Be it rockers who began their careers before the turn of the century or new artistes who are still finding their feet, night life comes alive with bands that rock the city. By Aakanksha Devi & Avinash Kumai
With the new relaxed deadline, the city’s party people can keep the vibe going past the witching hour. Good news for our live music acts who vary from pioneers like The Chronic Blues Circus, Bhoomi and Inner Sanctum, to the more recent Mad Orange Fireworks, Allegro Fudge and Alexis. We give you a backstage pass to get a sense of their influences, inspirations, innovations and dream
AFTER secretly writing music in her bedroom and playing soul and R&B, Alexis D’Souza claims her eponymous band Alexis was born. With Ramanan Chandramouli on guitar, Kaushik Kumar on bass guitar, Deepak Raghu on drums, Srijayanth Sridhar on keyboard and synths and front woman D’Souza, the band became popular on the music scene, but in fragments. “I knew everyone except Srijayanth.
So when I told Rama about my music writing, he helped me get over my fear and everything just fell into place,” begins D’Souza, their self-appointed social manager, about the four-gig-old group who are still working on their signature sound hopefully with ‘a distinct synth pop, dream pop sort of vibe, some fun disco tunes and a bit of trip-hop’. The band, who are still coming to terms with their new found fame, debuted to a full-house of over 250 people at The Humming Tree in show ‘that finally made things real’. “Then on there was no going back,” D’Souza shares, crediting the 80s as her influence with only original lyrics that are ‘always too honest for her own good’!
Alexis is currently working on fresh material before hitting studios. A refreshing change from bands who may as well play a pre-mixed CD, they ‘play at least one new original at every gig and aspire to make music that people can relate to’. “Every time we’re asked to play, it thrills me. I hope that feeling never wears off,” D’Souza signs off as she dreams of the band making it to the The Burning Man in Nevada.
Guitarist Chintan Chinnappa and bassist Abhishek Michael initially started this thrash metal band in 2006 to get popular with the ladies, but unsuccessfully! “We should have gone with pop or rock but we’re stuck with the hairy dudes now,” laughs Michael. The name of their group is an esoteric reference to the most holy part of a church or temple, mind or body.
And their music comes from that inner depth. It is also the name of an adult film starring Tanya Roberts, which vocalist Gaurav Basu found inspirational. Inner Sanctum opened for heavyweights Metallica (2011) and Slayer (2012) although they ‘doubt either of those bands actually gave a s***’, jokes Michael referring to Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo of Slayer as cool people who gracefully accepted their CDs, even if they didn’t listen to them.
Their first EP, Provenance was recorded at world-renowned producer and engineer, Lasse Lammert’s, LSD Studios in Germany because the producer was ‘one that fit and worked really well’. Currently, the band is working on another album expected to hit stands before year end. They also plan to head to Europe for promos in 2015.
The Chronic Blues Circus
Peter Isaac, founder of this city-based blues outfit (formerly The Chronic Blues Band) was so inspired by English musician Hank Marvin’s radio concert that he got his parents to spring for his first guitar and joined his school band. Later, they opened for an English pop group called Touch. Belting out bluesy numbers like Sweet Nicotine and Restless Woman to an encouraging crowd, he takes us back to when it began.
“It was the first open air concert at the Palace Grounds, but rain washed out the show after just 12 tracks of the headlining act,” laments Issac. But their blues journey had already begun inspiring local musicians to experiment and the group changed their name to The Chronic Blues Circus. Incidentally, over 60 musicians have been associated with the veteran band over time. “There was always a ‘circus’ of sorts with people quitting and joining the group over the years,” explains Issac.
The early songs were heavily influenced by revolutions of the 70s. Later it became about relationships, pollution and the environment. You can join their circus at venues like CounterCulture, bFlat or popular music festivals.
The successful Allegro Fudge actually began in a garage belonging to the multi-talented Jason Zachariah (who is the manager and plays keyboards, guitars, trumpet, trombone and mixes sound too). Along with Saahas Patil (the lead singer), Shalini Mohan (on bass), Anish Nadh and Joey Sharma (guitars) they found that music works better if they added vocals, bass and percussion. The group hails from varied backgrounds as far apart as music teachers and NGO project managers. But unanimously, they decided to go acoustic with genres like rock, pop, country, celtic, folk, jazz, classical and metal.
