Search for the handle 'allinradio’ on micro-blogging site Twitter and it’ll seem like our national radio station has done a crash course in international indie music. Some of the status messages read: ‘Free download for you Holy Cowboys (Remix)’ or ‘Here’s a song while you watch Saucer’ followed by links to the said tracks. The story’s the same on Google too. As it turns out, the term has nothing to do with our national broadcaster. Instead, All India Radio is a low-fi electronic band based in Melbourne, Australia.
“A lot of our website traffic comes from India, but I think that may be a result of people mistaking us for the real All India Radio,” laughs Martin Kennedy, composer and founding member of the band.
Which begs the question, what’s with the name? “Back in 1999, a friend gave me a cassette of street sounds he recorded in India,” explains Kennedy, adding, “The tape also included some radio sounds where I heard someone say ‘All India Radio’. I decided that was the name for the band.”
While samples of those street sounds made it to AIR’s forthcoming albums, the end result was mashed up and barely recognisable. “I did not want to produce an Indian-sounding album as our style was more electronic and ambient-orientated. Yet, I still wanted people to hear a mysterious echo of India,” Kennedy says.
The band, which is looking to fund its new project via crowdsourcing, has recorded nine albums since 2000 and been nominated for the Australia Recording Industry Award (ARIA). Their sound is most often associated with Boards Of Canada, DJ Shadow and even Brian Eno. They even ‘almost performed’ in India in 2003. “We were approached by someone looking to bring Australian bands to India to play shows and also give music lessons in schools. But they wanted us to pay our own airfare, so we declined,” says Kennedy.
The story’s similar for British India, a punk rock band also based in Melbourne. Much younger than AIR, they won the Australian Independent Record Labels Association award with their 2007 debut album, Guillotine.
“We thought of the name during our first year at university. I came across a clothing store in Singapore called British India. Given its colonial background, I found the name very surprising,” says Declan Melia, lead singer of the band. “We wanted a band name that stood out and was loaded with imagery. British India was just that. However, we’re certainly not interested in offending anyone or trivialising history,” he adds.
According to Melia, the band draws on subjects discovered in other music and art rather than from real life. “I’ve always considered music to be a vehicle for transcendence. We don’t want to sing about real life, music should be a respite from it,” he says.
Currently in the process of recording its fourth album, the band has two singles out already. What can we expect of the album? “Slow operatic acoustic numbers matched with violent punk rock. Our collective musical palette is too wide to see this as a problem,” Melia says.
Finally, the quaintly named Bombay Royale, which includes two vocalists of Indian origin, aim to meld the sound of ’60s and ’70s Bollywood with electronica, the wild west and surf rock. Their debut album You Me Bullets Love will release later this year. The band is also planning an Indian tour in 2013.
“We have had signs of interest from venues and festivals, but it’s a challenge organising eleven people to tour together. We’re hoping to do shows in the big metros, i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata,” says songwriter and vocalist Shourov Bhattacharya.