South of Eden weathers 'these trying times' to record new EP

Andy Downing
South of Eden

South of Eden singer Ehab Omran grew up idolizing Guns N’ Roses, so he embraced the opportunity to recreate his own version of Axl Rose's stepping-off-of-the-bus moment from the “Welcome to the Jungle” video when the band decamped to Los Angeles to record its debut album last summer.

“Unfortunately we flew [instead of taking the bus], but when you walk out of the airport you really can breathe and smell L.A. There’s a very specific vibe out there,” said the Jordan-born Omran, who emigrated with his family to Ohio at age 3 and has spent most of his life in Columbus. “As soon as I stepped outside … it was like I had walked into the jungle. You’re out on the streets and it’s like, ‘Holy crap, man, this is insane.’”

These fish-out-of-water feelings only intensified when the four musicians took up residence at the famed Sunset Sound Recorders, which Omran described as hallowed ground, recounting the litany of musicians who had utilized the space, including Prince, Jim Morrison of the Doors and Van Halen, among countless others. Initially, the musicians felt overwhelmed by the studio’s history, but eventually they settled in, determined to “make an impression in the turf,” Omran explained, recording tracks for a teaser EP,The Talk, which surfaced in late August, as well as for a full-length debut the band plans to release later this year.

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Most of the songs on the EP were written in 2019, including the thundering title track, which comes across like a hard rock-indebted commentary on current events. “These trying times,” Omran sings at the onset, going on to cryptically detail growing tensions and mindless masses easily swayed by distorted views.

“I always say ‘The Talk’ is a future song because I wrote it last year and it relates so well to everything going on now,” said Omran, who has coped with the extended COVID-driven shutdown by recording acoustic tracks at Sonic Lounge, trying not to focus on the string of cancellations that have obliterated what was to have been a busy year of touring for the crew. “With the climate we’ve lived in the last four years … that song kind of just wrote itself. I guess it just so happened that I wrote generally enough that it ended up fitting this year, as well.”

Other EP tracks are more specific in nature, such as "Solo," centered on drug addiction, and “Dancing With Fire,” which Omran described as a song about pursuing a dream “that contradicts … what your family or loved ones might want for you.” "Dancing With Fire" has its roots in the initial sense of disappointment Omran's parents expressed after the singer dropped out of school at Ohio State, where he studied pre-med, in order to pursue his dreams of making music.

“I envy the people that grew up with very supportive parents, because I was born in Jordan … and the whole reason for us coming here was to get an American education, which is very much sought after all over the world,” Omran said. “[My parents] wanted a better life for us. So I came here and studied to be a doctor, and I went to college for pre-med and all that fun stuff. But, at the end of the day, there was always this thing nagging me in the back of my head, which was derived from my childhood [spent] listening to people like Michael Jackson and James Brown.”

Making matters worse, when Omran dropped out, he initially declined to tell his parents, allowing them to believe, for a time, that he was still enrolled in his studies. “It wasn’t the best way to go about it, and eventually they found out, and they were very, very, very worried for a long time,” Omran said, adding that those concerns have lessened in recent months as South of Eden, formerly known as Black Coffee, signed a label deal with Lava Records, landed a contract with influential booking agent CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and performed on bills with artists like the Foo Fighters and System of a Down. “As soon as you see your kid is more or less doing OK, I guess some of that worry falls off.”

At the same time, Omran credits his parents’ insistence on perfection with the leaps he has made as a singer. (Omran is in possession of a mighty wail, which you can bear witness to in the video for “The Talk” embedded below.)

“As a kid I’d be singing Michael Jackson and they’d be like, ‘You’re good … but I don’t know if I like your voice very much,’” Omran said, and laughed. “They were brutally honest in that way, to where I would show my mom a magic trick and she would say, ‘Oh, I know how you did that,’ and then she would totally debunk it for me. And I know that sounds cruel, man, but my parents always pushed me to be the best at whatever I was doing, and now I can pull off some magic tricks where you could never figure out how I did it.”

Watch the video for "The Talk" below.