‘I’ve had to get into the habit of cleaning blood off my guitars before a show!’: An interview with Fahad Siddiqui of Bel Esprit

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Bel Esprit are four-piece indie/alternative-rock band that derive from Southampton. They have had a lot of success over the past couple of years, particularly on the local scene and in smaller venues across the UK, supporting the likes of To Kill a King, Crowns, and Racing Glaciers. So far this year they’ve already had shows at the Ageas Bowl, home to Hampshire Cricket, and at the first ever Common People.

I caught up with guitarist Fahad Siddiqui to ask him a few questions about what the band have been up to so far this year, and what they’ve got planned for the future.

Hi Fahad, how’re you doing? How has this year been treating you and the lads so far?

Hey mate. This year has been phenomenal so far, but we’ve got a lot more planned for the rest of it. We went on our first tour this April, which was an absolutely incredible experience.

You had a slot at Common People on the Saturday, how was that? Was that your first festival appearance?

Common People was so good, it was amazing to have a festival in my back garden and something Southampton has needed and deserved for a long time. The Bestival team were definitely the right people to put it on and did a great job, I’m excited to see what they have planned for next year. Our set was so fun, we didn’t expect so many people to turn up at 12pm on the Saturday morning. It wasn’t our first festival; we did a small festival called Guilfest last year. We’ve also got more to announce for this year shortly…

Fahad and Bel Esprit had a slot on the Uncommon Stage at Common People on the Saturday

Fahad and Bel Esprit had a slot on the Uncommon Stage at Common People on the Saturday

Did you get a chance to see many other acts over the weekend? Who stood out for you?

I spent most of the limited time I had at the festival (finals at university the following week) at the Uncommon Stage, although I did take a break from that to catch Band of Skulls and Grace Jones who were excellent. Stand out band on the Uncommon Stage for me was Wild Smiles, the best I’ve ever seen them I reckon.

As a guitarist, is there anything you do immediately before going on stage in preparation for a show?

I usually just check I’ve got everything I need and do a quick check that my guitar sounds alright, although recently I’ve had to get into the habit of cleaning blood off my guitars before a show!

What’s the best show you’ve played whilst being apart of the band?

Our headline show at the Joiners a couple of months ago was the best, the crowd went for it the whole way through and Billy did a stage dive in our encore. There’s a video somewhere on our Facebook page. Also shout out to The Fontaines, Elixir, The Older Girls and Vicki Musselwhite Music for playing amazing sets on the night as well.

If you could play any venue in the world, where would it be and why?

If I could only play one venue for the rest of my life again, it’d probably be the Joiners. I’d love to play the 100 Club in London one day, I prefer shows where the band isn’t miles away from the crowd, so huge arenas aren’t that appealing to me really. I’ve only missed one Reading Festival since I was 16 so I’d love to play that as well.

You have an EP coming out this summer. What can people expect from that?

Two tracks are already available to stream, one of which is on Spotify and iTunes, so probably best to start there if anyone is interested. There’s a couple more tracks, but it’s pretty much straight up indie rock with catchy hooks and ambitious guitar parts.

What would you say to readers who perhaps have never listened to you before?

Have a listen on SoundCloud, it’s free!

Who are the band’s biggest influences?

We’ve all got a lot of different influences generally but the main ones we all agree on I think are Velvet Underground, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Pulp, The Strokes, The Libertines and Blur.

Who are your biggest influences as a guitarist?

There’s so many to choose from, I try not to limit myself. I’d guess if I went for a top 10, it’d be something like George Harrison, Johnny Marr, John Frusciante, Russell Lissack, Jonny Greenwood, Bernard Butler, Jack White, John Mayer, Nick Valensi and John Squire. I already feel like I’ve missed a few favourites though! Jimi Hendrix is the most important guitarist of all time in my opinion.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2015?

We’re going to release this EP later this summer. We’ve got big plans for the rest of the year, but we’re keeping it quiet for now…

What are your short- and long-term goals for the band?

We want to release a couple of EPs and then think about a full LP. I think the long-term goal is to put out a full LP that we’re proud of and that people would want to learn all the words to.

When you started the band back in 2013, did you think you would be where you are today?

Not at all, we basically started the band because Bill had a load of songs and wanted to front a band. We met at college and had pretty strong musical chemistry, so we just wanted to play gigs and release a few demos. Never thought we’d end up touring or playing shows in Sheffield or Southampton’s first Common People festival. We hit over 100,000 plays on our SoundCloud account the other day and if you told my 2013 self that would happen I wouldn’t have believed it.

What’s been your highlight so far?

Having a crowd sing back Lose My Mind to us at our Joiners headline show in April was my highlight, it doesn’t get much better than that.

What message would you like to send out to all your fans?

Thanks for all the support we’ve had in the last year, couldn’t have made it this far without it. Stay tuned for big announcements soon!

Thanks for taking the time to speak to The Edge! The best of luck for the future!

Thanks for having me!

Bel Esprit’s debut single ‘Lose My Mind’ is available on iTunes now.

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22 years of age and Live Editor here at The Edge. In my spare time you'll either find me on a basketball court dunking like Jordan (that may have been a dream...), going to gigs or attending stand-up comedy shows!

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