artists leaves a lot to be desired. We have been extremely privileged in obtaining the support of Red Bull, who is deeply committed to backing and growing talent in the region.

But many artists are not so fortunate and they tend to struggle to produce their own material and gain exposure due to financial and other limitations.

Sadly if local rock bands want to make anything of themselves, they have to break out beyond the borders of both the UAE and the Middle East and work on generating exposure for their work towards an international audience.

It’s as simple as that. There are only a couple of good venues around town that provide bands with decent equipment to perform with – and they have been doing their best to support local bands at times – but this is far from enough to sustain a healthy scene.

Tell us an interesting fact about your band or an experience your band had.

One thing is for sure when it comes to our band - we’re never short on ‘interesting’, no matter how much you stretch the definition of that word. Whether it’s Josh accidentally head-butting Metallica’s James Hetfield before the show, or getting our gear trapped in the back of the tour bus for a night in the UK and someone getting locked out of the bus in the middle of a very cold and rainy night while everyone else slept, there are always ‘interesting’ things happening to us.

Are there any future plans coming your way?

We have a music video for one of the songs off ‘Kallisti’ in the works and we’re working on new songs for our third album, which will be released sometime next year.

Our goal for the next few months is to go out there and connect with concertgoers across the globe as much as we can. We’re putting our hearts into promoting this release, and we’re working on dates and festivals abroad – in the rest of Europe, India and hopefully Australia in the near future.