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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Dubai rockers Jay Wud return with their most ambitious album yet

Gone are the snappy, direct rock sounds of their previous release, 2012’s False Utopia, for something grander – Transitions is big, bold, brooding record

Left to right: Jay Wud, Bojan Preradovic and Ericks Dilevs. Courtesy Jay Wud
Left to right: Jay Wud, Bojan Preradovic and Ericks Dilevs. Courtesy Jay Wud

After cementing themselves as one the leading lights of the regional rock scene, Jay Wud now intend to take on the world.

The group’s new album, Transitions, released last Friday, marks a great step forward for the Dubai-based band. Gone are the snappy, direct rock sounds of their previous release, 2012’s False Utopia, for something grander – ­Transitions is a big, bold, brooding record.

Part of its appeal is that it marks the first album to include contributions by guitarist and old friend Bojan Preradovic. Having joined the group in 2014, his inclusion elevated Jay Wud to almost local super-group status – the Serbian is the frontman for superb ­acclaimed Dubai-based rockers Empty Yard Experiment.

Then there was the album's producer, Los Angeles-based, Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson, who has helmed recordings by the likes of the late Chris Cornell, Motörhead and My Chemical Romance, who pushed the group to step up their game.

“It worked out really well, because Benson was intrigued by the idea of working with a band from the Middle East, and I was interested in working with a proper producer,” says the group’s namesake Lebanese frontman Jay Wud. “I have been producing myself for a long time and I didn’t know how to make myself sound as I should. In a way, I think this album sounds the most honest. It’s us sounding the way we should.”

Lead single Shine Your Light is anchored by a monstrous riff, paired with a dynamic vocal performance that finds Wud moving from menacing croon to majestic soar.

The song also benefits from an eye-catching black-and-white video, directed by Bechara El Khoury, that sees the band performing among Dubai’s skyline on top of a helipad in Al Thuraya Tower on the Sharjah border.

With a global audience in mind, the band wanted to eschew the standard narrative-­based video.

“Because this will be played everywhere, we wanted to show that we are from Dubai,” Wud explains. “That’s why we picked the helipad. You can see the Burj Khalifa and there is a whole urban vibe to it.”

The song, like the nine others that make up the album, was recorded in ­another urban metropolis.

After Benson expressed interest in working with the band, Wud travelled to LA in 2014 to meet the producer at his studio.

He was so inspired by the session, which saw him record three songs with session musicians, that he was determined to take his band to the United States to finish the recording.

The group’s international fan base rallied to support a 60-day online crowdsourcing campaign, which saw them reach the required US$30,000 (Dh110,196) to complete the album.

“We didn’t know whether we would pull it off,” Wud says. “But we were blown away. In a space of two months, we had, like, 200 donors. We have a solid international base of fans. So we saw people supporting from the US, Brazil, Berlin and France. It was great.”

With Transitions steadily garnering positive reviews in the international rock press, the frontman says the group are gearing up for a European tour later in the year.

Wud believes they will raise interest on the road because of their UAE roots. “I would say that we are an international band and not purely from the Middle East. I am a Lebanese guy and we have members from Serbia, Latvia and America,” he says. “I think that is original and that’s what sets us apart. We tell our story and that comes from Dubai.”

Transitions by Jay Wud is out now

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