In the independent scene, if you are doing Englishrock, you don't have a big audience, but if you are doing Hindi rock, it's worse, because you are looked down upon. What made you take up Hindi?
Sumit Bhattacharya: You know, Prasad is a
, I'm a
, Swapnil is
and Pranab is from Assam. (Laughs) Hindi is the thing that binds us all.
Prasad Ruparel: (Laughs) We call ourselves a national integration band. Though, honestly, singing in Hindi isn't a marketing idea. We all have a free hand in what we contribute in terms of music. The band is a creative outlet for our musical influences and Hindi just happens to be the language we sing in.
Did you guys have to deal with pre-conceived notions in the rock scene against your brand of Hindi rock?
Bhattacharya: (Chuckles) We are not really green horns now. We've been a part of the scene for many years. I was a musician in Kolkata in the '90s, and that wasn't paying my bills. So, I came to Mumbai in 2005 to look for work. In a way, we've outgrown the whole rock circuit cliché, so we don't worry about people's perceptions. We just go out and play.
Ruparel: It's not that we don't listen to Iron Maiden now, but when we play a gig, we play seven originals and two covers and not vice versa. And gradually, we are being appreciated for what we do. (Chuckles) But there's always going to be that guy in our concert who'd be screaming, 'Metallica', and we are fine with it. Though, we have enough licks and riffs in our music to keep him engrossed too. Everyone's entitled to their opinions - we just ask them to form an opinion after they watch us play.
How do you go about writing lyrics, especially since there is a danger of it turning out to be cheesy Bollywood?
Bhattacharya: We don't analyze too much. Most of the stuff on the album is spontaneous. Bas karo, for example, is about 26/11 - but that wasn't a planned song. We wrote it right after the attacks.
Ruparel: I think, by our next album, people will realise that we have no formula to us. There is no method to the madness, and (laughs) there is a lot of madness!
Is it so hard to be a Hindi rock band in the country that you guys had to release your first album online?
Bhattacharya: Yeah, no label wanted to sign us. They would say, 'We like your sound, but why don't you make a song like X Pakistani band?' And obviously, we didn't want to compromise on our sound.
Ruparel:Since they had read that a tabla and sitar with rock was saleable, they'd ask us to add those sounds to our music. But we fought the hard way - we won over our audience show by show, not by taking part in any reality series.
Is the audience coming around?
Ruparel: (Grins) Surprisingly, yes! We played a show in Nashik a few days ago and we were zapped when people started singing along to our song. In fact, they requested for songs that weren't on the album!
Bhattacharya: I think the vibe we've put out has worked in our favour. When we are on stage, it's all about the music.
Ruparel: We end up at gigs where people ask us to play only covers, but when we play original tracks, people always enjoy it. And we feed off on that energy. We only say one thing: we'll entertain you, but let us play our own way.
You got an album deal after sending in your music for a competition - and you recorded it within a week?
Bhattacharya: (Laughs) Yeah, we were surprised when we got the album deal. Udaan's definitely taken off some of the cynicism. We only had seven days to record and mix the album and four days to master it! In fact, one of our songs, Keh do was composed and recorded in one hour in the studio.
Ruparel: It was a stroke of luck.
Bhattacharya: We are now going on a country-wide tour, covering Pune, Baroda, Bangalore, Hyderabad and New Delhi.
Will you guys give Bollywood a shot?
Bhattacharya: An independent filmmaker has recently come up to us for composition. Let's see where that goes. At the moment, I honestly think that the music in Hindi movies is much better than independent scene.
Ruparel: Yeah, listening to music by people like A R Rahman, Vishal Bharadwaj and Amit Trivedi, our audience has become sophisticated too. It's quite an exciting time!