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In Conversation with: The Local Train about Bollywood music, fans and the future

At the end of their multi-city tour, DU Beat got in touch with Paras Thakur (lead guitarist) and Sahil Sarin (drummer) of the rock band, The Local Train. They are known to have successfully mesmerised the students of Delhi University with performances in colleges like Lady Shri Ram College for Women and Jesus and Mary College this fest season. From being ranked as India’s #1 band in 2015 by Sennheiser to getting their song Aaoge Tum Kabhi featured in the Bollywood movie The Angry Indian Goddesses, they are touted as the new face of Hindi Rock music in India. We had a chat with them about music, Bollywood, fans experiences and their future plans:

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Q. The band did a multi-city tour after the release of its first album. What was the tour life like?

Sahil: It is a lot of fun. Every musician loves to go on stage and play his/her own music and we got to do this abundantly.

Paras: Exactly! It is very hard for musicians to get a show these days, especially since there are like a zillion bands competing for the same ground. So, when your band gets a show, let alone a tour, you feel really lucky.

Sahil: But, it is also equally hectic. There was a time when we had three shows, one in Sonepat and two in Calcutta, in less than 24 hours. So, sleep becomes very hard to catch up on. The only way one can then afford to sleep is on the airplanes. I won’t lie; there have been times when the air-hostess had to wake us up. 

Paras (laughs): Yes, they’d be like, “Get out, man!”

Q. There are a lot of artists and bands which even go on 6-month long tours. Is that something you guys are interested in?

Paras: Yes, why not? Bon Jovi did 200 shows in 365 days and to be able to do just that is the ultimate dream!

Sahil (laughs): In fact, we’re even planning to get a bus as soon as possible and just leave for tour again.

“We’re even planning to get a bus as soon as possible and just leave for tour again.”

Q. What are your views about Bollywood and the Indie-music scene?

Paras: Talking about Bollywood music scene as a whole, it definitely gives you an audience which is bigger than anything. But, at the end of the day, a good song is a good song, and bad one is bad irrespective of whether it is a Bollywood song or an indie song.

Sahil: But, indie is definitely a way of life. We don’t have a producer come and tell us that you must put a Munni or Sheila in the song to make it sell. We play music because we feel for it. It is not a manufactured product for us.

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Q. What do you guys think about lending your music for Bollywood movies and licensing your songs?

Paras: If our songs do make it to Bollywood, we would not like to be one of those people who are hired as musicians only to be forced to make changes in their songs because of some woman’s special dance performance on it. We, as independent artists, get to make whatever we want to make, and make it so good that whoever wants our music would want it just the way it sounds. 

Sahil: Exactly! In fact, even the song for Angry Indian Goddesses went exactly as it was released on the album. They were not like, ‘put a disco groove to it or change the beat of the song.’ That’s so much for an indie band. Licensing is honestly the way to go. A few changes here and there in the structure is acceptable but if somebody wants to change the vocalist or is asking you to change the song to a point where it loses its true essence, then licensing becomes tricky. It’s about the way you do it, which becomes important.

“We would not like to be one of those people who are hired as musicians only to be forced to make changes in their songs because of some woman’s special dance performance on it.”

Q. Your songs are thought-provoking and have such great lyrics. In an era where songs with absurd lyrics are trending and the music scene is shifting away from Hindi, what makes you stick to the language and lyrical quality? Do you want to re-vamp the Hindi music scene?

Sahil: It comes naturally to us. Singing in Hindi is not something we have to try. We all grew up speaking in Hindi. In fact, this question always becomes weird for us to answer.

Paras: In most interviews, people end up asking this question and for a second we go, like “are we in India?” So why not Hindi? (laughs). But honestly, at the end of the day it’s all about making good music. The lyrics, the language and the lingo are just the means to communicate with the audience. It doesn’t matter which language we use as long as we connect with the audience.

Sahil: We’ve been called the new face of Hindi Rock. We don’t plan to add English or Punjabi as a gimmick.

Q. Recently your songs were played on an International radio show called the Indian Raaga. So, do you have fans internationally as well, or do you think language becomes a barrier?

Sahil: We truly believe music transcends all boundaries. Our music is playing everywhere and we have fans from different corners of the world. Bandey’s video is playing in Brazil, Mexican channels are playing our videos and getting positive reviews, people from Seattle message us saying that they have been listening to our music, and several others are following our songs on YouTube.

