If you love listening to western bands playing post rock and thought that this would never appear on Indian shores, take a listen to aswekeepsearching, an experimental rock band that expresses their music through instrumental music and a bit of Hindi and Urdu lyrics. The band consists of Uddipan Sarmah on Vocals and Guitars, Shubham Gurung on Guitars and Keyboard, Robert Alex on Bass and Gautam Deb on Drums. The band recently released their second album ‘Zia’ and also completed an album launch tour. Four years old and they have made quite a name for themselves all over the country and overseas.
Verus Ferreira spoke to the band to know more about their music, their albums and why they call themselves aswekeepsearching.
Going back in time, tell us on how you guys met?
Uddipan: The band started out in Ahmedabad as an instrumental studio project which surprisingly got very good online response after we released ‘The Tattva’, in which we Shubham and I collaborated with various session musicians. So we thought why not continue doing what we are doing and evolve this ‘studio project’ to a live one. Gautam and Bob are based in Pune; it was only a matter of time before we met them. Slowly it grew to what we are today, a four piece act, aswekeepsearching.
Now you might have been asked this many times. How did the band name aswekeepsearching come about?
Shubham : (Laughs) When we first started out, we were looking, ‘searching’ for a bassist so we thought why not name the band ‘as we keep searching’ which soon changed to the now one word ‘aswekeepsearching’.
From an unknown band, how did you guys break into the independent music circuit? How was the journey?
Uddipan: People always want something new, so it’s all about the time and the music. In the initial stages, it was difficult to come out of our hometown Ahmedabad, because the city doesn’t have great venues to promote bands. Once we got out of the city, the whole post rock community was just starting out in the country. People were talking about instrumental bands, which as a genre was quite fresh at that time. The moment we started playing and started adding Hindi vocals, it got us into a new dimension which got people talking about us.
Some of you also play as session musicians for other bands?
Shubham: Yes, I work for an Audio/Video Production House in Pune called ‘Refractor’, and Uddipan works for the Bombay based media enterprise ‘OML’. Gautam and Bob are also part of a Pune based metal band Noiseware, and being full-time musicians they do take up sessions projects as well.
You released your first album in ‘Kwaab’ in 2015. Can you tell us something about it? Bob: Some of the songs from ‘Khwaab’ were composed in the studio by Uddipan and Shubham before Gautam and I had joined the band. After we joined in, we wrote our parts on drums and bass for those songs, composed a few more songs from scratch, one of them being ‘What If_?’, and eventually entered the studio to record the album.
You released a brand new album ‘Zia’ this year. Tell us about it and how different it is from ‘Kwaab’?
Bob : The songs from our second album ‘Zia’ were written over the past year and a half, during and after touring, gaining inspiration from being together as a band and experiencing new places we travel to. That was itself a new experience. Unlike our debut album ‘Khwaab’, this was mostly written in the studio. I believe ‘Zia’ has a deeper story to tell: the story of the band so far. Our music is very emotionally instrumental, following the footsteps of the ‘post-rock’ genre, music that is often instrumental, ambient, slow and relaxing, but we tried to make it a little different by introducing ambient vocal layers in Hindi, which complements the instrumentation.
So you carried on with Hindi and Urdu lyrics on your albums too?
Uddipan: Yes, I have been singing in Hindi even before aswekeepsearching was formed. After we laid down some music in the studio, I was humming and Shubham really liked it. So when we took the vocals to recording, it sounded good and Hindi was fitting well in the songs. Sounded something different and fresh to us. So yeah, staying close to our roots maybe.
The ‘Zia’ album cover has a bird in a cage. Any story behind it?
Gautam: ‘Zia’ is an Arabic word that translates to 'light'. The metaphor that runs as an undercurrent throughout the making of the album is the cage of circumstance that often prevents one from living ones dream, the effort to break through this and also realise that the cage is also sometimes home-ground or a comfort zone. This came to us in the form of the bird, caught surrounded by the bars of the cage, living its life and trying to understand the meaning of it.
‘Zia’ also has elements of Indian classical music and a bit of electronica as well. Can you tell us the process of creating this style of music?
Bob: We, as a band, are influenced by a wide range of music; we don't have any genre restrictions of any sort. So that has influenced our song writing. I find this as a good blend of all genres. Keeps it unique. More than anything else, I am really happy that our new album had space for every instrument and style of music.
Did you guys make any music videos to support the albums?
Bob: We have music videos for two songs, ‘What If_?’ from ‘Khwaab’ and ‘At Long Last’ which was released as a single. They can be viewed on our YouTube channel.
You guys compose your own songs. What is the song writing process and what do your songs talk about?
Uddipan: Initially we’ve had to make music while being in different cities. That’s just my perspective. We do everything online. If there’s any composition or a new idea, we share it online, after which each member works on their own part. Shubham plays guitar, keyboard, samples and handles most of the programming and other such technicalities. The tracks are prepared online, after which we cut the demo. That’s always worked for us over being in a jam room and composing songs. Our songs talk a lot about love. Not only between two people, but as a person the love you have towards what you do, towards nature, towards the people in your life.
Are you also open to playing other genres of music?
Gautam: We started off as a post rock band and still have heavy post rock influences. But in the end its just music and we have come to realise that it’s all about writing music that makes you happy, genre doesn't matter.
How was playing your music in Russia when you went to promote the album.
Uddipan: We have been constantly in touch with various promoters and organizers for our shows. It is the dream of any musician to take your music outside of your own country. With the release of ‘Khwaab’, we managed to get 5 dated tours going in Russia, a show each in St. Petersburg, Kazan and Ekaterinburg and two shows in Moscow. The experience was unbelievable.
What are your upcoming projects?
Shubham: We are currently working out a few shows, maybe a larger tour for the second half of the year. And yes, new music is in the works.
What message would you like to give to your fans and people who listen to your music?
Uddipan: We’d like to say thank you for your love and support, as any musician would admit, it’s the fans that make you want to constantly create and put out more music.
How do you guys prepare for a live show considering you have so many elements of music that you use?
Gautam: If we have a short set then we just make sure its high on energy. When it comes to song selection, we have our favourites which we always keep no matter what gig we play.