When Bollywood star Alia Bhatt posts something on social media, her fans go tizzy. Recently, she shared a time-lapse video of sunrise on Instagram, backed by the soundtrack of ‘Joy of Little Things’ from When Chai Met Toast. While the visuals were shaky and devoid of photographic aesthetics, the sound notes struck a chord with her followers.
For the uninitiated, When Chai Met Toast is a neofolk band from Kochi, Kerala, with over 1.42 lakh listeners on Spotify and 3.11 lakh subscribers on YouTube. Since 2016, their light-hearted music has made a strong impact on multilingual indie music listeners. Last month, they released the video of their latest song ‘Remember’ and added it to their debut album When We Feel Young released last year. In a month, it garnered over one lakh hits on YouTube. They are now collaborating with Kerala’s Department of Tourism for eight micro love songs, the first of its kind.
Comprising vocalist Ashwin Gopakumar, guitarist Achyuth Jaigopal, Palee Francis on the keyboard and Pai Sailesh on drums, the band was all set to tour across the country but it had to cancel due to the pandemic’s third wave. “We had been waiting to release the album for so long but Covid took that away from us. We haven’t been able to get the feel of a new and first album yet since we haven’t toured anywhere with it,” says Gopakumar. Crooning in English and Hindi, and sometimes in Tamil and Malayalam too, the quartet is known for its rhythms.
In 2014, Gopakumar (31) and Jaigopal (26) were working on their individual music projects when they met at a music cafe in Fort Kochi and decided to collaborate. While they officially started the band the same year, it was only in 2016 that Francis (31) and Sailesh (30) joined and the quartet came into existence. Slowly making their mark in the world of music, their first public performance was at the Dubai Expo 2020 in September.
“We actually didn’t expect a lot of people to show up. Even then we got messages from others who told us they didn’t know we were coming,” says Jaigopal. Songs like ‘Kahaani’, ‘Ocean Tide’, ‘Remember’, ‘Break Free’ and ‘Constellations’ have hit a chord with music lovers, some of which have more than 800K views on YouTube. “The songs we created for the album have seen a lot of experimentation with sound, instruments and even song-writing,” explains Gopakumar.
There are seven songs in the album and they have had a staggered release during the pandemic. “Two years have passed from the time we started writing and eventually finishing the album. The pandemic brought about a sense of nostalgia, the time spent with family when we were young and a lot of emotions accompanied it. This we channelled into our songs,” he adds.
Be it ‘Constellation’, which is a track about dreams of a world that most people imagine for themselves, or ‘Breakfree’ about understanding the relationship between a father and his daughter, each song brings joy that people have felt when they were young. Unlike their usual visuals of storytelling using actors, a few of the videos for their songs saw the works of visual artists. Jaigopal says, “At the end of the day, our goal is to tell a story as best as possible. Collaborating with great artists and bringing forth their ideas along with ours is what made the whole thing visually appealing.” If just those videos weren’t enough to make them popular, the band started ‘Nature Tapes’ where they recorded acoustic versions of the songs in gorgeous locations of Kerala, all of which were one-shot takes.
“Honestly, the one thing we tell each other is that our audience is like us. Whenever we play, they enjoy our music and have fun. They aren’t usually the ones to record the videos and turn them into reels. So I think it’s okay to say that we are a touring band than a reel culture-oriented one,” adds Gopakumar.
While When Chai Met Toast strives to be a touring band, Alia Bhatt may just use their next piece for another of her Insta reel.
- In their single ‘Break Free’ was chosen as one of VH1 India’s top 50 hit videos.
- The band’s first EP was ‘Joy of Little Things’ in 2017. Their first album When We Feel Young was out in 2021.
- In August 2021, their music was featured in the trailer of Farhan Akhtar’s upcoming Bollywood film Jee Le Zaraa and on Vir Das’s Netflix show.
- The band is collaborating with the Kerala’s Department of Tourism for eight micro love songs, the first of its kind.