Paras: Basically, language is just a means to communicate. But, I think music also pretty much does the same job.

“Bandey’s video is playing in Brazil, Mexican channels are playing our videos and getting positive reviews, people from Seattle message us saying that they have been listening to our music.”

Q. Just like your lyrics, the videos of your songs are equally beautiful with strong symbolism. What drives you to make such powerful and meaningful songs?

Paras: We just require things to have meaning. These days, art forms of music- visually or orally, are just over-flooded with aesthetics. Aesthetics are very important, but aesthetics with just pretty girls, huge cars or big explosions become meaningless. Till a certain point, it’s fine but when everything leads towards the same thing, it doesn’t make any sense. We like to attach a special meaning to it. Since our songs are so lyrically heavy, we tend to give them a form of visual aid and make sure that it’s meaningful.

Sahil: In fact, that’s exactly the kind of thing we want to add to our music, visually as well. This is where Anchit Thukral from ‘The Morpheus Productions’ comes in. He’s been with us from our very first video. He helps us execute what we see in our head and how we would like to put it in a certain song. He’s been our guy from the start!

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Q. Which artists do you all listen to, internationally and otherwise?

Sahil: We all listen to different kinds of artists and have different tastes which make it all the more interesting for all of us to come together with our own particular influences and then, make some music. But, some of the artists we really like are Raghu Dixit, Indian Ocean and a band called Parvaaz from Bangalore. We also listen to Coldplay, U2 and the likes.

Q. How did you react to the people offering you exposure rather than money?

Sahil: We have turned down more gigs than we have performed, frankly, and this has always been a conscious decision of the band. A lot of people are willing to undersell themselves, but we’re not one of them.

Paras: I would suggest bands to work more on their art so that people are willing to appreciate and share their music on their own.

Q. After your performances in Delhi University, which college did you find the most receptive to your music?

Sahil: Every place has a different vibe. We really can’t choose any one.

Paras: At least, don’t make us choose on record. (laughs)

Q. There are a lot of bands that are formed during college days and the same is witnessed in Delhi University. So, do you think college becomes an important platform for upcoming talent?

Paras: College is THE most important part.

Sahil: Music Education in India is not taken seriously. Even for me, I think, back in school, music class was more of a fun class than an educational one. I started playing at the age of five but in the first 10 years of my life, I learned very little. The only time I actually learned was when I participated in college level competitions. So, I think this phase sets a foundation for all musicians. It makes them realise whether they want to/must pursue this for a living or not. So, yes, it does certainly become one of the most important phases of your life.  

Q. Can you tell us about your most intense or funny moments on stage?

Paras: Starting from the funniest moments, there have just been too many – from Raman’s forgetfulness or singing the wrong lyrics, to my repeated attempts to look cool and then end up playing the wrong notes. I’ve fallen down more than once on the stage while trying to jump out of excitement and even sprained my ankle once. 

Sahil: The most unfortunate moment would that be of Ramit falling off the stage. It was a pretty intense time for all of us as he instantly had a seizure and for a few seconds, we were just looking at him trying to figure out what to do. Apart from that, a lot of things have happened from equipments falling off the stage to several technical glitches. Things go wrong all the time because there are so many variables to take care of.

Q. Has the band experienced any creepy fan moments?

Sahil:  Of course. We’ve all had them. One time, right after playing this gig, I got a phone call from a landline number. When answered, a woman said “I will rape you”. That has, by far, been the creepiest moment in our records. Like, what do you say to that?

Paras (laughs): That it’s illegal!

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The crowds at The Local Train’s shows are crazy!

Q. Is there any movie for which you would have liked to give music?

Sahil: One movie that really hit me and it would’ve been nice to be a part of was ‘Black Friday’.

Paras: I think Gangs of Wasseypur and other such movies of Anurag Kashyap as well.

Q. What all sitcoms do you guys follow?

Sahil: Every Monday, it’s Game of Thrones. Apart from that, we follow plenty. We all have our phases with addiction to new shows, like Ramit is currently fond of ‘That 70s show’ and we love watching Utopia. And now we have Netflix to watch many more!

Paras: They have this auto-play feature, which is the worst; you play one video which goes on for 12 hours. It’s very slowly destroying our lives!

Featuren Image: The Local Train

Interview taken by Nishita Agarwal (nishitaag@dubeat.com) and Nidhi Panchal (nidhip@dubeat.com) for DU Beat

Image Credits: Jasmine Chahal




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