It’s not often you hear about a band like Zerobridge. Lead singer/guitarist and songwriter Mubashir “Din” Mohi-ud-Din and drummer Mohsin “Mo” Mohi-ud-Din are two brothers whose parents are from the disputed territory of Kashmir, nestled between northern India and Pakistan. “The Quota”, seasoned NYC bass player, rounds out the trio who have been playing their own unique brand of melodic, guitar driven rock n’ roll for the last three years. With two independent releases behind them, zerobridge will release the Havre de Grace EP this summer that illustrates the band’s penchant for classic song writing and a passion to become the only band that matters.
How would you describe the growth of the band and the sound of the band from the previous albums to the current one?
Din: Um, well I think, ah, when the band just started out we were, it was just me and my younger brother and it was just more or less a recording project and um once we started playing live in the city I think we were tested a lot as far as, um, how we were going to transpose, you know, the older songs to a live situation. It was a completely different ballgame. And, um, I think, ah, just the experience of playing live and hustling and trying to get gigs and, uh, getting things together was one that made us a stronger unit. I think, um, ah, we definitely have more of a raw sound, an honest sound, nothing as produced as what it was before, because, you know, when you’re in the studio you can do, ah, pretty much whatever you want. But we’re just ah, very much stripped down and we’re much tighter and we’re better musicians for it. The live experience I think, was just very key.
Right. Now is there an album that you heard growing up that really changed your life and convinced you that music is what you wanted to do?
Din: Um, yeah. If I had to choose it would probably be The Joshua Tree by U2.
Good choice, good choice.
Din: I think that was like, I was in seventh grade when I picked that up and it was like the first real record that I physically went out and bought. I think that U2 is my biggest influence and that record really just changed my life.
What were the main inspirations for the new album?
Din: Musical inspirations?
Well, musical or personal.
Din: Um, well musical I think well U2 obviously. I’ve been listening to a lot of Kings of Leon, um let’s see what else. Zoe, Iggy Pop, I mean these are songs that have been written over the last several years so ah, you know, musically any great band with great songs or any great artist with great songs you know, Joy Division definitely, New Order. Um, I guess and as far as like you like schematically and subject matter a lot if it is kinda mixed. You know there’s a lot of personal things in there, personal relationships in there, going through a lot of personal relationships and some of that is imagined, you know, kinda playing around with different situations I guess. And there’s also a lot of politics in the songs I think. You know, the time we’re living in and my brother and I being from Kashmir that plays a big part of it.
A song like The Shake is our response to you know a lot of the extremist acts that are being carried out you know in the name of religion or any sort of belief. We’ve unfortunately experienced a lot of that, or we’re more aware of these things. You know, and um, from us growing up the way we have you know being American and then being South Asian and specifically Muslim I think we wanted to, we wanted to say something against those extremist elements, those fringe elements.
That was actually my next question about that song. So now that you’ve included one of the songs from your first album on the new EP, Suffering Moses. That song has a clear personal meaning. Can you talk a little bit about what that song is about and why you decided to include it on this one as well?
Din: Yeah, ah, well. In 2001 um this is right after 9/11 my brother and I went to Kashmir. Uh, I don’t know how much you know about Kashmir, but it’s been disputed territory for the last 50 or so years between India and Pakistan and there was a large militant uprising there during the last 16 years. You know, we’re very familiar with the place because we have family there and we go back like every summer and the last time we were over there was like a year ago. Given what was going on at the time with 9/11 and that area, you know, South Asia, Central Asia, and the middle east being such a flash point, um, I think we were, I was, my eyes were just kind of wide open to what was going on there. And we took a trip there in December 2001 and at this point we had just released a single and an EP of three songs and I was, you know, trying to start writing songs for a record but I had nothing in mind. All I had were these vague ideas and that trip really inspired me. While I was there, ah, Suffering Moses was one of the first songs I wrong while I was over there and it was just basically a document of what I saw and how I felt, you know, being Kashmiri and having some sense of connection with this place and, um, you know, seeing what people had to go through. Uh, I mean I was always aware of that but for some reason this trip in particular I was just more hyper-aware. Because Kashmir is a very poetic place, it’s known for its natural beauty, and um, so I just started noticing all these little things, things that you know were there since my childhood and I wanted to sort of just document that. And so I think that Suffering Moses is that song, that song about that trip basically, and what we saw there and what we wanted to see happen there.
Now, it’s clear that with your band’s name that your heritage is pretty important to you. Do you feel that it’s important to retain that influence with your music?
