Dubai rockers Fat Randall move with the times to keep spirit of punk alive

Dubai punk-rock trio Fat Randall hope to set an example to other UAE acts by breaking out of the region.

From left, Romario Fernando, Raymond Ferrer and Paul Coutts of Fat Randall. Courtesy Fat Randall
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“Your band is your brand,” says Romario Fernando, bassist and lead singer of Dubai group Fat Randall.

It is a little surprising to hear such marketing-speak from the mouth of an ardent punk rocker – but it is a hard-learned lesson he thinks other fledgling UAE acts could benefit from.

“Dubai is a very small dot in the world, and musicians need to be very realistic about what they can do in this market – and then have a look at other markets that would support them,” he says.

Fernando's band are taking their own advice – next month, the trio will make their international debut at Slovenia's Punk Rock Holiday festival, on a bill that also includes NOFX and Descendants. It follows the recent release of their second EP, Keep it Down, which has picked up international orders from Europe, North America and Asia after finding supportive global ears, thanks to social media.

“It’s not just about what you do on the stage – it’s about keeping people interested off the stage,” says Fernando, a 27-year-old Sri Lankan.

Nowhere is that more true than in the UAE, he says, where gig opportunities for unsigned bands are rare. For Fat Randall, maintaining a virtual presence has even greater importance – the band members are split across two continents, with guitarist Paul Coutts living in London.

Despite this, the band claim to have played more than 30 UAE gigs in less than three years, including slots at Dubai Music Week and Gulf Bike Week.

Keep It Down – on sale now at Virgin Megastores – was recorded without the trio being in the same room. Fernando laid down rough outline demos and sent them to Coutts – a 27-year-old Scottish music student who grew up in the UAE – to add guitars and programmed drums.

Fernando, a sound engineer by trade, would then touch up the bass and vocals, and Filipino drummer Raymond Ferrer, 23, would exercise consolatory “creative control” over the drum patches.

The six-track EP was recorded and mixed during a single frantic fortnight.

“Doing it by ourselves meant we had the money to print CDs and T-shirts,” says Fernando. “It can be frustrating, but it’s the direction a lot of bands are going in these days. There’s no space for an ego in this band.” Such a sterile approach does little to hinder the music – the EP offers a blast of bottled teenage energy, recalling the band’s US heroes, such as Green Day and Blink 182.

Born and bred in Dubai, Fernando fell in love with punk rock at an early age, but did not pick up a guitar until he was in his mid-teens. After years playing casually with Ferrer, later together in the band Plain Wave, Fat Randall was born after a chance meeting with Coutts at a party in late 2013, forcing Fernando to pick up a bass guitar for the first time.

“One of the thing that drives us is there’s no punk-rock scene in Dubai, and only a few bands,” says Fernando. “We would like to be the example to show people that it’s not impossible – it’s all about putting your heart and soul in and making it happen for yourself.”

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