Laughing off EDM, Zachariah emphasises that they are ‘driven by the passion to make music and play it live to an interactive audience.’ Influenced by the Dixie Chicks, Dire Straits, Metallica and The Beatles, Allegro Fudge is a combination of original tunes, covers and experimental sounds . A lot of their song writing process is online. “Jason comes up with a riff or borrows one from an almost shredded paper where he has scribbled the idea. And then I bring new lyrics to a jam,” Patil says while Zachariah adds that they share ideas through Dropbox then build on it later. “At the rehearsals, all us boys are serious, but Shalini is all about having fun,” he laughs, adding that they’d love to open for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at The Glastonbury Festival. Post their album Maximum City’s fame, “a nice progressive-epic-concept album is on its way”, Zachariah hints.
THIS progressive metal outfit, unique for their distinct operatic style vocals, formed in April 2002. They took a brief sabbatical to concentrate on a self-titled debut album produced by Grammy Award winner Neil Kernon, who has worked with bands like Judas Priest and Nevermore, in order to give fans something more substantial to look forward to.
Originally made up of Sujay Harthi, Tony Das, Praveen Biligiri and Kishan Balaji, the band’s dynamics changed further when keyboardist Jason Zachariah joined in 2008. “Since he is a wonderful vocalist and keyboardist, we started experimenting with effects and harmonies, adding them to songs, and fusing them in the vocal lines,” adds Das.
In addition to their edgy sound, they are also known for their quirky collaborations with other musicians like Raghu Dixit and Allegro Fudge. Front man Harthi lends his vocals to Kannada films and jingles, and Tony Das has worked with composer Sandeep Chowta in his album Matter Of The Heart.
With all efforts in making their debut album at the moment, the outfit wants to take to the stage only after releasing it so that they will have something tangible to give to the audience. “We have eight to nine songs ready for our next album. But this one is also going to be very different from what the fans might expect,” Das shares, elaborating that they have come a long way from when they first jammed during their college days. “We had blinders on and were hell bent on making the album as heavy as we could,” he says, but confirms that as ‘a musician one learns to be become more eclectic and experimental as time goes by’ – something they aspire to do throughout.
Mad Orange Fireworks
THEY started off with a three-hour debut at Legends of Rock, in Koramangala, a few years ago, and since then, Mad Orange Fireworks, has not looked back. With a mix of original and cover songs, influenced by Thermal and a Quarter, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, The Beatles and Red Hot Chili Peppers, their sound is actually called – Orange rock. “Our songs are a blend of so many genres including jazz, pop and funk,” begins Kaushik Kumar, the bass guitarist and vocalist. The current band is made up of him, Michael Dias on guitars and vocals, and Deepak Raghu on drums.
“Michael has been in bands for over 17 years and then a few years ago, he found me! And along the way Deepak joined. Other players have come and gone, but essentially, Michael is the founding stone,” Kumar says. They would love to open for Dave Matthews Band and collaborate with The Police someday, at the Grammy Awards or at Crossroads, the music festival, sharing the stage with Shakira and Beyonce!
Moonlighting as musicians, Kumar believes that everyone needs an outlet to be expressive – beyond work. “I was always told to stop wasting my time on music. But luckily I kept at it and now, I can perform professionally. It is more than just a hobby,” the qualified architect tells us, echoing his bandmates. Mad Orange Fireworks has made a name doing tribute gigs, too. “We make it a point to respect the original artiste. After all, that’s what the audience comes for,” Kumar emphasises as he picks Baba O’Riley by The Who, as a collective favourite cover song while Britney Spears’s Toxic came up as the unanimous guilty pleasure tune.
Mad Orange Fireworks has always been more about their collective synergy not individual whims. “A brilliant decision we made very early on was to make it about the song and the idea,” Kumar explains, adding, “we never overpower the other. Also, we have all been friends for a long while. That helps the band click.”
Telling us about the EDM fad, Kumar is convinced that live and analogue music will always be around. “Main stream is certainly EDM but new material will always begin with an idea. Not a recorded tape. Besides, there will always be a big enough crowd for everyone,” he shares, hopefully.