First I have to ask about the name of the band. Where does the name Shumaun come from?
Shumaun comes from the Indian name derived from the Sanskrit word “Sumon” or “Suman.” It’s also written as “Shumon” and roughly translates to calm or peaceful mind. Our name is pronounced Shoe-mawn. The unorthodox spelling comes from my middle name.
Shumaun was initially a side project correct? How did the vision for it differ from Iris Divine?
It was during my time in Iris Divine when I decided that I wanted to work on a solo project that was something completely different. I felt the need to explore my other musical influences from a creative standpoint just because I was so burnt out writing the progressive style of music that Iris was accustomed to writing. I also had a horrible case of writer’s block when I was trying to write material for ID. That frustration was channeled into writing a whole different style of music that related more to bands like The Shins, Young the Giant, Band of Horses, and Pink Floyd. Since it was a solo project I went with the name Shumaun. It’s my middle name and I felt that I’d personalize the name as much as I could.
When our keyboardist decided to leave and I couldn’t find a replacement, I decided to abandon the whole project and start over from scratch. I scrapped about an album’s worth of material. By then a year had passed since I left Iris Divine and the hard rock, metal, and progressive influences started creeping back into my music again so I just went along with it. Most of the new material became songs that would find their way on the debut album from Shumaun. I do have to add that since then, we’ve become a collaborative band, and album number 2 should be a reflection of that.
Musically and vocally, what are your influences?
Musically my influences are scattered well across the spectrum of music.
I’ll just name a few bands and artists that inspired me while working on this record.
(Genesis, Rush, Tears for Fears, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Faith No More, Kevin Moore and all of his projects, Fates Warning, Nitin Sawhney, Pain of Salvation, Muse, No Doubt, and a whole slew of 80’s pop artists)
Vocally I’d say my biggest influences are Geoff Tate, Peter Gabriel, and Mike Patton. I also try to incorporate some influences from the world music spectrum of artists and Indian classical music.
The album is VERY catchy and song oriented which is quite refreshing. How did those influences impact the song writing for the album?
Thank you! I think the catchiness and song oriented focus on the album comes from my upbringing as a child of the 80s. I have a soft spot in my heart for 80s music, regardless of genre. As much as I love the progressive era of Genesis, I also really liked their pop stuff, so that pop element really carried over into my own writing, and for the writing on this album. I can say the same thing for a band like Rush. I fell in love with them for their 70’s era prog stuff, but I also love their more simplified material from the 80’s just as much. One of my favorite albums from them is “Hold Your Fire,” which is very poppy, but still has all of the time changes and progressive elements that I love hearing in music. “Signals” would be another one.
You had a bit of a Spinal Tap carousel at drummer. What happened and where are things now?
It’s been one heck of a ride, and as I’ve said before in a different interview, I am just glad no one spontaneously combusted! I will go with the short version of the story here. We started off with Tanvir Tomal, who was also with me in Iris Divine. When we started recording he found out that he had to move for professional obligations. Since we had no drummer, I reached out to Travis Orbin to track all of songs on the record. Unfortunately he was getting ready to head off to tour with his band Darkest Hour, however he was able to make some time to track two of the twelve songs on the record. I then reached out to another one of my favorite drummers, Mark Zonder, who runs a drum recording service. I shot him MP3s to the songs to see if he would even be interested to play on the record, and he got back to me rather quickly saying that he really liked the material. And so we were off!
During this whole process we were continuing our search to find a permanent replacement for Tanvir and finally found that person in Waqar Khan. At the moment that Waqar joined the band, Mark had three songs left to track, so we just ended up giving those songs to Waqar since he was now an official member. This is how we ended up with three drummers on the record. It was a challenge for our audio engineer Brett Caldas-Lima of Tower Studio, but he did a killer job unifying the sounds of three drummers in order for the album to flow seamlessly. I can’t praise him enough. As fate had it Waqar also had to leave after the tracking of the record for professional reasons. Luckily this just happened to coincide with Tanvir moving back to the area to rejoin the band. I hope you were able to follow all that!
It must have been fun to work with a legend like Mark Zonder and the very talented Travis Orbin. How were both of those experiences?
If you were to tell me ten years ago that Mark Zonder would play on my record I’d think you were smoking crack! It was nice to have the privilege to work with both of them. Travis would midi out drum parts for approval. Once I approved the midi file he would go in and track the real drums. It’s a real efficient way to get things done! Mark took the old school approach where he tracked a first take and then we would go back and forth until things were just right. He’d have to replay every revision with a punch in, or just re-track a song completely, but he was very cool about it and so professional. Both guys are a class act. It’s great to be able to dig into how these guys think and analyze their approach to drumming. You really get a sense of that during the creative process. Mark and Travis both really invested their time to get things done the best that they could. No corners were cut. It helps that they are both monster players, and perfectionists towards their craft
Are there plans for any touring?
At the moment we plan on playing the local DC/MD/VA circuit, but we do plan on some short tours in 2016. We are a live band and playing live is where we get most of our satisfaction. We’d like to be play as many places as possible and hope that 2016 allows us to do some extended touring to bring our music to the masses.
What’s next for Shumaun?
At the moment we are prepping for our album release slated for this November 13th. We plan to continue playing out as much as we can and will start writing for album #2 soon. We are hoping we can generate enough buzz during this album cycle to give us better opportunities next year and possibly shop for a label that would benefit both parties. We produced, funded, and released this whole record on our own, with no crowd funding, so it would be great if we were in a position where we won’t have to do that for our next record.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
Thank you for having me. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk about the band and I’m really glad you dig our music!
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