Bacardi NH 7 – the musical fiesta is raring to go and Devjani Bodepudi excavates the metaphor that is ‘Fossils’…
You are said to be one of the bands that helped to jump-start the Bangla rock music scene. At a time when not many were doing this kind of thing, how did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
RUPAM: As a songwriter I wanted to tell my story through songs. I wanted to portray my time, wanted to do a background score of our existence. I was a listener of various forms of music and thought Rock was the most appropriate form of music with which we could identify directly. Bengali was my language, and if I can write poetry in Bengali, why can’t I write musical statement in the same language? That is the reason ‘Bangla Rock‘ was initiated.
Tell us a little bit about the choosing the name – Fossils?
RUPAM: We have an old song “Khnoro Amaar Fossil” from where our guitarist, Deep suggested that ‘Fossils’ might be a good name for the band. The name can also be attributed to the fact that we were sure our music wouldn’t be accepted back then, in the mid 90’s. We were certain our music would remain so deep underground that it would only see the light of day, when ‘excavated’ by future generations.
In the initial phases, the kind of sound you played was not accepted so easily. How did you deal with that kind of criticism and still keep going?
ALLAN: There was no choice. We were not doing this to become famous or anything. This was the only way we could express ourselves with conviction and we could only hope it would find an audience one day.
The lyrics that you write have some kind of social message/advocacy in them – is this a conscious effort to try and connect more with the audiences or is this the kind of writing that comes naturally to you?
RUPAM: There are two kids of social messages in our songs. Some are direct and the others are poetic. When needed for some social cause or any particular project, we have created songs or albums to spread awareness. When the Kolkata Police asked us to do the theme song for their Friendship Cup Football Tournament, which was aimed at channelling the force of youth into qualitative improvement, an indirect antidote to drugs and anti-social activities, we came up with a full album – Mission F. We had composed a song against the discrimination that the society throws towards HIV positives; collaborated this song with Usha Uthup and in the music video we performed with the HIV positives. There are other examples also when Fossils has created songs or performed for social issues. These are the direct social advocacy part. The indirect ones are the same as what poetry does to mankind. Poetry is written with a hidden aim to improve values, values of humanity. Our songs indeed are poetry.
How would you describe your sound in comparison to what it was when the band was formed way back in 1998?
ALLAN: Obviously, as musicians, we have kept evolving – some of what we really enjoyed in the mid 90’s might not seem as exciting now. And what we are currently listening to and getting inspired by will find its way in our musical expression. So, yes, our sound has evolved over the years but the angst and intensity, which is pretty much at the heart of our music, is still the same.
CHANDRA: We are five individuals who listen to completely different types of music. And contrary to what most others believe, we look at this diversity as an advantage when we make songs. And it is also this diversity that has made us unique in our own way.
Having performed in so many different cities including Nashville in the USA, Dhaka in Bangladesh, what have been some of your favourite experiences/memorable moments from these gigs?
ALLAN: We have never gone back to playing twice at a venue overseas, so, each place has its own standout experience. We have always had great shows in these international venues and off stage too, the experiences have been unique to each city we have been to.
So many gigs and albums later what does Fossils do to keep its sound fresh and appealing to its loyal fans and audiences?
ALLAN: We do not consciously make our music, in that, we do not know how an album of ours is going to be received. We do not start off thinking that we’re making a ‘hit’ album. What’s within our realm of control is expressing our selves as honestly as possible and once the album is released, it’s really beyond our control.
In this day and age of constantly evolving taste, the so-called YouTube generation where everything is just a click away, how do you adapt to these changes?
ALLAN: The ability to adapt is something we take very seriously. We have been doing it our entire career and it helps keep us relevant as well as prevents us from slipping into a comfort zone. We embrace the change that the internet has brought to the way our lifestyles have changed, in how we connect with each other or the way we listen to music. Last year, we released our latest album ‘Fossils 4’ on a streaming site a week before the physical release of the album.
We also have a significant presence on social media and for that we have to thank our loyal listeners, people who have been by our sides over the years and our official fan club, Fossils Force. They work selflessly to keep updating content on to our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, which has close to 4 lakh subscribers. All these enablers are in place to make our music easily accessible to listeners in India and abroad.
Having said all of that, we still believe very strongly in making full-length albums, even though current trends suggest that people have lost the habit of listening to albums. We are still fascinated by album art and consider it as important as the songs.
Most musicians claim that playing for a live audience gives an altogether different high – is playing at Bacardi NH 7 or other similar events that high for you?
RUPAM: Of course. I don’t differentiate between audiences or events. Any show in which we are performing is the biggest show on Earth for me. Shows are the basic platform to get that ultimate freedom to go beyond your inhibitions to achieve what is impossible otherwise – to enliven our poetry.
What do you think about the many platforms that are available to new talent today, such as The Voice, Kolkata’s Got Talent? Should the new generation of musicians be utilising them?
ALLAN: I believe in the importance of struggle. Struggle teaches you a lot and keeps your feet firmly on the ground. And if one cannot keep his/her ear to the ground, it’s really difficult being relevant or honest to your art. Having said that, these are indeed great opportunities that never existed 15 years back and if it works for someone, good for them!
What advice do you have for young musicians starting out in the business today?
RUPAM: I have been editing a bimonthly magazine called ‘Bangla Rock‘ for over a year now and the basic aim of this magazine is to promote the concerts, the young upcoming bands I come across, many potential young artistes who are doing fantastic music, and creating fabulous stuff. My advice is simple – Believe in yourselves, do music with honesty and stick to your job. If nothing is powerful enough to shift your focus you will surely reach your goals.
ALLAN: Stay honest and committed to what you set out to express. It’s not a one size fits all solution. What works for me needn’t work for you. Music made with honesty and conviction will be heard, for sure.
CHANDRA: Keep your musical horizons broad. That’s what I would keep telling people who only listened to Fossils. Listening to only one band or only one type of music greatly limits your musicality.