Plenty of bands have problems securing a permanent drummer, but Shumaun‘s quest for one has almost been Spinal Tap-like.
Unlike the fictitious heavy-metal band from the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, Shumaun frontman Farhad Hossain hasn’t lost skins players to bizarre gardening accidents or spontaneous combustion. But as his progressive-rock band was working on its full-length debut, Shumaun, he cycled through three different drummers.
That kind of instability could spell the end for many bands. But Shumaun powered through it — even managing to record a remarkably fluid album in the process (stream it below). Chalk that up to Hossain’s songwriting, sharpened by his years in the D.C. region’s progressive-rock scene.
Hossain has been involved in local music for more than a decade, playing in the bands Iris Divine and Encompass and serving as a session artist for other groups. When Iris Divine emerged in 2008, it quickly established itself as one of the area’s best progressive metal bands. In those days, Hossain split vocal, guitar and songwriting duties with Navid Rashid. But Hossain says it wasn’t always an ideal configuration.
“When you are in a situation like that, you have to make compromises,” says Hossain.
So when Hossain left Iris Divine in early 2012 — they remain friends and occasional collaborators — he turned his attention toward the wholly self-directed project that would become Shumaun. But soon he found that even going solo didn’t free him from certain hurdles, like picking a creative starting point.
“We started off as an ‘indie-rockish’ kind of band,” the musician says. “I had written an album’s worth of material that I scrapped before shifting to the more hard-rock direction that is now Shumaun.”
Then there was the drummer saga.
Tanvir Tomal, who had also played in Iris Divine, was Shumaun’s first drummer. Then his job took him out of the area and he left the group. So Hossain brought in Travis Orbin (formerly of Periphery, now in Darkest Hour) and Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) to help in the studio while looking for a full-time member. He eventually found one in Waqar Khan. But Khan didn’t last long, either; he recorded three songs with Shumaun before leaving the band due to professional obligations, Hossain says. Then as fate would have it, Tomal returned: He’d found a new job in the area, so he moved back and rejoined Shumaun.
This all means that Shumaun’s first album — released Nov. 13 — features three different drummers, none of which are the original and current drummer. But never mind that. The key thing is that where so many prog bands flounder, Shumaun flourishes.
The songs on Shumaun’s debut don’t meander with endless jam-bandesque solos that show off each band member’s mastery of their instrument — something that can grow tiresome to any but the most devoted prog fans. Instead, the record’s compositions are structured much more like pop songs; relatively short and exciting with catchy choruses.
The album has its moments of darkness, too. But lyrically, Hossain aims for uplifting, maintaining an optimistic outlook. The record’s theme, Hossain says, is “unity and the battle to achieve it across all spectrums of human life.” A fitting idea, considering his struggles to achieve unity in his own band.
Hossain never expected Shumaun to become his full-time group. It “started as a side project,” he says, and he “had no intention of leaving [Iris Divine] to pursue it.” But he found himself drawn to the self-directed work. “It’s a very liberating way to write,” the musician says.
Though Hossain may still return to working collaboratively one day. He acknowledges that sometimes he misses sharing the creative process with others. It could even work out again with the members of Iris Divine, who are still playing together.
“I am sure we will find a way to collaborate in some way in the future,” Hossain says. “Possibly something not metal or hard rock at all.”
Shumaun plays the NoVa Metal Family Reunion tonight at VFW Post 9274 in Falls Church, Virginia.