What do you get when you mix two seasoned vocalists, a trumpet-playing paralegal, an indie music icon from Croatia and a host of experienced musicians? The new band Red. With a group this diverse, lead vocalist Tricia Hamilton said the band’s name is fitting. “Red is an outstanding colour and for a dynamic group of people we needed something that would stand out,” said Hamilton during an interview last week at Red’s band room in Ramsingh’s Plaza, Chaguanas. Having a band has been a dream of Hamilton’s for years and in just three months Red has already played at numerous nightclubs, hosted a show aboard the Southern Elegance cruise ship and headlined at the City of San Fernando’s Independence Village August 24-26. So far, Red has performed mostly cover music but next week their first single of many to come, Sweet Love, will be released online. Vocalist Prestan Andries described the song as “real pop” and said Red was not going to be “just another soca band.”
Although Andries, who performs under Prestan, made it to the semi-final round of Soca Monarch this year with his single Start It, he admitted that he believes competitions have killed local music. “Have you ever heard of an R&B monarch? Or a reggae monarch? I’d rather we have four shows that night than we focus on winning a title,” he said. With decades of experience between them—having formerly played with bands such as Atlantik, Exodus, YOU, Blue Ventures and Divine Echoes to name a few—Andries’ band mates also expressed some disappointment with the local music scene. Drummer Timon Valentine said while he loves music, he will not give up his day job. “I’m scared to put my life on music solely because of how shaky the industry is especially in T&T where you can’t be sure you’ll always have steady work. That’s why a lot of people will gravitate towards what they believe will keep you afloat in life," he said. Christopher Sam, who plays the trombone, said there were very few avenues for musicians to grow locally. “There’s nothing for musicians in T&T. If you want to do music you have to be a teacher or join a service band like police or regiment. Besides that, it’s a hustle. The government only pays attention to you if you make it big outside.”
Yet Andries said Red is not going to focus on negatives but on creating a quality sound in a variety of genres. Variety seems to be something Red the Band can’t avoid just by the nature of its members. Bassist Johnny Uljevic is Canadian by birth to Croatian parents and spent five years on the Croatian hit parade as Ivan Hrvatska (or Ivan Party) with a popular Croatian whiskey song. He fell in a love with calypso and soca through his Trinidadian girlfriend. Miguel Rawlins, who plays the trumpet, will be attending Hugh Wooding Law School starting in September. Saxophonist Bridgette Haynes is a fire-fighter while keyboardist Dale Tolly teaches secondary school. Guitarist Jo Sookdeo has been playing for 25 years doing everything from rock to chutney. “Everybody has different backgrounds and has been successful in their own way. We’re rich in spirit and I want to show everybody that you don’t have to have that amount of envy and nonsense on the local scene. We’re doing this because we love what we do,” said Hamilton. On a trip to Asia with Trinidad All Stars, Hamilton said she was blown away by the response to the steelband. “People were stunned. They wanted to see inside the pans, they wanted to know everything that had to do with pan and sometimes in Trinidad they call pan ole’ noise,” she said. Hamilton wants Red to foster real appreciation for local artistes. “We don’t support and push our people and our stuff in T&T and if only they could experience what I experienced with people being absolutely amazed by pan I think it would make a difference,” she said.
Find RED the BAND on Facebook to find out more about the band.