Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mid-Day Bangalore Interview and Pics!!

Rock and Dhol

By: Namita Gupta

The energetic and talented five-member American band Bamboo Shoots is on an India tour and their gig at Kyra's opening night has won them a big fan following

Need some ammunition to recover from your 9 to 5 grind? Go jive to some good music. Just like Bob Marley once said, "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain". And when you lend an eager ear to these all-in-their-twenties boys from the band Bamboo Shoots, this is exactly what hits you unadulterated fun that combines high-energy rock with intense originality.

The five-member band of Indian boys, born and raised in the US, comprises Avir Mitra on guitar and vocals, Karl Sukhia on bass, Shiv Puri on drums, Ankur Patel on percussion and Ahmed Mahmoud on guitar.

Does your band have a fairytale beginning?
Avir: Karl and me met before we entered our teens through the Parsi community in Southern New Jersey. We got our guitars when we were about 12 years old and we began playing music together from 2004. We also began writing our own songs.
Shiv: I had already heard some of Avir's songs before I met him through a DJ friend, while I was a student at the Stern School of Business in New York. We started playing music for house parties and wrote for fun under the moniker Bojangles.
Ankur: My brother was a friend of Avir's and introduced me to the group at one of their early practice sessions. I remember I was so passionate about playing the dhol over their songs, that the dhol became a part of our music.
Ahmed: I met the band at Karl's birthday party in 2006. Their guitarist had quit and there I was on the guitar strings.

What kind of music did you want to create when you got together?
The kind of music we wanted to listen to and hear and enjoy. Not something, which we had heard a hundred times. We would like to call it headbobbing, hip shaking.... we have our own take on rock.

Any Indian influences?
Shiv: During our college days we met up in South Jersey on weekends to hone our music and play local gigs. We travelled a few thousand miles to work on music. We have an Indian heritage, but we don't describe ourselves as an Indian-American rock band. We never tried to shoehorn the Indian part of ourselves. We're going mainstream in America and would not like to go through any cultural identity crisis at this stage. Our culture could seep through, but we are into rock music and nothing else.
Karl: You could call us Rock n Dhol instead of Rock n Roll!

Do you write all your songs? And what's your inspiration?
Avir: Karl and I write most of the lyrics. We take inspiration from life itself and its struggles. Sometimes it takes hours to write a good song and sometimes it just happens in an hour. Once Karl broke up with his girl and wanted to write something. So it's various instances like that. They are mostly reflective.
Shiv: Also, the unique thing was that we all grew up to listening to different types of music and artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and the Indian dholak. It was like a stir-fry.

Did you have family support when you started out and did you all complete your education before you took this path?
Shiv: Family support is very important. Avir's parents are doctors and wanted him to be a doctor. But once they saw that he was passionate about what he was doing, they were extremely supportive. It's the same with our parents.
Avir: I attended Brown University for a degree in Biology and was a few months away from commencing medical school when we won the mtvU contest and I chose music over medicine.
Shiv: I received a finance degree from NYU Stern School of Business and quit a job on Wall Street to be in the band full time.
Ahmed: I graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in biology and here I am.
Ankur: I postponed his college degree in civil engineering at Middlesex Community College.
Karl: I have received my degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. I can't straddle careers and I chose music.

Are you trained in classical music?
Avir: We took guitar lessons when we were young. I learnt the saxophone when I was in the 4th grade.
Shiv: I learnt sitar from Ustad Shujaat Khan for many years. I had wanted drums since I was four and begged for them for many years and got them when I was 13. Since then I've been playing.

What's been the highpoint of your work together?
In late 2006 we signed up for the MtvU Best Music on campus contest. In 2007 we were informed that our song Hey Girl had made it to the Top 50. Out of the thousands of participating bands, we were voted amongst the Top 5. Friends and fans voted for us and one fine day we were surprised about our winning the contest, while we were just hanging out at an apartment in Brooklyn. Our big moment was when we were told that we would be playing live on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Our sparkling moment came on May 14, 2007 when we performed live on that show. The Conan O'Brien gig was our slice of the grand prize for winning the mtvU and Epic Records Best Music On Campus Artiste of the Year contest. In addition to the late night appearance, we received a promotion video and record deal worth up to $1.5 million. Now we have band managers, lawyers and organisers, who take care of everything and we concentrate on our music.

Tell us about your first album for which you're touring the world?
Bamboo Shoots signed up with Epic Records in the summer of 2007. In October 2007 we left New York for Sausalito, CA where we began working with producer Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads on our debut, which was completed by March 2008, which was later mixed at Chalice Studios in Los Angeles and mastered by Brian Gardner. The album, titled Armour, is releasing this year. We're on our first India music tour and have performed at Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and now Bangalore.

Other passions besides music?
Long drives. And, all of us love to cook Indian food. Log on to to listen to their music

Making work fun
Bamboo Shoots dropped by MiD DAY yesterday. Natural performers, they broke into a spirited rendition of Hey Girl, a song from their debut album. Amazed by the "sounds of India" but bewildered by the ban on dancing in pubs, they confessed they were horrified when the local police burst in on their performance at Kyra. They told us they were open to all influences, and were impressed by a Kannada song they heard on FM. Hip hop and rock are, of course, big influences.

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