Johnny Franco bought his first drum kit at the age of 10 with some pocket money he saved up. Fast-forward an undisclosed number of years and the drummer is now beating the skins for one of Doha’s leading pop and rock bands, the four-piece outfit Under Construction.
What’s with the name, you ask? “It’s a fitting name for a Qatar-based band,” Franco says. “I work in the construction industry myself, and the country is always under construction, so it makes sense.”
The band comprises three Englishmen and one Venezuelan, Enderson Garcia.
Garcia is the longest-serving member of the band. His musical journey started with guitar lessons as a child. He’s now the band’s bass guitarist.
Singer Gary Higham, from Bolton, England, joined the band in 2016. “It’s the best band I’ve been in,” he gushes.
Inspired by Queen’s News of the World album, Simon Richardson bought his first guitar. Hundreds of gigs later, he might just be finally getting the hang of it. He says: “I’ll never match up to my guitar heroes David Gilmour and Gary Moore, but with Under Construction, I’m giving it all I’ve got.”
You can see the band regularly playing in bars across Doha, knocking out covers of classic hits from the 1960s to the present day. Everything from The Rolling Stones to The Killers gets an airing at gigs, with the band happy to adapt the setlist depending on what the crowd wants.
Franco says: “We’ve been asked for some really random songs over the years. There’s the Hotel California bunch who go as far as to write it on a piece of paper and bring it to us during the performance to try and convince us to play it.”
“When I think, 10 years back there wasn’t really much to do. I started a band after spending about 12 months just scratching my head around Doha. We started off by playing in my villa. We used to rehearse and jam with a couple of friends over weekends. From that, Under Construction as you see it today evolved.”
Franco believes one of the things that distinguishes them from other bands in Qatar is their stage show.
“Our lights just got a facelift,” he says. “We spent a huge amount of money and we can now safely say these lights put Pink Floyd to shame. We’ve also got the moving heads, lasers, smoke machines, all sorts.”
The drummer loves the connection between the band and crowd, but has one request for the fans: “Please don’t ask us to play Hotel California.”
Under Construction play Doha Rugby Football Club, Ahmed Bin Taymiya Street on May 5. For more info find the band on Facebook @under.construction.theband.