The Guitar Society 4th July 2011
You Share your Birthday With
Ajit Singh Deol
5 New Bands You Should Listen to Now!
If you’re looking for the next big thing in India indie, you’ll probably find them on the list below. These are five of the most promising new bands in India today:
The Lightyears Explode
A genuine, no-frills punk band whose influences combine the raw feedback-soaked noise of Arctic Monkeys and the manic wide-eyed thrills of The Ramones, Mumbai trio The Lightyears Explode are a band like no other. While Indian indie’s well-known for birthing bands in the classic rock and metal moulds, there have never been any truly punk outfits. Having decimated all other competition on the college band circuit, The Lightyears Explode went on to win the title at 2011’s Channel [V] Launchpad competition. Their first single “The Weapon” (with a sound akin to an angry rash), and subsequent single “She Probably Is” (with its super-hooky sing-along chorus) both featured on the Stupid Ditties series of compilations. Name-checking The Hives, Arctic Monkeys and The White Stripes as influences, the band writes songs that gush with restless energy and wicked humour.
Saurabh Roy is guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter, Shalom Benjamin holds down bass duties and Aaron Carvalho is on drums. The band should have released an EP release and could possibly put out a full-length album soon.
Making a habit out of winning, hip-hop quartet Bombay Bassment suddenly became the band to beat early this year. They won the Mumbai installment of this year’s Hard Rock Café’s Battle of the Bands and followed that up with another win at the Converse Original Band Hunt a few weeks later. Composed of rapper Bob Omulo, DJ and producer “Chandu” Kunder, drummer Levin Mendes and bassist Ruell Barretto, their sound harks back to the days of organic and socially conscious hip-hop. The band came together in late 2010 but its members are long-time veterans of the scene. Rapper Bob has been a rapper for hire for Bollywood while DJ Chandu was the DJ at the legendary Razzberry Rhinoceros. Drummer Levin and bassist Ruell both played in alternative band Aftertaste. With free-flowing lyrical rhymes and a thumping rhythm section, Bombay Bassment is a refreshing change from all the copycat MCs and wannabe B-Boy crews out there.
Blindingly brilliant and jaw-droppingly genius, Bangalore’s Bicycle Day’s songs are like canvases on which the band’s members have thrown every sonic colour in their palettes to create long swirling aural landscapes that unravel and unfold in layers of textural guitar fuzz. Space-like sounds sweep in and out as whirrs and hums float around. Hazy psychedelic atmospherics collide with mutated vocal samples as the songs gradually increase in intensity, building up into an audio frenzy that eventually explodes with a visceral energy of pounding drums and guitar feedback. The Indian Radiohead? Quite possibly.
The band is Kartik Basker on vocals and guitars, Rahul Ranganath on guitars, Paul Dharamraj on bass, Shreyas Dipali on drums and percussion and Nikhil Narendra works samples. They released their debut EP 42 in 2010 and won Best Emerging Band at the 2011 Jack Daniel’s Rock Awards.
Goddess Gagged, the prog-metal five-piece from Mumbai, won first place at Bangalore’s Strawberry Fields and placed 3rd at Channel V’s Launchpad the next month. The band – Siddharth Basrur on vocals, Arman Menzies on guitars and vocals, Devesh Dayal on guitar, Krishna Jhaveri on bass and Jeremy ‘Jeb Jeb’ D’souza on drums – channel the precision metal and epic vocal styles of bands like Tool and Porcupine Tree, resulting in a sound that’s extremely tight and far more current than most other Indian metal acts on the scene today. Displaying some awesome playing skills and an ear for hooky guitar licks and a good chorus, Goddess Gag is the future of Indian hard rock and metal.
The Ska Vengers
Who knew India could ever produce a top quality ska band? That too, in Delhi, a city known for its love of the bhangra. Still, Delhi’s six-member The Ska Vengers, prove that ska can flourish anywhere as long as everyone concerned has “da riddim an de bounce”. Now two years into their existence, The Ska Vengers were formed when members of Delhi band Emperor Minge hooked up with Raghav Diggy Dang from the Reggae Rajah’s Soundsystem, eventually completing the lineup with MC Taru Dalmia better known as Delhi Sultanate. They released their first single “Rudeboy Skank” – a joyous mix of horns, bouncing rhythms, smoky jazz vocals and raga toasting – on the fourth Stupid Ditties compilation in late 2010. The band is currently working on their debut LP.
The ‘Aaha’ Moment – Something Relevant
Funky. Seven-piece. Jam Band. You don’t normally expect any of these terms to describe an Indian band, let alone all three!
Something Relevant, India’s foremost practitioners of the fine art of the funk are a band like no other. Mashing up a mix of musical styles ranging from funk to jazz, from modern rock to reggae, Something Relevant serve up an infectious cocktail of good-time vibes and precision funk. The band are at the peak of their powers live, and it’s no surprise that they’ve taken the Something Relevant concert experience to stages across the world, including a 19-night run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
Taking our cue from the name of one of the band’s signature tunes – “Aaha” – Gibson India asked five of the band members to share their “Aaha” musical moment.
Stuart DaCosta (bass)
“Watching bass extraordinaire Victor Wooten play ‘Amazing Grace’ – first on YouTube and then live in Shanmukhananda Hall. He’s made me look at the bass from a completely new perspective.”
Jehangir Jehangir (drums)
“2003, Mood-I Festival auditions, IIT Mumbai. Although I dropped my sticks in the middle of one song and broke them in the middle of another, I realized that playing a big stage with the vibration from my bass drum almost kicking me off my seat was the only way to go! It inspired me to work on my grip and join my then favourite band – Something Relevant!
Ryan Sadri (saxophone)
“A couple of years ago, at one of our self-promoted gigs at Ravinda Natya Mandir in Mumbai. As a tribute to my musical mentor, Mumbai jazz legend Mickey Correa, we invited him onstage with us. He was 96 at the time and received a standing ovation from the crowd. The whole experience gave me goose bumps and made me want to keep working towards being in his shoes someday.”
Aalok Padhye (percussion)
“Age 10, my first concert. I saw Sivamani, Prasanna, Anish Pradhan and Karl Peters perform live for the Common Chords concert at Mumbai’s St. Andrew Auditorium. That gig made me want to learn to play an instrument, especially the tabla.”
Tanmay Bhattacherjee (guitar)
“The University of Indonesia gig, on our first tour of Indonesia last year. I couldn’t believe the crowd’s response. It made me think, ‘This is possible, we can actually do this.’”
The Gibson Interview: Randolph Correa of Shaa’ir + Func
Pushing the envelope and breaking the rules is a habit with Monica Dogra and Randolph Correa, better known as Shaa’ir + Func. You don’t so much listen to Shaa’ir + Func as much asexperience them. With their OTT style sense, manic live sets and all-around bohemian vibe, they’re a creative assault on the senses.
Three albums in and one of the busiest bands on the indie scene, Shaa’ir + Func are hard to pin down. Still, Gibson India managed to get a hold of guitarist/instrumentalist/producer Correa to ask him about touring the world, his favorite guitars and John Bonham.
You’ve taken Shaa’ir + Func to audiences in the U.S., the U.K., Scandinavia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. What’s it like taking the sound of New India to the rest of the world?
It feels great! We consider ourselves ambassadors for the scene and we love it. Every time we play it feels like we’re cutting across boundaries and forging new paths. The common perception is that any music that comes out of India is either Indian Classical or Bollywood. We like the fact that when we play, people can’t tell where we’re from. The typical reaction tends to be “How the #@*& did you come out of Mumbai?” We take that as a compliment.
Three albums in four years, non-stop, around-the-world gigging and numerous side projects and collaborations: How do you keep the pace and still stay creative?
[Laughs] We’ve got to party less! That way we’ll learn to make more time for our music. As you get older and more experienced, you realize that even though you’re doing something you love, it’s also a responsibility. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun but it’s definitely a responsibility.
Unlike most Indian indie bands, the visual element is a huge part of the S + F experience – lights and lasers, smoke and sequins, mohawks and, well, mantises. How does all of this come together?
I think we’re just being who we are. Both of us have our own quirky individual aesthetics and we love all of the stuff you mentioned. We’re just going with the flow. Though it isn’t something we really plan, we obviously try to make the show as great as possible. Really, it’s just a very natural thing.
Your sound is certainly unique. Where does your inspiration come from? And how do you take those inspirations and filter them into the S + F mix?
Our inspirations come from all over. Meeting friends, experiencing new places, traveling, trying new types of food. Music is an understatement; it’s just a distillation of all the experiences that we go through everyday. We’re all about not taking genres too seriously and mixing and matching to create new sounds that are original. Like, if you look at a band like The Killers, they’ve got this European sound even though they’re from Las Vegas. That’s kind of where we’re coming from – music that transcends geography
We’re not even going to try labeling your sound. How about you give it a shot?
I guess I’d say that we’re a funk-rock band – a modern-day funk-rock band that’s filling in the gaps between genres.
Though the Indian indie scene has grown massively over the last decade, it still has some way to go. What needs to happen, before we can officially say that Indian indie has “arrived”?
Actually, I think it’s already arrived. First, it used to be about the infrastructure, which we didn’t have. Now I think it’s more about the bands on the scene really needing to integrate with each other. Twenty years ago there only used to be rock bands. There was no integration and lots of people marking their territories. There’s a lot more diversity now and people should take advantage of that. There needs to be more collaboration, maybe even getting DJs to remix bands. I think that’s what makes a scene, everyone needs to connect, be friendlier. The bigger, established bands should help out the newer ones; take them out on tour. It’s stuff like this that will help develop the scene further.
You’ve been able to get your hands on a number of Gibson’s finest guitars. Which have been your favourites and why?
I really love my Gibson SGs. I’ve played the SG ’61 Reissue and the SG Zoot Suit. I also have an SG Raw Power that I use a lot. I can’t wait to get my hands on a SG Robot Guitar. After the SG, the CS-336 with the semi-hollowbody would have to be my second favorite.
Who do you think are some of the most exciting bands on the indie circuit in India right now?
Right at the top of the list would have to be Teddy Boy Kill. Sridhar & Thayil are really good, too. I love what the BBC [Bombay Beat Collective] and the Bass Foundation are doing on the electronic front. Another great bunch of acts are the Bhavishyavani collective, the MIDIval Punditz and Jalebee Cartel. I also really like Noush Like Sploosh and Adam & The Fish Eyed Poets.
If you could put together your own supergroup, which legends, alive or dead, would you include?
Hmm… I’d probably get Prince on guitar and lead vocals, John Bonham on drums, Flea to play bass and Plastic Man as DJ. [After being reminded that he needs to include himself] I guess I’d join in on percussion.
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