Blues Conscience Discuss Their Debut Album, Down & Dirty
The Chennai blues band will perform at the second edition of Purple Fest this Friday
Chennai blues band, Blues Conscience has had it pretty good in a city that doesn’t boast of too many music venues. “It’s turned out well for us in Chennai. We don’t play traditional blues… we add the sax and jazz elements and sometimes even pop influences to give it a variation, so we have a good crowd going,” says the band’s vocalist and bassist Anek Ahuja. Blues Conscience is a regular at the Chennai resto bar Bay 146, where they launched their debut album Down & Dirty. “There are plenty of rock and metal bands in Chennai, but their audience is school and college kids, unlike the rock audience you get in Bengaluru and Mumbai. The older, spending audience in Chennai is looking for something lighter and our music is easy to digest,” says Ahuja, about his band. Comprising Ahuja along with Aum Janakiram on vocals and guitar and Neil Smith on drums, the band was formed in 2008. Siddharth Kumar joined in on keys two years ago. “We were happy as a three- piece but wanted to have a little more variation and Siddharth gave us room for that,” he says.
Their debut album has been long coming. Fans of the band are likely to be familiar with all the 14 tracks (many of which come with curious titles such as “Shagging My Dog”) on Down & Dirty. While Ahuja wrote “Obama” when his then girlfriend decided to work in the US, “Dreamland” is an instrumental track dedicated to a shack by the same name in the beach getaway Mahabalipuram close to Chennai, which the band frequented and “Shagging My Dog” was written for a friend who lost his pet (“It was a sick joke, but it cheered him up”). “We didn’t want to release an album with barely 6-7 songs. We wanted one that would last over an hour and you could listen to on a drive,” says Ahuja. The band, however, is sure that these songs get a complete makeover with this record. “On the album, everything’s completely different from how we played live. We’ve added backing vocals, horns etc. For the album, we wanted a fuller sound, like the sound of a big band with bells and whistles,” says Ahuja, who also runs design agency, Whoa Mama, which designed the album art.
Like their stage performances, which are mostly high on collaborations, Down & Dirty features a number of artists. “We like playing with other artists. For our album launch gig, we had three backing vocals. Every week, we play with a new guitarist, so the same songs get a different sound. We’ve got as many as three guitarists on stage before. It’s the blues, so it’s good to jam,” says Ahuja. Mixed, mastered and co-produced by LA-based guitarist Ed Degenaro (he is also a faculty member at Chennai’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music), the album comprises songs featuring Degenero on guitars, Junkyard Groove guitarist Siddharth Srinivasan, Public Issue guitarist Nipun Nair and vocalist Ujjayinee Roy. An unusual collaborator for the blues band is DJ Dean, who features on “Like What Music You Got” and “Morning After”, one of the earliest tracks that Ahuja wrote in 2004 during his college days. “Dean is the resident DJ at Bay 146. One day we saw him do a scratch set and it sounded great so we asked him to join in,” he adds.
This Friday, the blues band will perform as part of Purple Fest, a fortnightly music series that kicked off with a performance by Skrat earlier this month. Though the suited quartet won’t be joined by guest artists, the audience members may just find themselves in the spotlight. “We interact a lot with our audience. Usually, mid-set we, play this song called “Big Bamboo,” which allows us to pick on our audience. It refers to a girl in a black dress, a guy with glasses and so on, basically people who are not too difficult to spot at a gig. We didn’t write this song, but we’ve popularized it here,” says Ahuja. At Purple Fest, Blues Conscience will play songs from their debut album as well as covers such as “Feel Like Rain” by Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride And Joy” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and “I Feel Good” both by James Brown.
Check artwork from the album here:
Blues Conscience perform as part of Purple Fest at Ramada, Chennai on May 31st. Entry free.
Watch “Blues Santa Claus” here: