Bangalore-based Swarathma talk about their debut album with Nikhil Taneja.
How long would have the album taken if you hadn’t won the Radio City Best Hindi band contest last year?
Jishnu: (Laughs) We were struggling to come out with a demo before the contest. It would have taken us 15-20 years to bring out an album.
You’ve sung in Hindi, Kannada and Punjabi in the album. What’s your language of choice?
Pavan: Our identity can’t be limited. It’s just that we won the Best Hindi Band competition. It’s not that we don’t want to write in English.. we just use the language,which conveys the feel of the song.
Your live act is an important part of your band’s persona. Could you convey it in the album?
Varun: It was very difficult, man. We have so much fun on stage, but in the studio, we had to play individually and seriously. Keeping up with the tempo wasn’t easy either.. it’s still worked out well though!
How have you devised your live acts?
Jishnu: They’re an extension of our personality. We don’t rehearse anything we do on stage. (Laughs) We are pretty much crazy off stage too.
Varun: The costumes are another expression of what we are. As for the ghodi, we tried it once and the crowd seemed to go wild about it.
There’s a lot of kitsch in your clothes, your album cover and even your personalities.
Montry: Indian art is everywhere. You may see 40-foot posters..or a back of a truck painted in a kitschy way.. it’s what you find on the streets. Our ideology is that we are not connoisseurs of music...we are everyday guys playing everyday music.
Why east-west fusion?
Jishnu: (Laughs) When new worlds collide, new heavenly bodies are formed. We have such varied backgrounds that we don’t have to put an effort into the fusion. One of us comes up with a tune, we jam and voila!
Sanjeev: Vasu and I are the only ones trained in Carnatic music. Jishnu and Varun have come from an altogether different world of rock, blues and jazz.
Pavan: The band is a fusion of personalities.. so the music happens automatically.
Is that why John Leckie selected you amongst many established bands for the Soundpad project?
Montry: He had seen us perform in Bangalore and wanted to catch our live performance in a studio. He made us play together, the two songs we’ve done with him sound as good as we sound live.
You guys went international after being chosen for the Sutasi competition in Singapore. After competing with other Asian bands, how would you rate yourself?
Jishnu: The other Asian bands take themselves a lot more seriously than Indian bands do. Korean acts blew us away.. they were at least five years ahead of us in originality and innovation.
Have you been inspired to take yourself seriously now?
Jishnu: We have to give our best shot now, man. So we’ve quit our day jobs and are all set to promote our album full time.