Delhi-based acoustic band Unplugged Project has performed over 800 gigs across the globe since its formation in 2014. The three-member band comprises Manish Gunthey, vocalist and guitarist; Aditya Jassi, vocalist and guitarist; and Ashwani Verma, drummer. The band is known for their live performances across formats— from corporate events and weddings, to music festivals, colleges and even pubs.
The band usually plays impromptu gigs and believes that the key to a successful show is by engaging the audience. Jassi told Guardian 20, “The audience is extremely smart. They can smell from a mile away when you’re faking it. So, for us, it is very important to make sure that everyone has a good time. The challenge is to find that one person who’s not having fun, and making sure that she or he has a great time. Make the audience a part of your performance and engage in some witty banter with the crowd. The more you interact, the better it gets. If people remember you after a gig, it means it went well. However, it all starts with you having fun.”
Jassi is also the frontman of Unplugged Project, which has been around for some five years. “Gauging what the audience wants also comes with experience,” he said. “I’ve always fronted bands, and while I got a lot of appreciation, I got my fair share of brickbats too. So that sort of made me get a better understanding of the crowd. Having said that, here the onus of fronting is not entirely on me and is shared among the three of us which kind of makes it so much better. Whenever I feel stumped, the band members’ experience comes in handy and they take the lead. But I love messing around with these guys on stage.”
The band is especially known for performing medleys and mashups during their shows. “A good medley,” Gunthey said, “needs to have a surprise factor.” It must be able to shock the audience. For this purpose, the band merges the music of two completely different artistes and genres. Gunthey explained, “For example, bringing together the music of Adele and R.D. Burman or Limp Bizkit and A.R. Rahman. Imagine listening to a band play ‘Rolling in the Deep’ that suddenly goes into ‘Pyar Humein Kis Morh Pe Le Aaya’.”
“The mashup must be able to cheer up the audience,” added Jassi.
It took the band four years since its formation to come out with its first single, “Faasle”. Busy with gigs, they performed covers of the songs by their favourite artistes during this time. After their first track, they soon released two more songs—“Mastiyaan” and “Ho Gaya Hai Pyar”.
On being asked how they resolve their creative differences, Jassi said, “What good is an art form if not hindered by another artiste’s vision? The good thing is that the differences aren’t much. We are all like-minded individuals and have known each other for decades. So we understand each other’s strengths. We also understand that music is all about perception and is a very subjective thing. It’s not necessary that these guys would like what I like and vice versa. But we respect each other’s sensibilities. Moreover, it has always been a collective effort and as I’d mentioned earlier, there’s not one man leading it, so we all bring our own myriad influences and try to amalgamate them into something nice. And fortunately it has worked so far.”
Delhi being a hub of live music events has welcomed many bands of varied genres into the city. Referring to the thriving culture of live performances in the national capital and how it has helped bands like Unplugged Project grow, Gunthey said, “The city has the best live acts in India. The crowd is absolutely insane and there’s something for everyone—you could be a classic rock or a grunge fan or just be into ghazals or swear by Punjabi music— you can always find a live act somewhere in the city. Add to that the plethora of weddings, corporate events, college gigs, food festivals and music festivals that keep on happening around the city. With so many events happening day in and day out, every band has an audience and that’s splendid.”
Jassi believes that the band’s USP is defined by their combined strengths as musicians. And the secret to fighting competition is to play to your strengths. He said, “You’ll remain relevant if you stick together. You’ll stick together if you don’t lose respect for one another as people and as talented individuals and give equal importance to each band member and understand that this is a team effort and everyone has a defined role to play. That’s step one. Step two, is to stick to what works for you and what you enjoy doing. There’s always someone better, so let go off that insecurity because that will make your life so much easier. And never lose hope or belief. I’ve always believed that people listen to music to de-stress. We’re fortunate to be making music, so why stress yourself thinking about competition.”
Spontaneity has always been central to their musical philosophy. Verma said, “Music is not what we do, it’s who we are. We don’t have a dress code or a sacred philosophy. We play anything that flows with the moment. Our songs are a part of our experiences and picked not because they are in vogue today.”
In the near future, the band intends to grow further by doing more live shows in India and overseas. In addition, they also plan to come out with more original tracks.