To those who follow Heavy Blog’s monthly Post-Rock Post column, it’s no secret that we like to bring attention to a wide range of acts within the genre not only in sound but in geography. Today we’re proud to be featuring one that ticks both of those boxes. Aswekeepsearching are a post-rock band from a nation we are vastly under-exposed to given their population in terms of art and especially music – India. While their allure is slightly due to that exoticism of their location, their music in a vacuum is genuinely refreshing and they’re taking strides to push the genre further.
Leading up to the release of their third full length album, ROOH, guitarist/vocalist Uddipan Sarmah sat down with me to chat about the state of the genre as a whole, what it’s like playing in India, the new album, and a new video for the album closer ‘Gangtey’ which we are happy to be premiering below. Enjoy!
Some of these questions were purposefully fairly general in nature, but I was curious to hear his responses from his perspective.
Heavy Blog is Heavy: For a broad one, what do you think of the general state of post-rock right now?
Uddipan: If I talk about post-rock here, out of ten people maybe two will know about it – and they will know because they know us. Otherwise we don’t see anything else in India promoting post-rock or talking about it. Now outside of India, definitely things are getting better. You see so many festivals all around the world, and everyone sharing each other’s events. I saw a post from Post. Festival in the US and they posted so many dates of other Post- festivals and shows around the world, with like big bands playing. Bands we look up to in the genre. That is a great sign, cause five years ago when we started writing music we didn’t know that this is even called post-rock, we didn’t consider writing “post-rock music” we just made music and then it happened to fall in that genre. We’re excited seeing so many pioneers killing it across the world, and big bands getting into commercial festivals, and that’s how everything grows I guess.
HBIH: Would you say there’s anything unique or peculiar happening in the genre in India?
U: “Even big bands like Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, they don’t have millions of followers on social media, but at the same time, the followers they have and this genre has, are very dedicated to the genre. There might be 5 bands playing in the festival on the same stage, but there has to be something different about a particular band to make it personal to the audience. I think this genre has that character in it that differs from all other genres, it’s very personal. If someone is connecting to it they are connecting to it very genuinely. In india our number of followers aren’t huge, but there will be 10-12 key followers who come to every show. We hardly have any venues in India. We have about 6 cities you can play shows in, if you reach 8-9 you’re legendary. So shows are limited, venues are limited, but at the same time if we’re able to survive in this genre in India, that means our fans are super dedicated and they consider it to be personable.”
HBIH: Well you’re definitely getting a more international reach these days, and from what I’ve heard of the new album I think it should have a pretty broad appeal. Would you say the influences for your writing is born out of the internet and exploring music there? How does your local culture impact that if at all?
U: Our writing is definitely inspired mostly by travel. Experiences of nature – even if we’re singing about love, it’s a love of nature. This album we’ve changed a lot of things, we’ve never had vocals in this proportion. We have a lot of vocals because we’ve had a lot of things to share and those experiences deserved writing words about. We grew up in India, so the Indian melodies, Indian scales, those are always there. But at the same time we’re a bunch of guys who don’t consider ourselves to be musicians. What we’ve realized after 5 years is our music is about simplicity, our music is about not being a musician and I want to keep as safe as that. Even if it is small and simple it can sound beautiful and that’s what we want to stick to.
HBIH: Going back to vocals, I unfortunately can’t speak the Hindi language it’s sung in, but could you expand on the lyrical concepts or themes on Rooh?
U: When we wrote our first album, we went to Russia and we sang in Hindi and weren’t sure how it would be received. But everyone enjoyed it; it was Indian, it was exotic for them, and that gave us the confidence to keep going in an Indian language. Our lyrical approach is all about nature. Maybe 10-15% will be something else personal to me. Our lyrics are quite open ended. At the end of the day if I’m talking about love, it can be about love for anything, love for yourself, love for a human being, love for nature, for anything possible.
HBIH: I respect you choosing to keep your lyrics in Hindi, It seems like a lot of non-native Englsih speaking bands feel like they need to sing in English. So it feels authentic in a way hearing you sing in Hindi and keeping to your origins.
U: We had this doubt when we were making this album, would this work internationally? We got in touch with people working internationally and everyone had one single point – this is very fresh, if they’re not ready for it today, they will be in a couple years.
HBIH: This is your third album now, how do you think your sound has evolved over the years compared to when you started?
U: Earlier we used to stuff so many things into songs, layers after layers, multiple tracks – here we have very minimal tracks, we’ve cut down on so many things. We’ve grown older, and every member has become a little calm and I think that reflects on how we create. With this album we’ve taken a new direction towards minimalism. In India everything is chaotic, everything is full of people everywhere, everything is noisy, everything is flashy. So we’re trying to find a little bit of peace, a little bit of calmness and that’s why we’re moving towards minimalism and that’s completed reflected in our music. Simple but grand.
HBIH: What’s something you want to hear more of in the genre – what sounds would you like to see explored more?
U: What I’ve noticed is sometimes if you put 5 post-rock bands together, it gets a little monotonous, the same structures, going into silence and then killing it, you know? Aswekeepsearching has always been experimental. We don’t fear trying out things, if it fails it fails. We are now focusing more on synth based works, adding laptops, maybe vocal processors. I think if more post-rock bands have synth, electronica or any other genre influences coming into post-rock that will be amazing, that will make one post-rock band stand out from 10 other bands.
HBIH: Going back to ROOH, if you could have one feeling stick with the listener after hearing the album, what would you want it to be?
U: I just want the listener to feel like “this is me.” This is exactly what I am. If someone has listened to the album and can connect with each story and can feel like “okay this is me, I have become the album.” That would be perfect for me.
HBIH: What can you tell us about this video for “Gangtey”?
U: Gangtey is a valley in Bhutan where we went to in January. As I mentioned we take a lot of inspiration from places we’ve traveled. The valley was covered in white snow, and the sun rays reflected and everything was just perfect. While I was there someone was playing a track from a tape recorder and I asked what it was called, and it was the Tara Mantra – which means like; you exist, you’re free, tomorrow will be better, and everything is beautiful. I got the melody from the mantra, which is an ancient folk track so there’s no copyright. This track is the last track on the album which matches the meaning of the album. The video will be my vlog of the journey, just about the valley.
HBIH: It fits really well as an album closer.
U: Yeah we really want to keep it as the last track of our live performances, after we stop playing this track will keep going in the background.
HBIH: Finally, one important question – how do you like your eggs?
U: “I like it scrambled. Think about a bread – it’s very flat and straight. Why would you want just something else flat along with that that like sunny-side up. It should be scrambled. Something different on the plate.”
Enjoy the cinematic beauty of “Gangtey” below. Rooh is available Friday, September 27. Pre-order it now on Bandcamp.