Interview: As We Keep Searching

The 70’s was a time when the music industry was revolutionised by the surge of sex, drugs and rock‘n roll. Bands formed every night and created music drawing inspiration from a new act which just popped up and played in their towns last night. Though many came and went, only a few lasted. Those were the ones which had something new to offer, something which was unheard of before. And then there are people like me who binge watch 3 episodes of Vinyl and write intros like these.

Without further delay in coming to the point… These past few years have been great in terms of diversity in music. There aren’t many people who would complain about bands sounding similar and nothing new coming out. Every band puts something new on the table, be it by introducing new instruments in their music or using the same to exhibit killer dynamics.

Though many would call aswekeepsearching “just a post-rock band with vocals in Hindi”, they are way beyond that. Although their sound, like others, is comprised of spaced out melodies born of tremolo picked guitars and heavy synth effects, there is this brilliant tone and cross-culture aesthetic which separates them from the others.

Their debut album, ‘Khwaab’ was released late last year and the band has been touring since. I recently got the opportunity to catch up with their vocalist/guitar man Uddipan Sarmah over the internet and ask him a few questions about their new album, their tour in Russia and the music scene in India. Read on!

Hi! How’re you doing?

Uddipan Sarmah: Ahmedabad is treating me good with its pleasant weather now. Don’t ask me how violent it gets in the summers. Some rest home before I leave the city on a tour!

It’s good to see your debut album, ‘Khwaab’ doing well on the Indian circuit. How has the response been internationally?

US: Oh the album got some really good foreign reach! We targeted international market right from our EP Growing Suspicions. Probably that has helped us on the album Khwaab as well. People write to us saying how our music is unique and they appreciate it being in Hindi. I guess it turned out to be something fresh and new to people away from India. We are constantly working on to expand our reach, lets see how things shape up. I feel we have just begun.

Surely! I’ve seen you guys a couple of times, once before ‘Khwaab’ came out and the other time after… and I must say that the aura you guys created the second time was intense. Not only did the sound step up to become grander, the impact on the audience was magnificent, to say the least. Would you say that ‘Khwaab’ really gave you that identity which a band develops with time?

US: Thank you and glad you liked us. Khwaab was in the making from a long time actually. We have been performing the songs live and constantly working on them to make better. I guess the music matured with time. Also, the line up change brought a whole new dimention to the band. Right people make the right difference you know. Our producer Adhiraj Singh brought in his touch to the album and the live sound, and he is the reason we sound how we sound, on the album and live. Adhiraj handling our mix has gotten us quite comfortable on stage as well. About the identity, we would like to keep developing it. Khwaab has been our best till now, lets hope for even better in the next.

Among the wave of groovy, funky and bluesy bands in India, aswekeepsearching stands out as a band which focuses more on emotional content in the music than getting the crowd to “move”. What or who inspired you down this soulful road? Do you ever feel that there’s a lack of such music here?

US: AWKS is a groovy band too 🙂 I have seen people headbanging in few of our songs. Lol. We would like to limit ourselves as “aggressively emotional”. We are a band who likes to move on stage. [But] yes, we do focus on emotional writing. For us dynamics is more important than anything else. Life has been our inspiration. We write songs based on our experiences and try to keep it simple. For us simpler is better.

About there being other such bands, I feel there are lot of artists who are actually writing such music. I am not sure if India already has a crowd for such music. It might seem nice to a lot of people on headphones, but when they come for live gigs, they expect groove. But slowly our audience have started responding well to such music, which is a good thing. Bands like Ioish (Delhi), A Mutual Question (Mumbai), Until We Last (Bangalore) and Mushroom Lake (Kochin) write in the same lines and they are [all] amazing.

Another way in which you stand out is for the amazing blend of Hindi vocals with the music. Frankly my imagination could never perceive an intersection point for aesthetics of modern western ambient sound with that of Indian style of singing. But then it’s my imagination, haha!

US: Hahaha. Yeah, Hindi worked out well with our music. We wanted to stay to our roots. Also, we as a band focus more on writing music considering how we will do it live. In our studio session during Khwaab, most of the time everyone used to ask each other: “Can we do this live?” If yes, we record.

As we know, the band members put up in different cities in the country. How do you guys manage to prepare for shows or just jam as a band?

US: Dropbox and Gmail has been our saviour. We actually write music online. The band is pretty much with the same idea of not being a jam band. We like to jam, but not like jam and write songs. I and Shubham write the skeleton and then share it online. Rest of the band reverts and we repair. Then when the song is finalised, we jam on it together. That’s how we write music. For shows, it depends where we have gigs. If it’s in the south, band meets in Pune couple of days prior and jam. If the gig is towards north, we meet at my studio and jam. When we meet, we make sure we finish everything possible and keep ourselves ready.

Could you also speak a little about how this affects your songwriting?

US: It doesn’t affect our songwriting, rather each one of us is more comfortable working alone and then meet to creating the final product.

Wow! That’s new. Are there any bands in particular you look up to or get inspiration from, for your music?

US: Yes of course. God Is An Astronaut, Caspian, 65DOS (I am so excited we will share stage next month at the Indie March festival in Bangalore), Olafur Arnolds, Mutemath and the list goes on. From India, we really like the work Parvaaz is doing. We as a band have got a lot of guidance from Skrat and trust me, they have played a good role in us evolving as a band.

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How was the Russian tour? Would you guys like to share any particular special memory from the tour?

US: It was super fun, packed venues, lots of love and such wonderful people. I love the weather so much. I am kinda snow guy. There was a lot of vodka and a lot of amazing gigs.

The special memory which we carried is from the time when Shubham got lost in Moscow. There was panic in the house, music stopped at the club and we, along with the boys from I am waiting for you last summer, went around searching for him. We later found him chilling with few of his new friends that he had made. Haha!

Haha! Now that sounds like a lot of fun. Finally, what lies ahead for aswekeepsearching?

At the moment we have few shows across the country. Sharing stage with 65DOS is what is keeping us excited. You can expect a music video of a song from Khwaab soon. Rest what lies ahead is lot of hard work and constant striving to keep the work on our music and skills going on. Lets see what leads us where. We will keep you busy with surprises 🙂

More on AWKS:
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