Arjun and the Teenage Men: How Four Metalheads Got Together to Write a Pop EP
The Mumbai band trade heavy distorted guitars for acoustic sounds on their debut record ‘Shenanigans’
Musicians Arjun Dhanraj and Roop Thomas first crossed paths over a decade ago when their respective bands, Chennai prog metal outfit Nerverek and Mumbai alt rockers Blakc, competed against each other at Campus Rock Idol in 2007. Says Dhanraj, “During the finals, we were chilling in the same hotel room in Delhi.” Dhanraj’s Nerverek went on to win that year’s edition of the national inter-college contest.
When Dhanraj moved to Mumbai the next year, he decided to revamp the Nerverek lineup and offered Thomas the opportunity to play bass for the band. “That didn’t happen because I was busy with my other band,” says Thomas. Instead, the pair decided to form a new pop-rock outfit and call it Arjun and the Teenage Men (ATM) in 2015. “ATM was actually just supposed to be a corporate/wedding band. We were supposed to just do covers and stuff like that,” says Dhanraj, adding, “But we decided to also cover Iron Maiden in a pop style so that people don’t get thrown off.” Thomas says the project gave him a chance to indulge his pop/R&B leanings. He says, “I always wanted to write stuff like that, something that sounds a bit commercial and has an easy listening kind of vibe.”
ATM comprises Dhanraj on vocals and guitar, Thomas on bass, guitarist Vignesh Venkatraman from Mumbai heavy metallers Albatross and drummer Mayank Sharma from Mumbai-based thrash groove outfit Zygnema. “All of us play heavy music but all of us are big fans of Michael Jackson, George Michael and Bruno Mars,” says Thomas. The four metalheads recently released their debut six-track pop-rock EP titled, Shenanigans.
The record opens with the soothing “Open My Mind,” which was originally written while Dhanraj was in high school with a band called Ignition. “The idea at the time was to try something different; everyone was playing Pearl Jam and Nirvana but we wanted to write our own songs,” he says. The song is followed by “You T’yoo,” a lively concoction of catchy melody and boy band-style lyrics, reminiscent of the gloriously cheeky Nineties. Midway through the EP is the funky “Words of Wisdom.” The song is also accompanied by a humorous music video in which the band parodies the process of making a music video itself. Says Dhanraj, “I came up with this concept about a video where the band goes up to a director and choreographer and they try to make them [the band] do boy band moves and wear bright clothes.”
The penultimate song on the EP, “She,” is the heaviest song on the record not just sonically but also in terms of concept. “It is about rape culture, and I’ve written it from three different points of view,” says Dhanraj. He adds, “There is the rapist’s point of view; the victim’s point of view and a narrative point of view, which is how the lyrics go.” Thomas explains that the band was scheduled to perform at Pune venue High Spirits Café during the time the club was being accused of mistreating female patrons. “We canned the gig with all this going on,” says Thomas.
Self-produced by the band, Shenanigans was recorded between former Demonic Resurrection bassist Ashwin Shriyan’s Mind Map Studios in Mumbai and Dhanraj’s home studio. The record was mixed and mastered by Mumbai-based sound engineer Ishan Naik. On what the future holds for ATM, Dhanraj says, “We definitely want to release a full-length album; a lot of these songs [on the EP] were songs that I had written earlier and we just mixed and mashed them.”
Watch the music video for “Word of Wisdom” below. Buy ‘Shenanigans’ on OKListen.