sonny and cher
Faris: I learned to play every instrument I know how to play because my brother wrote songs from an early age (16ish) and we both loved music (Beatles, E Costello, Squeeze, Clash, Jam)
Salim: As a kid growing up in El Paso I learned how to play chords on guitar just to take the songs I was hearing in my head & put them into something more tangible…to make “real” songs. I started playing bass guitar later. Now I consider it to be the only musical instrument I actually play well. My brother has always been a natural at picking up almost any instrument. Ever since he was a kid he loved making NOISE – any noise. When we were growing up he would bang on the drums or play electric guitar for hours & hours & I would sit in my room trying to write songs while the noise from his room came in through the air conditioning vents! He’s a true genius when it comes to playing & arranging music, actually quite intimidating because he’s so brilliant. So, for years, when comparing my musical abilities to his, I really only considered myself to be a musician by default - I HAD to become a musician of sorts in order to play my songs.
What did you listen to when you were kids and then teenagers?
Faris: The Beatles came early, along with in particular, solo Paul McCartney, and the '77 stuff came in the teen years. Basically, up until the ages of 19 or so we had the exact same favorite bands only I might champion The Clash one year and he The Jam!
Salim: Johnny Cash dressed head to toe in black singing from the boxcar of a train is my first recollection of seeing a musician on TV – I was maybe five years old at the time. The Beatles made me want to play music but I remember thinking they were such good singers I could never be as good as them.
You had been playing in (different?) bands for some time,and you decided to work together. What exactly made you decide to do that? Explore new genres (I don't know what kind of band(s)you were in), play some more personal compositions?
Faris: Actually, I'd only been in a band with my brother and have never been in a band with anyone else. I had never felt like I needed anything more than just playing my brother’s music as a means of creative expression up until that time period. I had just gotten married and two weeks after the marriage, things began to go horribly wrong and I HAD to write in order to attempt to deal with some of my emotions.
Salim: Three years ago, out of the blue, Faris suddenly started writing these amazing songs. It was really the first time he’d ever shown any interest in writing – I think because he was going through some really hard times & needed the emotional outlet. That is what created the “Nourallah Brothers.” If that had never happened my brain would never have snapped to attention & noticed that we were suddenly making some sort of “duo” record. ‘Cause you have to understand, as adolescent’s we always dreamt of being in the Clash or the Beatles, not Hall & Oates or Simon & Garfunkel. This is why my brother & I played together for years in bands, even though they were going absolutely nowhere. It was him coming into his own as a writer & singer that made our first record happen.
Although most of the songs on your first album were written by only one of you (half for Salim and half for Faris),the whole album is very coherent, just as if you were twins. I especially have difficulties in distinguishing between your voices. Are you aware of that or do you totally disagree?
Faris: I agree with you on the voice thing.
With which artists/musicians would you like to work with?
Faris: I have no ambition to work with anyone as I can barely stand to work with myself!! It gets confusing enough switching hats from "Now I'm the Engineer" to "Now I'm the Singer" to "Now I'm the Keyboardist..." In a way, that’s kind of fun. At least nobody’s feelings get hurt when you tell them what they did sucked!
Salim: There are plenty of people I’d like to work with, mainly producer/engineer types like Tchad Blake, Jon Brion or Hugh Jones…I still subscribe to the theory that “X amount of heads are better than one…” Its hard for me not to have daydreams every now & then of getting the opportunity to work with people whom I really admire, people who have made great records in the past…it would be a real thrill for me. I would like for it to happen at least once in my lifetime.
Would you or are the Nourallah Brothers songs too personal?
Salim: Can any song really be “too personal”? I don’t think so…maybe people who dislike John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band” would disagree with me?
How did you both get back together after Faris left to Portland after the recording of the album?
Faris: We didn't really get back together after I got back from Portland. Salim carried on doing the same thing he had been doing for ten years with some new guys. I recovered (will I ever?) from my divorce by building a more proper home studio and continuing to write, play and record music in a non-rock band format (by myself). Salim showed up, every now and then, when he had some time.
Salim: We’re a bit like Sonny & Cher during the “rocky” years, I guess…you decide for yourself who’s more like Cher!
What made you decide to record a new album?
Faris: As far as the new album, that’s the current big debate!! Do we have one or have I just started my solo career??????? Time will only tell…
Salim: The first one did oh, so well, we owed it to ourselves to come up with a hit-laden follow-up. MTV was calling to us!!!
What can we expect from the new album?
Salim: Lots of painstaking reflections over song selection, song order & whether we’re truly “finished” recording or not! Since the first one was a fluke, making a follow-up under the now “defined” musical moniker “Nourallah Brothers” has been a tricky proposition.
When should it be out?
Salim: It should be out NOW but we can’t seem to agree on what exactly it “is” we’re going to put out!!! So who knows when…oh, we also need a label to actually “put it out” – the age-old dilemma.
Retrospectively, what do you think of the first album (you started in 1998right?)?
