With new album on the way, Adonis ready to rock Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanese pop rock band Adonis is expanding its horizons, with a fourth album in the works and a U.S. tour planned to reach a growing fan base.

Formed in 2011, the band consists of Anthony Khoury (lead vocals and piano), Joey Abou Jawdeh (guitars), Nicola Hakim (drums) and Gio Fikany (bass guitar). With three studio albums under its belt, the band has also become popular for its covers of songs by Wadih El Safi, Fairouz and Arabic versions of tracks like Edith Piaf’s “L’accordeoniste.”

Adonis’ signature style of merging Arabic lyrics and traditional sounds with Western influences has endeared the group to younger audiences and the international generation of Arabs living abroad.

The band’s upcoming tour is a chance to reach further.

“We’re doing more and more shows abroad so we’re excited every time about taking our music to a new city,” Khoury told The Daily Star. “We’re doing a small tour of the [United] States in May, it’s our first time going that far away from home. And we’ll be performing regularly in the region, like Egypt, Jordan and the UAE.”

With an English- and Arabic-speaking audience in mind, the band is trying to arrange its set to connect with speakers of either language.

“It is more difficult because fundamentally our sound is based on the Arabic lyrics ... so now we’re remodeling our set so that people who don’t understand Arabic still have enough substance to stay hooked to an hourlong show,” Khoury said. “We’re doing songs with less lyrics, with more music and elongating the musical bits, trying to do some covers and Arabic adaptions of English songs as well, so at least the melody is familiar.

“We recently did a fun cover of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ by Wheatus [translated] into Arabic and it’s always a favorite at concerts. It’s a playful track to start with.”

Adonis’ upcoming 12-track record, to be released around June, is set to get back to basics by exploring the natural sound of the band’s instruments. “In our previous work, we’ve always tried to incorporate other elements like strings, a symphonic section or electronic sounds that we don’t necessarily play,” Khoury added. “It sounds great on the record but then live there’s always the problem of I can’t take a symphony orchestra with me on tour. We rely on some prerecorded stuff or we do ‘live versions’ of the songs that don’t include everything.

“This album is focused more on our own instruments with the idea of how to perform it live in mind. Every sound is played by one of our four instruments,” he said, “and having this limitation forces you to explore what you can do with it and the kind of sounds you can create with an instrument.”

Over Adonis’ 7-year-old career, the band has updated its sound often, working with different producers for each album. “Right now we’re working with Sleiman Damien and Tarek Majdalani, who have a more international approach to rock music and are very influenced by the LA bands’ sound, which has taken us in a different direction,” Khoury said.

“We try to keep to our core sound as much as we can but also welcome the input of others, so that’s how we’ve evolved.

“What changes is the coating, how you dress it up, using different approaches at each step of the process because you learn a lot from [producers] and incorporate it in with your own sound,” he added.

“It’s refreshing for us as musicians because you get bored of doing the same thing, it’s challenging and the audience welcomes it as well.”

Adonis’ next concert is set for Feb. 13 at HNGR Beirut. Khoury jokingly added it was not a Valentine’s Day show. “If you’re expecting hearts, roses and balloons there will be none,” he laughed. “We’re working more in terms of stage production than we used to, being careful about art direction and visuals to update our set in that set. We’ll play a few songs from the upcoming album and some old favorites with a surprise guest artist.”

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 09, 2019, on page 12.




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