We have certainly morphed as composers over time, says Mohan
Agnee is one of the few popular Indian rock outfits to gain popularity in the mainstream as well as the independent music niche. Guitarist Kaustubh Dhavale, vocalist Kannan Mohan, drummer Hrishikesh Datar and bassist Chirayu Vedekar have together blended their various musical influences to form a unique palate of sounds that’s hard to imitate. Ahead of their performance in the city, we caught up with Kaustubh, aka Koco, and Mohan to talk about their music, their influences, Pune, and more.
Pune is where your musical journey began. How does it feel to be performing in the city?
Koco: Home is where the heart is. Pune’s audience has always embraced Agnee’s music. In fact, some of our best concerts have been in this city. We’ve almost completed 11 years, all of which seems to have passed in a flash. We wish we could slow it down or rewind it to revisit that excitement all over again.
Mohan: We’ll always look forward to performing in Pune. The city makes us reinvent our set list and the way we perform our songs, since this is where we get a serious number of repeat audiences no matter how frequently we perform. It’s always fun to see the surprise in people’s faces or the way they cheer when we do something new. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of that this time too.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a weekly schedule or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
Koco: Since the musicians in the band live in two separate cities, rehearsals have to be planned keeping availability and dates in mind. Everyone comes in with their homework done and we make it a point never to go on stage unrehearsed or unprepared. We try and put in approximately 30 hours of rehearsals, spread over three to four days before each gig, and yes, rehearsals are always one big party.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?
Koco: When we started out with our initial tunes, we were primarily composers. We never clinically dissected songs in terms of production; it was a simplistic way of composing, where we wrote the song the way it flowed naturally. But over the years, we’ve gained some experience as music producers as well. We endeavour to keep abreast of technology, new-age sound, modern recording techniques, and try to stay relevant.
Mohan: I think Koco and I have certainly morphed as composers over time. The two of us often compose tunes that sound like the other’s ideas. We’ve also moved from being a little more open-ended and rough around the edges to being a little more defined and clean over time.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Koco: One of the biggest challenges has been delivering songs to an audience who has primarily consumed Indian popular music, which is not essentially rock. We’ve strived to achieve a distinct sound that stands out and is recognisable as our own. It hasn’t been easy to get there, but we have always stayed true to what we set out to do, and that has helped us stay on track. We also have this unsaid internal code of filtration — a process that is lengthy and tedious, but unless we are satisfied with what we’ve created, the final song never goes out. It’s never a half-baked idea.
Mohan: Yes, it’s difficult to play in a country where most of the population assumes that a“Rock Band” means loud, non-melodic music. But that’s what makes the reward that much more satisfying — like when there are 80-year-olds who have been dragged to a concert by their grandchildren and they come up to us after the concert and say things like, “I loved the guitar solo”. We’ve had numerous concerts where the college dean and principal would assume they’ll stay for five minutes and leave, and then stayed the entire concert and lined up for pictures with the rest of the students. That’s shows us that when we’re true to our own music, the results will follow.
You have been a part of Bollywood and Marathi films. How would you describe your experience?
Koco: We’ve been lucky to have worked with some truly brilliant people from the film industry. Although we haven’t really pursued being music directors for films, we have worked on the projects that came to us. It certainly is a different ball game to create a song based on a brief where the visual medium is primary and the audio plays the supporting role as opposed to creating our own music as indie musicians, where the audio is the king.
Mohan: For a film project, there is always at least one additional creative person involved in the music, and that’s the director of the film. Also, it’s the director’s vision that needs to be followed, as he/she is the captain of the ship. We’ve been lucky that we’ve worked with directors who have liked what we have created in the first shot, and we’ve never really had to work on two or three different ideas for the same situation.
What: A live performance by Agnee
Where: Hard Rock Cafe, Koregaon Park
When: May 10, 8.30pm onwards