KIERAN ANDREW KHAN
Although it is no longer the band that backs the artistes in the International Soca Monarch competition, the A Team Band remains the band of choice at other major events. The 14-member band has continued to gain traction within the music industry with lots more on the horizon for the Carnival season and beyond.
“Our very first engagement I remember was at Carnival City in Gulf City Mall in San Fernando,” Brennon Val Vergil, the road and technical manager recalled. “The original members of the A Team met working together in another band, which on closing, we decided to continue on as our own entity. We had already built solid relationships with many local artistes so we established a fresh approach, put better structures in place and forged on.” Today, the band retains about half of the original team, started in 2013 and has in the past, been the band of choice for competitions, including the Soca Monarch but opted out of last year’s competition to pursue other interests. “We initially replaced the band that backed that competition when we formed, based on the recommendations of several artistes and some other bands like Roy Cape.” The news that this year’s band of choice would be the Asylum, managed by Faye-Ann Lyons-Alvarez’, the new chairman of Caribbean Prestige Foundation (owners of the International Soca Monarch), therefore didn’t impact their decision to continue to forge new paths away from the competition.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” noted Vergil. “The development of our team as individuals and musicians is the priority for us. If our members started out at a three on a scale of ability that ended at 15, in the short few years we have been together they are now at ten on that scale. That comes from the very passion of each of our members. We consistently meet to practise, rehearse and play together – even when we don’t have a scheduled gig on the horizon, you will still find us playing together and practising,” he noted. “And no matter how tired we may be, we will always execute 100 per cent at the show – that sets us apart. That hunger to be on stage, to be doing something we love and creating music we care about is what drives us.”
And they have fast become a favourite for many of the artistes.
Shortly after his SOS (the fete) performance in Tobago, on New Year's Day, of the popular track Hookin Meh, and other past hits, Farmer Nappy (Darryl Henry) noted, “I must say that I love how the band played. They gave an epic performance. I consider the A Team Band as the young and upcoming Roy Cape band, who I see backing any and every artiste. All the artistes I have seen are comfortable and confident sharing the stage with them.”
Five Star Akil (Akil Borneo) added to this, “To be honest, I didn’t expect such an awesome delivery by the A Team Band. Taking into consideration that we didn’t get much rehearsals in before for the show and then to have such a stellar performance alongside the A Team Band, really set the stage for my song Personal. SOS was one of the first events for the 2019 Carnival season and people didn’t really know my song and being on stage, the vibe I got with the A Team Band gave me the extra vibe to deliver a great performance which brought out my song. I am definitely looking forward to the Carnival season for sure.” The A Team has also shared the stage with Nadia Batson, Dawg E Slaughter (Derek Pereira), Benjai (Rodney Le Blanc), Neil "Iwer" George and more.
Part of the band members' development is the continued pursuit of their own sound and songs. “Our in-house artistes Eddie Charles and Kerlene “Ms Kerlz” Joseph continue to push the limits with our original music,” Vergil noted. (Charles is a soca veteran and one-time frontman for the band Traffik.) “We are always doing original music in between our work for other artistes and every year we try to have our front line artistes release original music too; which receives a fair amount of radio airplay.” Vergil, who has been involved in music since the age of nine, also highlighted the band’s hopes and ambitions. “The plan is to continue to establish the brand as a household name nationwide and internationally. We are on a serious marketing drive and see activities which we hope to coincide with our fifth anniversary. In the interim, we continue to work towards having our performance side on par with our recording experience for ourselves and for artistes.”
A Team manager Zarin Morean said the band, which he notes has built a reputation as the one of the best backing bands in the land, is in peak condition this season and is looking forward to working with a number of star acts. “We are at an ideal time in our cycle where our musicians are not only seasoned but share great chemistry with others and as on their own musical unit – that cannot be understated. Add to that the versatility of our band. We are accustomed mixing and playing all genres of music, so when we work with a solo act it’s easy to fall into any groove and give them that tight well-rehearsed sound,” Morean said. “We are currently in rehearsals with several big names for the season. We have done the work, grown musically and now we’re excited to continue to show our capabilities.”