Something special by Ahmed Gallab


Writing “Mean Love” was a pretty amazing process. I was having so much fun exploring my favorite musics and, one day, discovered a connection between all of them. Reggae, Funk/Soul, African, Country-Western seemed to relate by a shared feeling of oppression coming from the people who founded those genres. Poor black/white folks in the States, Jamaicans, Africans all felt oppressed and used music as a vehicle to express their feelings. This was the understanding that made me relate to all of them. I figured that it would be interesting to experiment with combining elements from all of these styles to see what might come of it. I’d ask myself, “what are the spiritual sounds of each of these music styles?/what elements of these sounds make me feel happy or sad?” And off I’d go. Funny enough I found that a lot of these musics are actually connected! Everybody knows about the r&b and reggae connection. But less know about how influential Country music was on reggae and vise versa. Not many people know about the Country music scene in Nigeria in the 70s. Or (at the time) the psychedelic sounds of African music that were influenced by the African influenced music from the US. That sounds like a mouthful, doesn’t it? Zamrock, Afro Rock, and most notable, William Onyeabor. This was the meat and potatoes of the music of “Mean Love”. Lyrically, at its core, the album was inspired by Existentialism. @gregisaccurate and I would talk for hours about this stuff. We thought we were so smart. “Yeah, and we’ll say things THIS way and people will think about it and go ‘A-HA!’ This is so brilliant!” No one got the deeper meanings. 

We spent almost every day on the phone. I’d tell him stories then send him demos with me singing mumbo-jumbo and hackneyed Arabic. About a week later I’d get an email with lyrics that fit almost perfectly and phonetically to said gibberish. You can’t make an Ahmed without breaking a few Gregs. 

Every morning we’d drink several cups of espresso and, at the end of the day, we’d head to my favorite bar Lowlands and I’d make Sazeracs. 

When we finished we realized that we had something special. What’s your fav song from this album? #hardcoretourstories

Don't be an asshole by Ahmed Gallab


We finished the “Mars” album cycle summer ‘13. It was pretty rough. A break was very much welcomed. Jay and I went to Asheville, NC for the month of August. Our friends at Moog kindly loaned us a bunch of synths and we got to work on music. 

I wrote “Moonstruck”. During that time I got a call from @Luakabop’s Yale Evelev. We met at Central Park when Sinkane played with Femi Kuti earlier that summer. They wanted to talk to me about a new project: being Musical Director of The Atomic Bomb! Band. Performing William Onyeabor’s music live for the first time ever with @moneymarkofficial@DamonAlbarnand @davidbyrneofficial

Before Byrne would sign on he wanted to talk to me on the phone. He wanted to feel me out. I made sure I was prepared.

This is the same time @jonnypartysjoined the band. Jonny changed everything for Sinkane. When we started rehearsing with Atomic Bomb! He and I had one goal: to be so good that we scared people. We logged 100 hours of rehearsal. Dissecting the songs and rebuilding them with a bit of a modern edge. All while writing and recording “Mean Love”. AB! was supposed to be a 6 show commitment. What came to be was 2 years of relentless touring. Sometimes both bands playing the same festival on the same day. I also performed on stage with every single one of my idols: Pharaoh Sanders, Lijadu Sisters, Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Amadou & Mariam, @Jamie_Lidell, Mohatella Queens, @alexishotchip , @museumofloveband, Green Gartside of Scritti Politti, Byrne, Albarn, Money Mark. The list goes on. I even went to Nigeria and met Willy. That and the Lijadu Sisters are stories of themselves. It was insane. 

This project also taught me a very important lesson: don’t be an asshole. When collaborating with people you must understand that everyone is working for the same purpose: Greatness. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. And, ultimately, if everyone respects each other, you will achieve something much greater than you ever imagined. Yale and Eric are some of the most passionate people in the music industry. Without them I would be much less. #hardcoretourstories

Reality checks by Ahmed Gallab


The “Mars” album cycle was full of so many reality checks. I found myself dealing with a new set of issues that didn’t exist when I was a hired gun. Everything became my responsibility. The band wasn’t making any money either which made everything much more stressful. 

