Paradigm Shift do not shy away from longer songs
Posted on 30 September, 2016 by Team Wishberry
Picture Credit - Roycin D
When you fuse something like progressive rock with Hindustani or Carnatic music, the result can either be delightful or disastrous. Thane based Paradigm Shift has achieved the former time and again, and won the hearts of audiences not only in India, but across the world too.
Vocalist Kaushik, bass player Ariel and drummer Aamir sat with me for a chat at the Benchmark Studios in Thane. Well, stood with me, rather. The conversation was smoking, the stories kept flowing and the vibe was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. But, I was ready for that, and so were they.
We jumped right at it. There is no other way to begin.
Our generation has grown up having a lot of options with everything. Even with music, there are millions of options these days, and newer keep getting added. Do you think Paradigm Shift can break out of that clutter and stand atop all of those?
Kaushik: Frankly speaking, we already did that with our first album. When we released our first album, nobody was expecting progressive rock fused in that well with Hindustani or classical music. Our album had some commercial value to it; at the same time, still catering to a niche audience.
And after what we have done with our second album, I can give it to you in writing that we will completely stand out. It is a little different from our first album. We have evolved individually as musicians, and collectively when we write songs that evolution shows itself. The second album is more challenging, more melodic, and even longer than the first. The first had 8 songs, this one has 10. Even the songs are longer.
People are going to take notice – they will either criticise it a lot or like it a lot.
Many bands shy away from making long songs and maintain a sub-5 or 6 minute length.
Kaushik: If I can speak for the entire band, we think that when we make a song it is not what the musician wants in the song, but what the song requires from us. If a song requires a part to be that long, it will be that long. Then we really do not shy away saying ‘No, man, people will get bored’.
We faced the same thing when we were making the music video for Banjaara (a single from their upcoming album, Sammukh). When Vaas (Srinivas Sunderrajan) came on board for that, he asked if we could reduce the length of the song. We refused. And after a point he understood why we did not want to do that; because it will take away the essence of the song. The song will not remain the same if we remove even a few seconds from it.
I mean, if I pull out 2-3 eyes from a man…
That is when Ariel gave him a questioning look. We all laughed.
Kaushik: I am defying biology here. *laughter* I meant, if we remove two eyes from a person, the person does not remain the same. That is not the point of making the video. The point was to justify the song and justify the concept that Vaas came up with. After a while, Vaas stopped considering it as a music video and started considering it as a short film because of its length.
Picture credit - Tushar Dhanawade
A lot of that shying away has been blamed on the attention span of people today. How much does that affect you since you are going beyond the general length of a song?
Kaushik: It does affect us a lot. It affects everybody. The attention span is caused by trends. The current trend is to make songs of around 2 minutes. When everybody makes 2 min songs, the attention span of the entire audience across demographic is tuned to that length.
Then there will be a few bands which will, you know, go ahead and make really long songs. It is going to affect those bands because 99% of your audience has that attention span and suddenly you want them to pay attention for 6 and a half minutes. So, it is always going to be a niche audience that we cater to. First album was made with the same thought, the second album is the same. There is a huge difference in people’s awareness than it was 6 years ago. Now people are aware of what is going on (in the music scene). I mean, even in the niche audience that we have people take notice of the work that we are doing. Even if it is a small scale, the fact that people know is good enough.
It means it has begun somewhere.
Yes. I mean, even if 10 people like it and share it, we have won. Those 10 will make 10 more aware (of Paradigm Shift), and that is how it will grow.
I had watched you for the first time at Weekender 2012 in Pune. You guys were fairly new that time, I guess.
Kaushik: Oh, yes. We were fairly new, and fairly loose. *laughs*
It was that violin player, a session player, his first ever gig with us.
Ariel: We were worried about whether he will be able to pull it off or not.
Kaushik: We were scared as fuck that time. I mean, after Nikhil (first violin player) and before Ajay (current violin player), we needed someone to perform with us. Not write music with us, but just play with us live. That’s when this guy came on board. He practised all the songs.
Before the Weekender, we did 2-3 gigs, but without him.
Ariel: Yeah, we sampled the violins for those gigs.
Kaushik: We sampled the violin, but it does not look good that you can hear the violin, but you don’t see a violin player. So, we found this violin player and he was ready, and he got ready for the Weekender also. That was the first gig in his life. He didn’t even know what a monitor was, he was that new to the live scene. And we just put him on this big stage.
Ariel: Huuuge stage.
Kaushik: Poor guy must have been scared. What situation must he be in at the time. Had I been in his place, I would have pissed my pants. I would have said ‘fuck off, I cannot do this’.
