Relatively new to the music scene, Kolkata based band Write in Stereo played their first proper gig at a recently concluded music festival. Riddhima Khanna caught up with the quartet in an interview where they talk about the burgeoning music scene in Kolkata and the problems faced by upcoming bands while tapping into it’s potential.
Could you introduce WIS to us in a few words?
We specialize in creating dance music. There are a lot of influences which have gone into making our music, but we are trying to create something groovy and rhythm is a very important aspect of our songs.
You have described your band as being inspired by Japanese and American pop culture as themes. So what does that essentially mean?
Why should only music inspire music? Our music is inspired by what we see- we watch a lot of anime and pop culture influences us, especially American pop culture. All that we see influences us, influences how we think. And thus it is pretty obvious that it’s going to affect our music as well.
From what you said, how would you then describe your music?
If you listen to our songs you will see that it’s like a landscape being painted, but not with a paint brush. We do it through music. So we try and imagine scenes or landscapes or a Dystopian society or culture. Drive would be like driving through the night. Shifting Gears– the song essentially keeps shifting gears throughout. Stuff like that. There are a lot of visualizations in our music. Obviously interpretations could be different. However it’s not about making cool music. We also think about the fact that when you close your eyes and try picturing the music, what is the image that you get… that is also a very important aspect. So that’s how what we see influences us. And there are no vocals in our band; it’s all instrumental so we have to have a motive. If you are creating something it has to hold some sort of a meaning and give you some sort of a picture that there is something happening. We can’t play randomly. Therefore, for us, it is not only about making our music sound nice, it’s about it being able to trigger something in your head- an image, a feeling, an emotion- anything.
So was it a very conscious decision not to include a vocalist in your band? And that being said, in the absence of a vocalist there are no words to your music. So how do you then put together your music?
Basically the reason why we don’t have a vocalist in our band is because we all are really bad at singing. But yes, jokes aside, that was a very important reason why we chose not to have a vocalist in our band. We kept jamming and making stuff, and then at one point we realized that this music was actually working out. And the first gig we played at Jamsteady, we just did four songs and had no vocalist. The reception was really good, which obviously meant that we were going down the right track because in Kolkata, generally, it’s very hard to get a good reception. The crowd surprisingly really liked us a lot! And even before we started playing gigs, right at the inception, we sat down and imagined the direction we’d take – what we were going to sound like and what was going to influence us. It took a long time and careful planning to decide and define ourselves. Like whenever we sat down to make a song there were particular things we determined, which are still the basic building blocks of our music. And then on top of that we decided to go nutsy. To do whatever we felt like. So it was a very conscious decision to not include a vocalist, and that seems to have worked out well for us so far!
Why do you think the music scene in Kolkata isn’t gaining fruition? Is it for the dearth of talent or a lack or opportunity?
See, the music scene in Kolkata is both good and bad. Good because there is no lack of talent here. We have a lot of good music coming out of this city and covering a wide range of genres. However what is bad is that there is no platform for these bands to get out there and showcase their talent. Yes, today we have festivals like NH7 coming to Kolkata, however that is just one event- that too a platform where not every band can perform. Otherwise there are just two more venues (Someplace Else and Princeton) where a band could actually find that stage they wanted. However, Someplace Else has just one particular set of bands playing for the past so many years in permanent slots, playing covers with a few originals thrown in. Once in a blue moon you get to see a new band come in and perform. What we are trying to emphasize here is that there’s no place for us upcoming bands to play. However, Princeton has recently introduced Jam Steady, definitely a silver lining to the cloud. We are so rich in talent here yet it manages to get lost in the midst of not finding ample opportunity to play our music. Like here for a band that comes up, you have to wait at least 7-8 months to land your first gig. The previous band we had, the first gig we played wasn’t even in Kolkata but in Delhi. So basically people in the place where we were from didn’t know about our music. People outside knew us better than the people from here. However, it can only get better- and yes! There is definite improvement overall. Yet it’s still in the very initial stages.
So, in a city playing music in a genre relatively unknown, how do you plan upon creating a niche for yourself?
See, our first major gig within Kolkata was NH7. We are completely pinning our hopes on it. It’s an opportunity for us that could actually help place us on the map. And now that it’s done we hope to get a couple of contacts and calls- see how the whole scene is panning out. How are the investors looking at the city, what are the business aspects in the city so that musically we can grow, they can grow and both the parties can make money?
How did NH7 happen?
It’s a mystery- and has a very funny story attached to it. Our band member Debangshu was eating momos and he suddenly gets a message on his phone from an unknown number asking him to call back ASAP. So he calls back and the person on the other side asks him to confirm within 15 minutes if we’d be interested in playing for NH7. So he was like- “I am telling you right now- on behalf of the band- we are playing!” So that’s how it happened. They appear to have had randomly picked us up, or somebody recommended us because we don’t have any recordings, no gigs. We just had two videos up on Youtube. So yes- the mystery remains.
Do you ever reach a stage in which you get lost in your own music?
Oh most definitely- almost all the time! Like in the jam pad we are in sync, yet there are moments each of us is completely lost in our own music. And that is a good thing- it helps us come up with music purely on the basis of drifting off to a completely different universe and returning with something tangible!
So if an audience doesn’t respond to your music the way you want to, does that affect the physical aspect of the whole gig?
When the audience responds to you, there’s a vibe- an energy- which you feed off. Now for us, most of the time we feed off each other’s vibes. And if someone from the audience can feed off that then that is great. So we basically try to push out our collective vibe to the audience rather than feeding off them. That also helps to cut off expectations. And we’ve always had people jumping and going crazy!
So would you like to play for a smaller audience of faithful fans or for a larger crowd of people, almost none of who know your music?
We’d say we’d like to play for a larger group of faithful fans! That being said however- we’d even love to play for people who don’t know our music. We just want people to hear our music and have a good time with us. Because we only believe in making music which we would enjoy as a band. We don’t believe in putting out music just for the heck of it, to show we have a whole plethora of songs and recordings. And so we’re sure the vibe will rub off somewhere. And the small group of faithful fans would one day be a whole concert jumping a grooving to our music!
So! What can we look forward from WIS next?
Taking up from the performance at NH7, hopefully we get some calls from there. But yes, we are looking to play at a few festivals and are talking to a few people. Other than that, we are constantly trying to create new sounds, and hope to come out with an EP soon.