In an exclusive interview with G20, Antariksh’s founder and frontman Varun Rajput talks about the inspiration behind the band’s new songs.
Q. Raahiya speaks of the fragility of life and urges the listener to follow their own path in an illusory world. Did you draw the theme of the song from all that has happened this year?
A. We had conceived Raahiya in late 2018 and the song was recorded in mid-2019. So, it wasn’t really written keeping the pandemic in mind, but when I started playing the song in some of my digital concerts during the lockdown earlier this year, I realised how apt the song is for the current situation. It almost feels as if the pandemic is Mother Nature’s reminder to us to realign our lives and priorities and that’s exactly what Raahiya talks about – about how we’re all just passengers here on this planet but we act as if we own it.
Q. The music video looks back at past gigs and features footage of the band performing and spending time behind the scenes. With live gigs on hold, how difficult has the lockdown been for the band?
A. Live gigs serve as the primary source of income for almost all musicians. With almost zero public concerts happening in the last nine months, it’s been quite difficult. Over the last six months, much has opened up to 70-80% of its capacity but concerts are still on hold. So, in terms of revenue flow, we’ve all taken a major hit. Other than that, we haven’t gotten back to rehearsals yet, so the process of writing new music or creating new content has slowed down too.
Q. Jee Le Zara is a more upbeat track, styled as a motivational youth anthem. What was the inspiration behind writing that?
A. We wrote Jee Le Zara as a youth anthem to encourage people to push back against illogical customs and the baggage society puts on us, and take independent decisions, pursue paths and dreams they are truly passionate about and create a life full of meaning and purpose, which I believe is impossible if you’re always trying to fit in.
In terms of the composition, I wanted to write a pop rock song with a big anthemic chorus. So, that was the basic framework. The song alternates between really mellow parts and a high energy chorus hook laden with lush harmonies. To make it a bit more edgy and interesting, we wrote a dubstep breakdown which takes the listener by surprise. Although I absolutely love the process of bringing an idea to life, composing and producing Jee Le Zara was really special and gratifying.
Q. Much like the ones featured in the video, you are also a young artist pursuing your passion and a career in the arts. Do you have a word of advice for aspiring musicians, especially in the Indian indie music scene?
A. Be persistent, patient and original. Although, it’s really difficult, there’s really no other way, unless you just luck out. I see a lot of young artists trying to write music that is very similar to what has brought success for someone else. It might click in the short term but I don’t think that ever works out in the long term. Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Parikrama, Thermal and a Quarter, Pentagram, Indus Creed, etc. didn’t become what they are by copying someone else. You’ve got to be original, edgy and true to yourself. Of course, assessing market trends and tastes is important, but there is absolutely no point trying to fit to a formula which works. Why not create a new formula instead?
Also, I come from an engineering and corporate background and my biggest learning has been that one should treat their musical entity as a startup and focus on building a brand. In the long run, it is as important as making music. If you’re not good at marketing your music well, hire someone to do that for you.
Q. Your music contains shades from a variety of genres. What have been the biggest influences in terms of your sound?
A. During my school days, I grew up listening to styles as diverse as English pop, mainstream Bollywood, ghazals, qawwalis, country, blues, and Hindustani classical music. When I entered college, I fell in love with various forms of rock, funk and metal. This was also the time when I was learning the guitar. So, rock music organically became the thing that I enjoyed playing the most, with prog rock being the most intricate and interesting genre for me.
When I founded Antariksh in 2012 with a couple of my friends, the idea was to bring together our love for various styles of music from the West and the East and package them in the form of contemporary, mainstream Hindi music. Over time, I’ve realised that’s something I enjoy doing a lot. Although the underlying theme continues to be very rock/pop, one can hear influences from reggae, funk, blues, Carnatic, cinematic, dubstep, progressive and electronic music in our songs.
Q. What is next in the pipeline for Antariksh?
A. Lots and lots of new music. We’re finishing a lot of new material and will be consistently releasing new singles over the next few months. We’ve collaborated with some exceptional artists, including one of the best international guitar players of all time – can’t wait to share it with the world. We’re also creating a really cool animated video for our next release. Other than that, you can expect a bunch of live versions of our songs in the next six months.