Lion Star

by Nickie Shobeiry

What was it like the first time you all performed together, and in what way has your sound changed since then? It was a great feeling the first time we performed together, a real rush of musically-charged adrenaline. For us, it’s all about performing live and interacting with our audience, and our first performance was a lot of improvisation and extended versions of our studio-rehearsed, original songs. Our line-up has changed a lot too – now we have a full mix of musical backgrounds, and everyone brings their own individual music vibes which makes up the sound-fusion that is Lion Star.

You describe yourselves as “reggae world rock fusion”, and say you don’t believe in just one genre of music – could you explain that? Creating our sound has come a long way, and we’re now a steady six-piece, all with different musical influences (as mentioned). Together, this has formed our unique sound, and we use everything from rock guitar riding over ska and world rhythms, heavy-driven dub, soul, bass lines with high-energy drums, and Congo percussion – even didgeridoo and other world instruments now come into the Lion Star sound, and we can’t be described as just one genre.

Who are the artists that have most influenced your sound? What would you say are your all-time favourite songs? We all love so many different artists and bands, and some of those that have influenced us are Santana, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley… In terms of songs, Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up, Santana’s Sam Ba Pa Ti, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird.

Do you have any favourite songs to play to your audience? I like Positive Vibrations, especially at festivals through a big PA and with a crowd to soak up the sound. Also, Martin’s guitar solo really rocks out on Rock Up A Vibe. On the other hand, Feels Like The Right Time has a completely different energy and expression, and again Martin’s guitar intro and solo lets me feel the song fully. Ian’s bass parts on this song are also one of my favourites.

Your songs often have a positive, embracing message. Could you tell me a little more about the writing process? Quite often, songs start with me trying out different ideas with an acoustic guitar – then I write out the lyrics. After this, we have a music session where we build the song – intros, hooks, drum rhythms, bass lines, percussion, and backing vocals. Other songs, like Positive Vibrations, came through from playing in the studio. The musical inspiration sparks from the moment, and then the songs are developed from there – for example, one time Ian had a pumping bass line for a chord progression I was playing, and the rest of the song came together afterwards – lyrics and all.

You’ve released an album, Feels Like The Right Time. What was the creative process like, and could you talk about any challenges you’ve faced? Is there an over-arching theme to the album? We recorded Feels Like The Right Time in one day as a live studio album. We wanted to put down our sound as naturally as possible with no big over-dubs, 25 takes of a solo or vocals, that sort of thing. That’s what we decided to put out for our debut album – that way, when you see us live, we are the sound you hear on the album. The experience itself was great; our producer and sound engineer was the great, humble, and naturally inspiring Digby, former Island Records record producer – he’s worked with all the greats like Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles. Digby is inspiring to work with, and had a lot of great musical stories to share with us when we were taking a break from recording.

Where did the inspiration for the song, Feels Like The Right Time, come from? The inspiration for Feels Like The Right Time was to write a love song that may make a great soundtrack for a strong, moving film – but we’ll see, as we plan to release it as one of our singles from the album for airplay.

You have performed all over the world. What has been your favourite country so far, and why? India has personally been my favourite country – the setting, heat, energy and people create very lively, energetic crowds. Some of the venues for festivals there have great stage areas where you can feel the sea breeze while playing in the heat; it’s a great feeling! Also some of the now-famous night markets have people gathered from all over India and the rest of the world; it’s amazing to see everyone dancing and singing along to your music.

Lion Star went on tour this summer. Do you have any tips that you could give to aspiring bands (and touring ones)? Enjoy every gig, give it your all, and live the moment. Also, arrive early – better to be waiting and relaxed before a gig, it’s a lot better than rushing…

You’ve performed with artists like UB40 and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Could you tell me more about the experience? It’s great when you meet bands you have grown up listening to. They’re all down to earth, humble people who take the time to chat and share some tips with you.

What do you think about the growth of online music sharing? Do you ever give music away for free? It’s got a lot of good sides; being able to send your music all over and get it heard everywhere. Sometimes we give our music away – a copy of our EP is the best mover on the dance floor!

Finally, what would be your ultimate rider request? A signed, used guitar from Yngwie Malmsteen or Stev Vai for Martyn, that would be a great surprise for him! Oh, and a fridge full of chilled coconut water (my favourite drink)!