After a very fun tour with @toroymoi we headed to SXSW. This was my first time playing and I was beyond stoked. My excitement lasted until the beginning of our first day there. 8 shows in 1 day with very little time between each. We’d get to the show and hear the same thing, “You got 45 mins. That includes set up.” So, we’d maybe get through 2 songs before we had to head to the next place. It takes a special kind of musician to enjoy SXSW. 

My agent woke me up one morning. “Usher is here and wants to perform with you.” I hung up the phone. He called again. “No seriously. He’s doing a surprise performance with The Afghan Whigs and wants to do Runnin with you! A car is gonna pick you up at noon to head to the rehearsal.” Clockwork: the car came at noon. Took me and @kevandyd to the rehearsal and, lo and behold, Usher singing with The Afghan Whigs. He and Greg Dulli introduced themselves and we rehearsed “Runnin” a few times. 

Kevin and I walked out of the building, looked at each other and just started laughing hysterically. That was SO random! 

Backstage felt like a movie. Future, School Boy Q, Pharrell, and Solange were all hanging out. I don’t get nervous at shows but, on this day, I was scared shitless. The show started and no one knew that Usher was there so, when he came on stage, everyone went bonkers. I stood next to the stage next to Pharrell. I couldn’t take my sunglasses off because I was crying. Then, as Usher started to announce me, Pharrell pointed me up to the stage. 

The performance was... Character building. I had no idea what I was doing. I was completely out of my depth. Let’s just keep it at that. Being a good entertainer isn’t easy. That night I realized that Usher is a very good entertainer and I was definitely not. I met Krist Novoselic right after that. 📸 1 & 2 @phil_difiore, 3 @jesselirola 

The final piece of the puzzle by Ahmed Gallab


Sinkane officially started in 2007. By 2008 I had recorded 2 albums: “Color Voice” and “Sinkane”. I played almost all of the instruments on these albums and, honestly, can’t remember the process of recording. I was a complete stoner at the time. These records were so self indulgent and whimsical. Listening back I can see myself like a kid in a sandbox. With all the toys and time in the world to play. I was creating my musical universe and didn’t give any serious thought to arrangement or purpose. It was the first time that I could do whatever I wanted and I went ham. 

In 2011, Jay and I parted ways with @Yeasayer and I had just finished recording “Mars”. I asked all of my music friends to play on it. @thetwinshadow, Yeasayer, @heladonegro@Jaytram@wildbelle@nomo, @casey_benjamin, among many more, played on it. Dan also did an amazing Daphni remix of “Runnin” for me. I cashed in all of my favors. But I still didn’t have a label. This is when I met my first manager @kevandyd. He worked on Yeasayer’s album campaign so I’d see him around all the time. I distinctly remember him introducing himself backstage in Chicago. ”Dude! I love your music! Why aren’t you and Jay coming to dinner with us?” We weren’t allowed. Anyway, he took it upon himself to help me get my feet on the ground. He gave me a laundry list of contacts and told me to send my song “Jeeper Creeper” to everyone on that list. I wrote a short paragraph and spent 2 days sending that song to over 200 emails. I was relentless. Within a month that song was all over the internet. In comes @hamsterslang: owner/founder of @cityslangrecords. Christof got my album from Dan during the same time. He loved it so much that he flew from Berlin to tell me in person. We went to lunch and he offered me a deal on the spot. It was all happening! 

The final piece of the puzzle came a few months later. A week after I self released “Runnin”, I got an email: “DFA CALLING”. What would a label like @dfarecs want to do with me? They wanted to hear more music. I sent them “Mars”. “We’re gonna send this to James Murphy. If he likes it then we’ll put it out.” Welp, apparently he liked it. #hardcoretourstories

I started 2008 working as a line cook and ended it playing on David Letterman. by Ahmed Gallab


I started 2008 working as a line cook and ended it playing on David Letterman.

