Overload has their work cut out for them – a string of tours abroad, an album that front man Farhad Humayun insists must come out this year, a music video for ‘Nimmi Nimmi’ in the works, and the upcoming second season of Live at the Apartment, the once Youtube- and now Vimeo-hosted project that features Overload’s live sessions with up-and-coming underground musicians, ‘the underdogs’ of the music industry, as Farhad calls them.
In a chat with Instep, Farhad talks about his band’s recent performance at a special event, their current activities and upcoming projects.
Instep: Overload recently performed at the Peace for Justice event that was held in support of minorities last month. What inspired you to join this cause and perform this concert?
Farhad Humayun: Well, there are many things we disagree with in the world at large and in Pakistan. I feel equality is the basis of human coexistence. The Pakistani flag assures the rights of minorities as much as it does of the Muslims. But that’s not the prevailing practice. We don’t support divisions between people. It’s a multicultural and hybrid world which makes life beautiful and adds colour. Overload supports unity, positivity, and love for all!
Instep: How was the experience of being a part of this event, and what do you hope this campaign will achieve?
Farhad: I think any campaign needs continuous reinforcement. If such events and a dialog portal continue to remain open, the public at large will register this as a cause that needs to be addressed.
Instep: You are now setting out on a tour of India. How many shows will you perform there?
Farhad: It’s a mini tour. Our scheduled shows were six in number, but due to the late issuance of visas from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, we had to cut out some amazing venues in Mumbai. We will now only be going to Jaipur and Delhi to play four shows.
Instep: What is your response to the recent attack on Mekaal Hasan Band in Mumbai? And how do you feel about touring India now?
Farhad: It’s unfortunate that something like that happened and there’s so much adversity on both sides of the border. But one must see that there’s a lot of goodwill and a positive genuine feeling of respect between other enlightened groups of both populations as well. The Shiv Sena doesn’t represent the emotion of the entire country of India just like the Taliban or the mullahs don’t represent Pakistan. We are musicians and we will continue to go where people invite us and give us love and respect.
Instep: Overload also has a U.S. tour lined up. You must be excited about that…
Farhad: Indeed, we’ve never played as one outfit in the U.S. It will be fun. We have 19 dates but I’ll only be excited if we get visas. Unfortunately Pakistanis aren’t really getting a welcome from an embassy at this time.
Instep: How many other countries has Overload performed in? And how would you compare the experience of performing abroad to performing in Pakistan?
Farhad: Since 2003, Overload has played in UAE, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Norway, France, and Spain. The response has been overwhelming. By the grace of God, we have never had a bad show or a lukewarm response. Audiences have always walked away with an experience of a lifetime!
Although I don’t support dictatorship, I have to say that music and art flourished the most in Musharraf’s tenure. We were playing three concerts a night, three times a week. It was hectic but we loved it and the crowd felt safe. Now there are no concerts because no one is safe. The Sharif government doesn’t really want music to be played which is why music performance in particular is heavily taxed. This is another reason why music has shifted to being in the form of corporate campaigns. That’s why all our music and art is being exported abroad and artists are working in Mumbai and Hollywood.
So, to answer the second part of your question, we absolutely love Pakistani audiences and performing here, but it’s heartbreaking that we can’t. We can’t put thousands of people’s lives at risk.
Instep: Do you also have any concerts planned for Pakistan? How do you feel about the current landscape of the Pakistani music industry?
Farhad: Right now we are only playing corporate concerts at their privately hosted events, which is never exciting because nobody really appreciates a band while eating dinner or discussing politics or shoes and bags over a round table.
Channels won’t play us because they want to run Bollywood which isn’t what we do. Radio doesn’t play us much because they want to be cool and "international".
I think the music scene is experiencing an all time low. Yet Overload takes risks and initiatives and makes enough money to finance its own videos and projects which is what I’m thankful for!
The upside is that in times of depression people work harder and write songs that are from the heart. I think that can be heard in the music of some new artists who are coming up.
Instep: You guys are also currently working on the video for your song ‘Nimmi Nimmi’. Please tell us about the song and its video.
Farhad: It’s a power ballad and is very heartfelt, raw, and emotional. It’s dark, yet melodic. Every friend of mine who has heard it so far loves it. Porsche is on board with us to support us. I’m talking to various other brands to fund it because I take my videos and music very seriously. I believe every song can be an event in people’s lives. We must use that opportunity well.
Instep: Who is directing the clip? And has it been shot yet?
Farhad: I’ve spoken to a photographer friend who is super busy so I don’t know if he’ll do it, but in all probability I’ll end up directing it myself because deadlines are important to me. End of February is the scheduled time [for the shoot].
Instep: You also have an album in the pipeline. How much progress have you made so far? How far is it from completion?
Farhad: We’ve got songs we’ve collected over a few years. We are finishing and polishing them but that’s taking a while because we are financing it ourselves and are running out of funds quickly. Session players and studio overheads are quite exorbitant these days. I’d say it won’t be ready before the summer but we have some surprise guests on it.
Instep: Can we expect to get our hands on it this year?
Instep: After a few issues and line-up changes, Overload seems to be in a good place now. What is the current band dynamic like?
Farhad: Myself and Sheraz have always played music for the love of music. We believe it’s what we are born to do. When there are factors in a band who disrupt the sensitive process of creation, they often have to be rectified. We are stronger and more popular than ever. We feel more free and energized and productive. Honestly I can’t complain. Overload is doing very well right now, thanks to God and our families and all the fans who support it.
Sheraz and I do the creative work independent of each other. We are both private people so we bring our ideas to the studio and develop each other’s demos into songs. There’s a stark difference between our compositions but we give Overload a cohesive sound together.
Instep: The band appeared on the fifth season of Coke Studio a couple of years ago. How was your experience of performing on the show? And how do you feel about Rohail Hyatt’s departure from the show?
Farhad: I believe that we really achieved our high note and recognition and, in the words of Rohail Hyatt, became "a force to be reckoned with" after Coke Studio. The public saw the true potential of Overload and it’s versatility by comparing ‘Neray Aah’ with ‘Mahi’, and I personally got the opportunity to play drums with such amazing friends. Besides, Coke Studio is a worldwide campaign followed by millions all over the world which is something no other Pakistani brand has achieved due to lack of vision.
Rohail has been the biggest role player and a leader in changing the game and earning respect for Pakistani musicians who were almost forgotten. I think he will be missed in CS but I’m sure he has another plan, whether it’s his retirement or another big project.
Instep: Live at the Apartment is set to return later this year. Is there anything you can tell us about the coming season?
Farhad: I’m planning to cut it down to a minimum number of instruments to focus more on the melody, nuances, and lyrical content and also because it’ll cost less to produce. I’m not taking any sponsorship for it because I want it to be a true account of each artist who is on it. Corporate sponsorship brings with it an agenda which always interferes with the quality of music.
Instep: Are the band members working on any other projects (individually or as Overload) that you can tell us about?
Farhad: As you can see, we have our hands full. I was given the opportunity to produce two big corporate funded shows for TV, but I feel I need to get my own pending work out because other than being a producer I would like to play a lot more.
Instep: What else can we expect from Overload in the coming months?
Farhad: This is the year we take up the space that’s reserved for us in the world!