A candid conversation with Bangalore based satire band, Live Banned, mostly around their new album If You Park Here Your Tyre Will Be Air Out (which you can buy on OKListen).
Text: Vaishnavi Prasad/ @livetimefe
Photos: Bharadwaj Chandramouli / @bharadc23
Live Banned is an entertainment unit that has been “putting it” since 2011. With Amrit Rao on the vocals, Sridhar Varadarajan on the guitar, Siddhart Kamath on the keyboard, Dheerendra Doss on the drums and Raveesh Tirkey playing bass, this deadly quintet is making waves with their unique brand of music.
Let’s talk about the album.
Dheerendra: What do you want to know about the album?
Sridhar: Or do you not know anything about the album?
Amrit: Everything she knows
Okay, what inspired the creation of this album?
Amrit: We had no plans of doing an album. We’ve always considered ourselves as a “live only” act. Live Banned is an “audio visual” band. People enjoy us more only when a visual aspect is there.
(Amrit gets distracted)
Siddhart: So we had no plans of doing an album, but we thought of a video compilation, in place of a standard audio CD and then we realized it just takes way too much time. A lot of people kept asking us “Where are your songs, we don’t get to hear them”
Dheerendra: So out of “popular demand”, it became a standard album.
What is the concept behind the album?
Sridhar: The concept was…. there was no concept. The title is as random as we get, and well that is the concept…
Siddhart: Looking at the songs, we already had them made; so just had to think of something very quirky when we were putting all of this together.
There seems to be an underlying social theme to all the songs on the album. .. Was this meant to happen?
Amrit (who is no longer distracted) : Initially we had no plans of doing originals – we just wanted to do mashups and have fun on stage and entertain people, but then, the Auto Tune happened and we started doing originals slowly. When Auto Tune went viral, we decided to do songs on social issues. No one was doing that. There were protest bands, but no one really did satire, so we wanted to take that route and bring out social issues in a more fun way; through satire. That’s why we started writing songs based on issues that have affected us.
Dheerendhra: Basically anything people can relate to immediately.
Amrit: We didn’t want to just write about love and the girl next door, you know.
Dheerendra: Unless the girl next door starts becoming an issue that is.
Amrit: Social issue.
( the band begins to laugh because they know the girl next door is already an issue)
Dheerendra: (stressing) Yes, social issue.
The issues covered in your songs are very specific to Indian lifestyle.. do you worry that this limits the reach of your songs or are you trying to create a cultural awareness?
Amrit: I think we are a very India-centric band. Especially south India. I don’t’ think we’re worried about reaching out to people outside India
Sridhar: We don’t think of it as an issue actually, because if an American band can sing about their cars and local stuff and we sitting here can get it, why won’t it work the other way. It’s our identity.
(Raveesh nods silently)
Do you feel like your music can reach out to a global audience? You are already famous at a national level. Is there a strategy to go global?
Amrit: I think the first step would be to tackle markets like Singapore , Malaysia or Dubai; basically wherever the mallus are – which is basically everywhere. (everyone laughs) Wherever the south Indians are..
Siddhart: ..Or generally Indians , for that matter
Amrit: Absolutely, yeah. More south Indians because they relate to our music, but having said that, even places like Bombay, people are open to our music, and have shown us a lot of love. I think basic strategy is, where IT is popular and mallus are there, go to those countries!
Do you have a music strategy? Like singing on more global social issues that people from anywhere can relate to?
Dheerendra: Unless they’re really called for, and if they have an Indian implication, maybe then.
(boys all nod in agreement)
Sridhar: It’s about the roots. This is our thing.
(Raveesh nods silently again)
Ok, off the top off your minds… favourite song in the album
Sridhar: Roads, Bloody Roads.
(Amrit is thinking)
Amrit: Art is dead. Artist is dead
Dheerendra: He‘s just trying to be different. He also likes Roads.
How do you define the genre Live Banned plays?
Amrit: I think parody and comedy are words that have been used to describe us due to lack of better words.
Dheerendhra: We are Indo International Mass.
Sridhar: Due to lack of a better description we just came up with our description, it’s called Indo International mass.
Amrit : First genre we thought of was “Awesome”..
Sridhar: Yeah, awesome wasn’t awesome at all
Amrit: And then we thought we’re pushing it too much, maybe too much attitude
Siddhart: So we thought let’s give it a technical term. So Indo International Mass. But when you say “mass” people outside of Tamil Nadu won’t get it
Dheerendhra: Ei.. Kannadigas, Tamilians and Teleguites will understand mass
Raveesh: Mallus won’t know mass?
Sridhar: Mallus are class, they’re not mass
Amrit: (pause for effect) Mallus have more mass
When you started Live Banned, did you intend on being how you are now, or is it something that you have winged over the years to figure out?
Amrit: See, the intention was to have fun on stage. Just to entertain people and ourselves. We were all part of other bands, and we had a lot of fun. We just wanted to do something different, because everyone was doing the same old rock and roll. As much as we like all that, we wanted to focus on south Indian music and languages and Bollywood
Dheerendhra: Or Indian music, dance…like Bhangra
Amrit: The idea was to entertain people
Dheerendra: and have a blast and see the audience laugh
Amrit: We found people to be very serious and headbanging at gigs and being very intense.
Dheerendra: And then people saying, “Oh his riff was so great”, but here people don’t come and say that, irrespective of whether the riff was great or not. People just see us having fun
Amrit: One thing we’ve managed to do is connect people who listen to different genres of music. People who don’t listen to rock or metal, think we’re actually covering all these cheesy songs. People who do listen to rock and metal know that we are parodying these songs, so they have more fun. So it’s a balance.
Great. Part of being Live Banned is living a double life with a completely different avatar on stage and off. How did this happen?
Amrit: Nothing was planned
Dheerendra: It just happened. We didn’t know that this is how we will be, until it happened on our first show. Pre gig, we just decided “Okay, let’s wear these wigs and some mismatched clothes”
Siddhart: Yeah, we just wanted to be unique.
Sridhar: And what happened, literally happened unplanned. Extremely unplanned.
Dheerendra: It was the vibe which came out of the songs and the way the crowd responded. In fact what happened around us gave us our character. We didn’t decide our character
Let’s deviate. So obviously you guys are friends offstage, but do you guys hang out with each other?
Dheerendra: We don’t care about each other..
Amrit (points at Sridhar and Dheerendra): They completely treat Live banned as a profession
Sridhar: Very office.
Dheerendra: This is a corporate setup
Cliché question time. Life if Live Banned didn’t happen.
Dheerendra: I guess we’d all be doing exactly what we still do outside Live Banned, except that we just have one large part of our lives to be lost
(cue in the awwwwwwwww)
Dheerendra: He doesn’t believe that! Oh my God.
Finally, plans. What’s in Live Banned’s future? A second album? Collaborations?
Amrit: I don’t know about second album
Siddhart: We really want those videos done
Amrit: Maybe a movie
Sridhar: We have plans to collaborate; we just don’t know who to collaborate with
Siddhart: Maybe do YouTube videos even.