Aswekeepsearching Switch Gears
The Ahmedabad/Pune post-rock band add Indian instruments and more lyrics on their second album ‘Zia’
Uddipan Sarmah has a bit of a laugh when he hears a question about whether his band Aswekeepsearching’s new album Zia is their most accessible yet. The frontman of the post-rock band says, “Definitely, it has to be accessible, that’s what we aim for. Maybe a new audience would connect to it. There’s a lot of heavy grooves, vocals, Indian instruments and a lot of electronica influence with the samples.”
Sarmah and the band—bassist Bob Alex, drummer Gautam Deb, guitarist Shubham Gurung and producer Adhiraj Singh— have got a fatigued set of ears on them after playing the 11-track album over and over, finding minor fixes at this point. Deb says, “It’s been a really hectic six months. We have a lot of arguments. If you see our group message chats, you’ll go, ‘Yeh toh band nahi hai’ [This isn’t a band at all].”
Set to release on April 28th, Zia’s main inspiration is the last 18 months Aswekeepsearching spent becoming one of the country’s most sought-after rock bands— playing all editions of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2016, introducing their emotional, emphatic brand of rock at college festivals across the country and touring Russia in October 2015. Sarmah says they wrote their first song for Zia—“There You Are”—after the Russia trip. “Every time we play that song, it takes us back there. We write everything out of emotions and experiences.”
One of their earliest live staples from the album is “Lights & Colors,” which found its way into the album only after they gave it an arena-rock representation at Weekender. One of the most recent compositions is “And Then Came Spring,” which Sarmah says is an indicator of how the lyrics are becoming much more important for the band. “It’s related to how love is like spring… You can connect it to nature, the Almighty, not just a human being.” Then there’s a lullaby called “Hope Unfolds,” and “Kalga,” which was born out of spending a week in a village of the same name in Himachal Pradesh. The song features voice samples from villagers; Sarmah explains the track by paraphrasing its lyrics: “I recite how tough it was to get there but when I got there, I was mesmerized. I got back to the place where I stay, but I don’t like it here and I still try to find you here. So please call me, so that I can come back.”
There’s a lot more vocals in the mix, but also more instruments. In addition to Aswekeepsearching’s signature presence of ghostly synth and ambient layers, there’s violin, viola and cello (courtesy of Ajay Jayanthi, from Mumbai-based rock act Anand Bhaskar Collective and prog band Paradigm Shift), tabla and percussion from drummer Sambit Chatterjee (from Kolkata metallers What Escapes Me and rock act The Ganesh Talkies) throughout the album, while New Delhi sitar metalhead Rishabh Seen can be heard on “Sometime Somewhere.” Singh says everyone’s skill sets and abilities have evolved. “The deal with this album for us was that it stopped being in the realm of post-rock. The musical vocabulary has really expanded,” he adds.
Sarmah says the decision to include Indian instrumentation was a natural progression after experimenting with Hindi lyrics. “It it made more sense… For the album launch, we definitely want to take it live, too.” With pre-orders for music, merch and other perks already up via PledgeMusic, the band are plotting a nationwide tour for Zia. How will listeners take it? Singh adds, “It may polarize fans. An average person may be thrown off completely hearing, say, metal for the first time, but on this, there’s something for everyone. The Indian classical guy can take away from it and the fans of post-metal can also take away from it.”