The soft and sad melodies of Poor Rich Boy make a gorgeous addition to the spectrum of contemporary music in Pakistan. Shy, nerdy, and bracingly honest, GT talked to the “poor rich boys” about their fears and inspirations


Saba Ahmed: How did you start out as a band?

Shehzad Noor: Zain and I used to be in a two-member acoustic band. Then we got two more members, made it a fully-fledged band, and began performing at The Guitar School. Hamza Jafri owns that school; he used to have Koven gigs there and we used to open for them. Then I became friends with Umer Khan, (whom we all call Duck), who had been doing songs online for a very long time. So we started writing together. Zain really liked one of those songs and that song became Alice. Then Umer Khan and I wrote a song together, Fair Weather Friend and both these two songs are featured in the new album.

‘My sister once responded to my whining by calling me a poor rich boy. It stuck with me. Our music is sad-sounding but, Mashallah, we eat three square meals a day. We like the irony of it’

Zain Ahsan: Yeah, we met and bounced around some ideas, played at cafes and recorded some demos until eventually we realized the need to grow into a band. We needed to add a bass player and a drummer. So we got Zain Maulvi and Ravail on board.

Perfoming at Model UN
Perfoming at Model UN
The band peaks during a performance
The band peaks during a performance

SA: How would you describe your music?

We composed the songs on this album many years ago with an electric guitar and the bass inside a gym room and the sound produced was like hard rock. Or so people have said. Our last album has been described by listeners as indie.

SA: Who are your influences?

Zain Ahsan: Everyone has his own influences: Zain Maulvi listens to a lot of Jazz stuff. Shahzad listens to a lot of singer-songwriters; he’s heavily influenced by Tom Waits. Duck, I don’t even know whether he listens to music, but he makes a lot of it on his laptop. Danny again, he sort of listens to everything, but mostly guitarists, I mean, he is a guitar player. I’m heavily influenced by the blues. For the past two years I’ve been listening to a lot of indie bands. I really like the tones those guys used, there’s the early 90s grunge like Rage Against the Machine, Sound Garden, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. I’ll need to listen to them, because I’m the one producing our albums.

SA: Who do you play for?

Zain Ahsan: Whoever wants to come and listen. We don’t want to say ‘hey you, you can’t come listen to our music and you, you can.’


SA: How do you guys reach a consensus about what you present to your audiences?

Shehzad Noor: Short answer, we don’t.

Duck: We just stop playing whenever someone gets tired.

Shehzad Noor: Whoever has the most energy at that point in time, he takes it forward and it’s usually this guy (points to Zain Ahsan). When we’re conceiving the music too, whoever has the most energy will take his idea forward. Nobody hates anything and everyone in the band is respectful of one another.

‘We are less badtameez and we swear less when we play for more conservative audiences’

Zain Ahsan: At the end of it, we give each other a green light; the song doesn’t go out until every one of us likes it.


SA: How far would you say the type of audience you’re playing for affects your live performances?

Duck: I have serious stage anxiety and I’m just scared regardless of where we’re playing. If the audience number exceeds, say, seven people, I start freaking out.

Zain Ahsan: I don’t really look at the crowd much. I just turn away and look at the band so I don’t really know what’s going on behind me.

Duck: We are less badtameez and we swear less when we play for more conservative audiences.

SA: Most of you work day jobs. How do you balance that with a musicians’ lifestyle, gigs, late nights, practice sessions, etc.?

Shehzad Noor: It’s still something that I’m learning to get the hang of. It’s difficult. I teach drama and music at an IB school in Lahore, it’s pretty demanding and there’s a lot of work. The weekend is when I can take some time out to meet with the band and work on some material. In order to make this album happen, we spent a couple of months together working and practicing. As far as gigs go, the Khayaal festival gig we recently played at, we met up a couple of days before and frantically rehearsed. Basically, I’m just trying to survive.

Duck: This would be a problem if we were really in the mainstream. Right now, with the music scene the way it is, it’s a big deal to get a gig even once a month. It’s pretty manageable. We’re not that famous yet!

SA: How did you come to name the band Poor Rich Boy?

Shehzad Noor: My sister once responded to my whining by calling me a poor rich boy. It stuck with me. Our music is sad-sounding but Mashallah we eat three square meals a day. We like the irony of it.


SA: What’s the best thing about being in a band together?

Shehzad Noor: When everybody’s on the same page it’s really beautiful.

Duck: I never thought that I could sing in front of people or that I would be able to share my creative abilities with a bunch of people who would not only understand what I’m trying to do but also support it for strange reasons that are beyond me. Of course I dreamt of it, and one day it became possible. And I’ve really enjoyed myself. When you go to university, there are idiotic people who say, ‘this guy’s crazy and weird.’ I meet these guys in the band and they are fine with who I am. They get how I am irreverent about some things, yet hold other things very dear.

SA: How do you distinguish yourselves from other bands out there?

Zain Ahsan: We’re broke, they’re not.


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