A group of 15 will travel to Spain to help The AutistiX on their first tour
A group of north London musicians who have overcome extraordinary obstacles are about to embark on their first international tour.
The members of The AutistiX, as the name suggests, all have autism, but they have not let any of their disabilities get in the way of a tour in Spain and recording their first album.
Luke Steels, 17, electric guitar and bass, Jack Beavan-Duggan, 18, electric guitar, and Saul Zur-Szpiro, 20, on the drums, practice at least once a week and have played gigs including the Beatles Day in Hastings, but this will be the first time they have gone on tour.
Saul’s mum, and band manager, Susan Zur-Szpiro, said: “They started producing their own music and creating these very beautiful, quite biographical songs.
“It’s not about getting the sympathy reaction, they just happen to have their disabilities which makes them interesting and quirky as an act.”
Jack, the lyricist, penned songs including The Good and Bad in All of Us and Hard to Reach and says music is about “writing songs and showing who I am”.
Carol Povey, the director of the Centre for Autism, said: “Autism is a social and communication difficulty and affects the way people interact with other people and the world around them.
“Some people will have very high support needs, no language or communicative ability and challenging behaviour, right the way through to people who have very high IQs but may struggle to relate to other people.
“You wouldn’t normally think of people working together [like The AutistiX] and I think it’s fabulous and it really blows apart most people’s expectations.”
The Camden-based group who are joined on stage by Jack’s father John, Saul’s dad Michael and musician Jim Connelly, will play three gigs with Spanish group Motxila 21 who all have Down’s syndrome between 24 and 30 May.
But The AutistiX have come a long way to get there.
Mrs Zur-Szpiro said: “My son could really do nothing, he was blind, he couldn’t move, he was really very low-functioning so we just took it a step at a time and he’s way beyond anyone’s expectations.
“He can’t dress himself, he can’t feed himself and can’t look after his own basic needs but he’s the drummer and it’s mostly learning through his auditory skills, he hears something and he knows it.”
Before The AutistiX set off on tour there were a lot of things to consider including the fact that they would be relocating each day.
“Change is an issue because they like the familiar and they can be thrown by anything changing”, Mrs Zur-Szpiro said.
“I’m very aware of the sensitivities and so we’re doing all the major transitions during the day so they adjust and see it [each town], each of them have a parent or carer with them so they have that continuity and we’ve looked at YouTube so they know what Motxila 21 look like.
“We are embarking a little bit into the unknown and it’s going to be hard work but it should be amazing.”
As well as musical experiences there are other benefits for The AutistiX too.
The manager said: “They lack a normal peer group and this band has been amazing in providing a social network for them, they’re the centre of each others lives.
“And there’s no drinking and drugs going on, that just doesn’t happen.”
Butterflies and DemonsThe AutistiX also have a natural ability on stage which many performers might be envious of – they do not get stage fright.
Mrs Zur-Szpiro said: “Sometimes they’ve performed in front of several hundred people, but they don’t have any concept of being judged. He [Saul] loves being up on the stage and has music in every cell of his body.”
The band will play their gigs in Pamplona, Durango and Getaria and once they return to London they will be looking forward to releasing their first EP, Butterflies and Demons, which they recorded at EMI Roundhouse in February.
And although they might be a “quirky” rock band Mrs Povey, added: “The important thing is the audience is not looking at the disabilities and not looking at what they can’t do, but looking at what they can do.”