Ready to rock
Ahead of their gig in the city, the four-member band Thermal And A Quarter, who are known to be architects of the unique genre ‘Bangalore Rock’, give us an insight into what’s in store tonight.
Published: 28th January 2023 08:59 AM | Last Updated: 28th January 2023 08:59 AM | A+A A-
In a space where it is common for indie groups to disband, leave to pursue solo careers, or just quit making music, Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) can (literally) be stamped as a rock-solid band. The four-member Bengaluru-based outfit, which comprises Bruce Lee Mani (vocals and guitar), Rajeev Rajagopal (drums), Tony Das (guitar), Leslie Charles (bass) has been instrumental in establishing the homegrown genre that they identify as ‘Bangalore Rock’. Despite this unique, metropolis-twist to their music, their tunes have managed to garner fans both country- and world-wide.
TAAQ is ready to rock the city with their distinct musicality with a performance at Hard Rock Cafe, Mandi House, tonight. In this edition of Soundscape, we speak to members about their journey as artists, what Delhi can expect from their gig, and more.
1. You started TAAQ in 1996, and are one of the few bands in India that have stood the test of time. Even when indie music was at a nascent stage in this country, how did you go about breaking out in the scene and solidifying the TAAQ legacy? Take us through your journey.
Bruce (BLM): I don’t think there was any attempt or agenda back at that time to ‘solidify a legacy’. We were having a blast playing, writing music and learning, gigging, touring, etc. Guess what we did right more than anything else—was stay together and keep writing new music. Over time, the cumulative effect of all that has resulted in this ‘legacy’ as you mention. Now, we’re much more aware ( a n d proud) of our body of work, sphere of influence, and continued energy and drive to have a blast playing, writing music, gigging, and touring!
2. Unlike any other band in the country, you have popularised a homegrown style that you call ‘Bangalore Rock’. Was this creation completely organic, or were there any influences that led to it?
BLM: Through the process of writing our early material, we discovered that our individual influences were varied—everything from progressive rock and metal to pop, jazz, etc. As expected, our early material saw us wear these influences on our grubby sleeves rather excessively—that’s the natural process of developing the ‘craft’ of songwriting, I guess. Ten to 15 songs down, we found ourselves more in command of this craft, but still discovering that we (a) loved to mix up various styles, (b) were strangely fond of south-Indian rhythmic intricacies and odd-meter syncopations, (c) liked to write about things we experienced in Bangalore [Bengaluru], in words and terms common to Bangaloreans. For years, we continued to call our music some ridiculous, over-hyphenated thing like progressive-blues-rock-funk-fusion-pop. Terrible, eh? Along comes an old friend and well-wisher (HR Venkatesh)—he remarks on the inescapable ‘Bangalore-ness’ of our words and in that very conversation, ‘Bangalore Rock’ was born, and it was a natural fit for what we do musically.
3. Given your quintessentially-Bengaluru style in music, how easy or difficult was it for TAAQ to connect with rock fans across India, especially in the north?
Tony (TJD): I think the association of the band's sound with Bangalore is an observation about what characteristics of the city have had a big influence on us, more than an instruction to potential future listeners about what to look out for! There is a certain musical inclination here, a certain personality type (we are all familiar with the laid-back Bangalorean stereotype!), etc., that has shaped the way we make music, but our approach is not so myopic or insular that no one else can connect with the music or the lyrics. As cliché as it might sound, music will cross geographical borders as though there are none. Delta Blues, for example, is popular around the world, and not just in Mississippi.
Leslie (LC): Sometimes, how one performs the material is more important than the material itself. The style does not really matter; it is about the energy you radiate. If you play well and put on a good show, the audience will want to be part of the experience. We try our best to do this consistently at every gig.
BLM: Music connects—as the guys say above, play it well, play it with integrity and honesty, and folks will connect. It is strange how certain songs from entirely different cultures and perspectives can be held so close to hearts that, seemingly, could not be more different. But that is the way music works. It is magic, literally.
4. How has your music evolved over time?
Rajeev (RR): Staying true to the rebels in us, our music has used, to its advantage, the steady decline in attention spans of most youngsters (people), to bloom into quite a complex multi-layered long progressive form that totally goes against the grain of what most commercially released music is today. Compared to life in 1996, life in 2023 is sensorially quite different. Our senses are now being bombarded with relentless computer-generated messages. Our thoughts are coloured by influencers no matter how sharp we may think we are. And in any creative endeavour, not just making music, it is sometimes quite a challenge to be true to yourself. We have tried to use these situations to our advantage and write honest music about these things.
BLM: If you think about the fact that as living organisms, we pretty much replace all of our cells every few years (a 'Ship of Theseus’ analogy abounds). We are growing and (hopefully) evolving as people, so it is natural that our music keeps pace, and reflects our current states of mind. I think if you listen to our albums one by one, you will have a fair idea of our journey so far—and perhaps some inkling of what’s to come.
5. What can the Delhi audience expect from your gig tomorrow at HRC?
TJD: It is going to be a darker set than usual... Darker, and heavier! Of course we really enjoy movement and contrast—individually and as a band—so it won't be full-throttle throughout the gig. But we hope to spend considerably more time at the wide-open end of the dynamics spectrum!
BLM: The ‘World Gone Mad’ album didn’t get its ‘Live’ due, thanks to it being released on March 20, 2020! So, it is good to play the songs from that record, dark, heavy and brooding as they are. That set will be tempered by some of our signature snark and fun, so—as usual, it’ll be a mixed bag.
6. Tell us what TAAQ has in the pipeline.
RR: A “Can of Pain”... maybe!
BLM: We are in the middle of working on a new set of songs, an ambitious project to try and create a different piece of music. We’re also, individually, in the middle of various musical projects, etc. So it’s all good!