It was a Tuesday evening when I met up with Mahmoud Hafez (more commonly known by his stage name Pink Seasalt) at a cute Italian spot in Heliopolis, Cairo. As Amy Winehouse’s Valerie echoed through the restaurant, Hafez and I dug into the never-ending world of music, whilst addressing the jarring existentialism one faces once they approach their mid-20’s, musicians and their egos, and most importantly the ethos behind his latest album Out of Luck.
Hafez sipped on his cappuccino and took me through his very first memory of music which was at the age of five. “I remember going to the opera with my mom, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that these musicians on stage are real people. They felt out of this world,” recalled the musician. After this out of body experience, Hafez gravitated towards playing the piano, which then eventually led to his real and true love, the guitar. “At some point I just didn’t want to play piano anymore, I just wanted to play the guitar,” he tells Mille.
From there, he got sucked into the never-ending vortex that is being a die-hard music lover, and took his love for music to London to study Music Production and Performance at the London College of Creative Media. Not only did Hafez gain extensive knowledge on the in’s and out’s of how to make a track, he also gained the chaotic yet pleasurable experience that is living in London itself — most notably, the unexpected yet surprisingly enlightening pub conversations which sometimes fueled ideas for his music.
We also delved into the importance of albums such as the phenomenal Abbey Road by the Beatles, artists like Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Mac Miller, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and the list goes on. But the one common thread was his immense love and appreciation for instruments and the power they hold.
As our conversation continued and faced a series of side tracks– from the impending judgment one faces in Egypt (“I feel comfortable but I feel watched and judged” Hafez shares), the oh-so interesting Egyptian music scene, our relationship with love and God, to wishing we could have been at Woodstock, we eventually reached the apex of the conversation as we discussed his latest album. He starts off by telling me that “the album is a portrait of my identity crisis,” a sentiment many can relate to. The album is a total of eight scenic tracks dealing with the who, what, when, where, and why’s of our adolescence. Essentially, it is clear that whatever interior work he endeavored is at the heart of Out of Luck.
“Rather than telling stories in my songs, I put a setting for each track. Lyrically, it’s meant to be subjective, I left it up to everyone’s own interpretation. I want everyone to listen to it and relate to it in their own way,” explains the artist.
I used to have a homeroom teacher that always asked me “what color is the song you’re listening to?” (shoutout Mr.Lauer). When I asked Pink Seasalt what color his music is, he said “I would definitely say a blueish purple.” From jazzy tempos and psychedelic rock guitar solos to soothing vocals, Pink Sea Salt takes us through the stories behind a few of his tracks, putting into context why blue and purple make perfect sense to the ethos of the album.
“I’d say this track is very nostalgic. It has to do with my childhood, so I felt like it was the best way to start off the album. It deals with feelings of homesickness and feeling nostalgic for your childhood and wondering if my life would’ve turned out differently if I made different choices.”
‘Out of Luck’
“This track also comes from a place of not knowing who you are. I think it’s the song that sums up the whole album. I also always felt like I was never lucky in my life, hence the name. It also has some nihilistic sentiments.”
‘Shorts Full of Sand ‘
“You know when you’re on a holiday and you just met a new group of people and there’s that one person that caught your eye and it kind of stays with you for the whole trip. Musically, I try to encapsulate the feeling of trying to grab someone’s attention.”
“This song consists of no keys, just guitars, drum, and bass. The song is essentially named after a guitar effect that’s heavily used in the track.”
“You know that one person that you just want to stay away from but they keep coming back into your life, that’s the song.”
“This song is about wasting time with your friends and having no direction and taking that having no direction for granted when you should’ve just enjoyed it.”
“‘Spirals’ is probably the most vulnerable song on this album. It’s about that bad side that we all have but are so scared to face.”
This track summed up in a sentence: “What happened, happened.”
As we reached the end of our musically expansive and existential conversation, Hafez tells us of his future goals and aspirations. “I just want to go on tour and travel the world and play music, I would die happily afterwards.”
Overall, Out of Luck is an album grounded in its subjective narrative and framed nostalgic sentiments for both the musician and the listener. Pink Seasalt created an album that you could definitely blast in your car on a road trip as you belt out the oh-so relatable lyrics, and airplaying the sultry guitar solos. He almost sounds like a hybrid of Mac DeMarco and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, matched with a hint of The Black Keys. Nonetheless, the Egyptian indie artist’s musical integrity will certainly touch his listeners.