What will happen to the others tracks you recorded (over 50 !)?
Faris: Retrospectively, I love the first record and would love to release a companion CD in the future with some of the material that didn't make it onto the first CD.
Salim: For me, it’s always hard to look back without thinking of all the things I could have done better…the miserable life of a perfectionist, I suppose…so, some days I love the CD, other days it sounds incredibly flawed. The “other” tracks have joined scores & scores of additional “other” tracks recorded since then that may never see the “light of day” - so to speak
I must admit we have quite a negative idea of Texas : racism,homophobia, death penalty... (yeah I know I watch too much TV,but what I saw was quite frightening...)
Faris: Racism: Actually my Dad settled here as a Syrian immigrant and fit in nicely with the large hispanic population. His accent stuck out too much in Michigan!!!
Homophobia: I believe that Dallas has the second largest gay population in America, or at least it seems that way.
Death Penalty: Yes, but not for bad fashion or we'd lose half the states population overnight!
Salim: I must admit I have a rather negative view of Texas myself…sorry…maybe I should move to France then?
How would you describe living in Texas ? Why or why not would you move ?
Faris: Living in Texas is interesting. The place definitely has a vibe. Land is cheap as the state is large so things just kind of sprawl. The Hispanic influence adds a nice flavor (great Tex-Mex food). I don't want to move because my family supports me financially and they're all here and I would miss them. But mainly because they support me financially!!
Salim: There are plenty of good bands here that seem to only be appreciated in other places, lot’s of very talented musicians in this town. Faris & I were raised in El Paso but moved to Dallas over 10 years ago to be in a better musical environment. I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had moved somewhere else…Dallas is by no means a musical “Mecca” but neither is Austin, despite its worldwide reputation. I think Austin is musically very narrow-minded. If you don’t play music that sounds like you’re from “Texas” there, no one will listen to you.
What would you say to destroy those French prejudices on Texas ?
Faris: I can say nothing to destroy French prejudices on Texas as those prejudices exist for valid reasons.
Salim: Didn’t Depeche Mode say it best? “People are people…”
I learned that you did a few concerts in Europe. What struck you and more generally what was your impression on European people?
Faris: Salim did a concert in Europe as the free trip was too tempting to turn down. I thought we didn't play live.
Salim: As our first record was unplanned from its inception & came out through Western Vinyl quite accidentally, Faris & I never actually sat down & “defined” what the “Nourallah Brothers” were all about, per se. At some point, right after the album’s release, I tried to convince Faris to perform some of the music on the CD live. We had one rehearsal & then he decided he “never wanted to perform again.” I went to Holland not only for the sheer experience of it all but also hoping that I could meet people that would help us release our next album in Europe…since we are not “signed” to Western Vinyl & have no assurances that any of our future CD’s will be released by them or any one else, for that matter. Anyway, it ended up being the single best musical experience of my entire life – I only wish that my brother would have gone & enjoyed it with me. The people in Holland were astoundingly gracious & it was an experience I will value the rest of my life.
Would you come back?
Salim: Of course I would.
Did you get back in touch with Steve Fellows to envisage (create) an international career or are you happy like you are?
Faris: Without an International career, I'm sure I wouldn't have one as it seems our music has been MUCH better received overseas. Perhaps we didn't rap enough or have enough Yahoo! on the first record.....Hmmmmm...
Salim: I guess Faris is trying to say that our first record was almost completely ignored in the USA & the only small bits of notice we’ve received have been abroad. Our country is simply too large & too dominated by corporate record labels to put out a record as small as ours & hope for any amount of attention.
We discovered you through the web site www.epitonic.com, and you have 4 track one can freely download on your website www.nourallahbrothers.com. What do you think the Internet can bring to "independent" bands like you ?
Faris: The internet has been great!! Besides the music and communication thing, now I don't have to leave my house and I get everything in the mail which really excites me.
Salim: Anything that gives people all over the world the ability to communicate with each other is an absolute blessing – without the internet our future making music would be even bleaker than it already is!
We are not going to ask the influence question directly but ask what you think of artists like :
- Bob Dylan?
Faris: I've never heard any of the artists on your list except in casual passing (i.e. I walked through a room in which someone had Ron Sexsmith on their stereo, I heard Bob Dylan on the radio). The older I get the more I trust my pre-pubescent musical taste.
Salim: Isn’t he the one who turned the Beatles on to pot?
Salim: I think Faris walked through my room once when I was playing him!
Elliot Smith? (Bruno who's working with me on purjus.net said about your album "it's like having two Eliott Smiths on the same record !")
Salim: I wonder if he gets along with himself?
Salim: I guess he wrote some good songs once upon a time – I never really liked his voice.
Salim: See: Neil Young.
Salim: My wife loves them.
Salim: Our friend Bob Schneider has always loved him.
Faris: Thanks for your interesting questions! I had fun.
Salim: Thanks Paul & Purjus!!!!!