Kaushik: But, he played.
Ya, there were a lot of places where we fucked up. But, after a point we realised that we will have to do the same thing till we get a full time member. When a writing member is involved, the devotion is tenfold. When Ajay came on board, the tightness of the band went through the roof. He is a brilliant violin player, and he also contributes to the writing process. He is a performer rather than just being a player. The violin players we had before him always sat on a chair or a throne. Ajay was the first guy who stood throughout the gig, did harmony vocals, played the violin, while jumping. He is a package, a performer.
It is a different thing to sound good live, but it is also important to look good live, to look like a unit. And we have that now. We do not look like 6 individual members, but we look like a unit, a band. Our off-stage chemistry is reflected on-stage even better now.
Picture Credit - Tushar Dhanawade
Yes yes, it is very important for the band to have fun and be energetic on stage.
Kaushik: Yes! Now we have so much aggression and adrenaline on stage, it is just beautiful. It is infectious. The crowd also gets that energy and thinks ‘these guys are jumping so much, let’s fucking jump ourselves’.
I mean, our songs are not such that people can mosh on them or something. But, people moshed at Blue FROG during our gig.
Ariel: Which was really weird to see, to be honest.
I can imagine.
Kaushik: The best part was that there were two kids who came from Baroda for our gig.
Ariel: They came all the way from Baroda to watch us live.
Kaushik: And that was like an icing on the cake.
Ariel: And they absolutely had no other work (in Mumbai). They just came here in a train.
Kaushik: I saluted them. Danger people, those.
Ariel: Surprisingly, Gujarat has given us very good audience.
Kaushik: Yeah. We have performed about 5-6 times in Gujarat, more than any other state. Except Maharashtra, of course.
Yeah, this is home ground. So, you’re bound to play here more.
Kaushik: The Gujarat crowd is hungry for music.
Ariel: Barely anything happens there.
Kaushik: So, when something happens, people turn up. And when a good band plays, those guys go crazy. We played at this MSU place...
Maharaja Sayajirao University?
Kaushik: Yes. That one. We were playing with Parikrama. What crowd that was! Bloody 3000 people going bonkers. When we were performing Dhuaan, the whole crowd was jumping. It was beautiful.
See, I have got goosebumps just thinking about it.
One of the other memorable gigs was at IT-BHU, Varanasi. The crowd was looking for covers and it was not responsive to originals as much. Plus, the band before us played only covers. So, our whole set the crowd was okay. The moment we began playing Roja, the crowd went batshit. But nonetheless, the girls were already going crazy, because of Ajay. And Ajay is a stud anyway. So, he went ahead and played his parts in style. The girls were shouting for him. So the scene was pretty weird. There was a huge crowd on one side, and on Ajay’s side there was a huge gathering of just girls, shouting and cheering him.
Ariel: Yes, a whole lot of high-pitched shouting for one side.
Kaushik: It was fun. The response was great at the end.
Even in Haldia, we got a surprisingly good response. We didn’t even know where it was. We were playing there for the first time. The travel to get there was also hardcore. We somehow got there. There were about a 1000-1500 people. And I think most of the people were drunk, so they were having fun. The barricades were breaking, it was that mad. Our sound engineer, Kuber, was going crazy amidst all of this. I could see, mid-set, Kuber shouting at the top of his voice - ‘EVERYBODY MOVE FROM HERE! I CAN’T LISTEN TO THE BAND! EVERYBODY MOVE FROM HERE RIGHT NOW!’
Ariel: Ya, people were losing their shit, man.
Kaushik: People had climbed onto the platform they had built for the console. Kuber was just shouting at them. Poor guy couldn’t hear anything on the stage.
But, it was fun, man.
Haldia is near Kolkata, right?
Kaushik: Yes, two hours away.
Ariel: But, we haven’t played in proper Kolkata yet.
Kaushik: Ya, we went via Kolkata for both Haldia and Kharagpur.
Ariel: Same road also, just one junction where it eventually parts for the two places.
Aamir: On that road, we found this one place where we got amazing keema the first time. We had that the second time, too.
Ariel: It was nice.
Aamir: It was fun!
There was no keema available for us that day. So we settled for vada pavs and samosas. And coffee. Kaushik and Ariel guided me to the studio booth and they took me through half of the scratch recordings of Sammukh, their upcoming sophomore album. After having made a name for themselves in India, being nominated for a prog music award in Italy and such achievements, the second album sounds sweet. I heard the skeleton. They have promised they will dress it up beautifully.
I am awaiting its release. The band itself is supremely excited to share it with us. The wait has only begun.