Din: I kinda go back and forth with this. Yeah, I think growing up with two different cultures and being first generation can be very confusing. Because on the surface of things the values seem different. I mean, you’re one way in your household and your community and then outside of that, whether its school or the workplace, its completely different and um, I think that Zerobridge was in the beginning, I just wanted to sort of express that sort of contradiction. I wanted to express living in these two worlds. You know, that was like the whole grand idea, to make this huge statement. It’s more, I mean, in the beginning, you kind of think about it too much and um you think ‘Oh my god, this is crazy! How am going to reconcile the two?’ and then the more you experience it and you grow older, it’s just like you celebrate the two and it’s no longer a clash, it’s more of like, ah, this is who you are, you come from this eastern background and you were raised in a western world and there’s a lot to celebrate and there’s a lot of questions but it’s, um, it’s just everything (??) who you are. I came to the realization that it’s just who I am. And I’m just living it and it’s great and I would never want to compromise one for the other. And I think that Zerobridge the name, I think it really kind of expresses that, I mean there are a lot of different ways that you can translate that, that name. It’s such a huge sounding name, it can take on so many different meanings. But more than anything, Zerobridge is something that sounds cool and it’s a place in Kushmir, and it’s that other cultural side of me and at the same time is a very western sounding name or phrase. It seemed like a perfect blend of the two.
Now this will be your third independent release. What is the process like releasing the album independently?
Din: Our experience so far is that it’s just been extremely tough. I mean, I, uh, completely fund it on my own and that was just really hard. I mean, it was a labor of love and I’m very passionate about it, something that I would do over and over again, but it’s just that you know you have this idea and uh you want to see it come to fruition and uh you never really know what it is until you’re right in the middle of it. And that experience, I got through it and I’m very proud of them, but I think that the experience of knowing what it took to get the, uh, what it took to get those recordings down was an eye-opener. Also, and just the creative process, I, you know I was very humbled by the whole creative process, and I realized more like how I write as an artist and you know it takes time and things evolve, there’s nothing like immediate, or at least very rarely do songs or ideas come about immediately. Everything has its process. Once you’re in that frame of mind you’re just kind of humbled to the whole process so I’m still getting used to it. Because, you know, as an artist you want to be quick and you want to be like, to put everything out there, but it just takes time and things have to evolve on their own, more of an organic thing. So, the independent releases, we’re very proud of it, we’ve done it all on our own completely and there’s definitely something to be said for that. It takes time, but you know, ah, someone else kinda gets the bill.
Can you tell me a little bit about the songwriting process for you guys on the new album: is it a collective process or do you come up with a melody first or how does that work for you all?
Din: Um, well, I write the songs and it happens in different ways because sometimes I have a finished idea or a finished song and I bring it to the band and then we, you know, rehearse it over and over and over again. And then, you know, some ideas, will come about through, you know, some of the other guys will come up with their own songs and then I’ll just kinda go home and it’ll be like homework and I kinda obsess over it and, uh, just kinda on my own, you know, in my apartment with my acoustic guitar, just go over it, and, uh, around the clock. So I come up with something that I think is, uh, just something that is solid and then it just goes into that again. I think, you know, as a band we just, decide, you know, even though we write the songs we use, we decide, we produce them together. And, um, as far as like the songwriting process, for me, you know, a lot of it just comes in bits and pieces. You know, I’ll write something and um I’ll think it’s good, and then I realize that one line or a couple of chords are actually really good and then, you know, I’ll sit on that and then try to get something out of that as time goes on. Um, you know, some songs and pieces of songs I wrote years ago but they just happen to fit well with something I’m writing now. Um, and then you know, some songs they just, ah, come out very easily. Like This is My Version off of the EP. It was very immediate, it just came about very quickly. So, I mean, it’s all across the board. But, I think most of time it’s more like an evolution of how songs progress with different pieces here and, uh, it’s kinda like cutting up a collage and stuff.
Now do you guys plan on touring any? With the new EP?
Din: Well, uh, as far as touring goes, we’re ah, we’re just trying to get the northeast now. Like I said, I mean, we’re not signed yet and we all work during the day. So it’s very hard, we don’t have that flexibility to tour or like most bands do. Um, so right now we’re just concentrating on the northeast: Philadelphia, Boston, New York, D.C., where I grew up. You know I only grew up a little bit outside of D.C.. You know, I think that the plan is just to garner enough buzz, to get things moving and to get people interested. You know, thankfully, it’s been going that way, with the EP out on the internet.
Now you said you have other jobs during the day?
Din: Yeah, you know, we work the grind and you know, do what we gotta do. You know, I work at, like, doing medical billing at a doctor’s office. My younger brother, he just graduated college and he’s working at a human rights agency. And, um, our bass player Greg, he’s uh, he’s working at an online market firm. We have to do that to keep ourselves afloat and to keep things going. You know, keep recording and playing and paying for rehearsals and all that.
I think that shows a huge amount of dedication to your work, to your craft.
Din: You know, it’s hard to believe that we’ve been live for almost four years now. You know, we’ve been playing the city life for almost four years now. Sometimes we take a look back and you’re like “wow”. It’s kinda, like, we’re thankful that it’s lasted even this long. Yeah, I think that all of us, we’re just really, we believe in the music and we really believe that we have something to say and that we’re worth our salt and, um, you know, we just really want to be heard. That’s the most important thing and you know, we’ll do whatever it takes to do that.
Interview By: Emma Loggins