My first rehearsal with @Yeasayer was May 19th, 2009. This was the day I met @jaytram. Jay is the epitome of “cool.” He has a great southern accent, dresses well, listens to great music and has a great walk. He’s a great drummer.

Rehearsals were fun. We were focused and had great synergy. “Odd Blood” was a huge success. Sold out shows worldwide.

On a day off in London, Jay & I met up with his friend Dave. After getting drunk and silly, we went back to his place. Dave kept making Manhattans and offered us acid. We got kooky. Jay and I switched pants for some reason and the next thing I know we’re scaling an extremely steep rooftop to see the sunset. I really needed to piss but Dave kept telling me to wait. I couldn’t hold it any longer and didn’t get further than his front door before I pissed all over myself. We washed the pants and tried to dry them over the stove. They caught on fire.
Jay and I went back to the hotel. We were leaving for Amsterdam that night. Our tour manager asked for passports. “oh it’s in my backpack. wait... where’s my backpack?” I ran into my hotel room and couldn’t find it. Panic. My passport and the band’s computer was in there. That computer ran all of the backing tracks for the show. I lost the backpack.

I told Chris what happened and his response was, “I don’t wanna hear it!”. I lost my shit. I’m crying and throwing up. Full blown panic attack. Jay tried to calm me down but it was no use. I went from having an amazing trip to THE WORST TRIP EVER. I thought my life was over.

The next morning I got to work rebuilding the show. I had to do it by memory. We had changed a lot of the songs so it wasn’t easy. I was also still tripping. I had the show back by next morning.

About a week later we got home and I got an email from a British taxi company. They had recovered a backpack and traced it back to me. The computer was recovered! At our next sound check @anandwilder asked, “what’s wrong with the sounds coming from the computer?” I told him that I was using the old sessions. “Use the new ones you made. They sound better.” #hardcoretourstories

Evenings were a party. by Ahmed Gallab


On April 2nd, 2008 we (Caribou) headed to Athens, GA. I was playing IN my favorite band! @pitchfork wrote about it and they even gave Sinkane a shoutout. It was surreal! 

After the show I went to say hi to some friends and was sidetracked by a tall drunk guy and his friends. They had a vibe. “Dude! We read the story and were scared that this show was going to be weird but you KILLED IT!” Then a young lady, Dotty, said, “We all play in @of_montreal and we were wondering if you wanted to play with us?” What?! Of Montreal?! “You guys really want ME to play with YOU!?” *THIS WAS THE 2ND DAY OF TOUR*

2 months later I ran into them at ATP Camber Sands Festival. A spectacle best described as the epitome of the early Oughts indie rock explosion. It contained bands like Caribou, Jay Reatard, of Montreal, Deerhunter, Born Ruffians, Black Lips, Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, Times New Viking, Vampire Weekend, No Age, Fuck Buttons, Hot Chip, Bon Iver and many more. All of the bands stayed in chalets connected to one another. Evenings were a party. Some notable moments were doing MDMA with Jay Reatard (who was already tripping on acid and washing everything down with wine), having a push-up contest with of Montreal, and watching Jared from Black Lips trash Deerhunter’s chalet. I also met @anandwilder & Ira from @yeasayerthat day. 

I moved to Athens that summer. The night before my first rehearsal, Kevin gave me an MPC, a CD and said, “have 3 songs ready for tomorrow.” I worked relentlessly with my friend @what_evan to set up my rig that month. 

Of Montreal marked a lot of firsts for me. 1st time on a bus, big scale EU tour, playing a show with a horse, and 1st time playing on TV. It was a lot of fun although bittersweet. The band was going through a tough time and I felt like everyone’s grievances were projected onto me. Granted, I WAS a snotty 24 yr old. I take responsibility for my cockiness. Still, I dealt with a lot from those guys. What I was told would be a year of touring ended abruptly that December. My last show with them was on David Letterman. Afterward, I took a cab to my sister’s place in Brooklyn and decided to stay. #hardcoretourstories