Mumbai Band Smalltalk Emerge Winners at Bandcubator 2017
The neo-soul band take home prize money of Rs 1.5 lakh, an EP recording deal, a multi-city tour and more
After five long weeks of selections and eliminations, the finale of the second edition of Pune’s most popular band hunt Bandcubator was held last evening at The High Spirits Cafe in Pune. The evening saw five rising bands from Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru vying for the winning trophy that promised everything from a record deal to a multi-city tour. Mumbai neo-soul band Smalltalk emerged winners while their city-mates, the rock band Last Minute, won the Brisky Popular Choice award.
The brainchild of The High Spirits Cafe’s founder Khodu Irani, Bandcubator was launched in 2016 with an aim to promote budding talent. Edition one saw Mumbai alt rock trio Unohu take home the prize after battling it out with some of the country’s finest bands. Like last year, this season’s finale too saw a diverse mix of genres on display—apart from Smalltalk and Last Minute, the finalists included local soul rockers Eden, alt rock band Scriptures in the Attic and indie rockers Inthenow from Bengaluru.
The finale kicked off with a set by Smalltalk, who immediately got heads turning with their single “Shining,” a track with an intriguing John Mayer-meets Hiatus Kaiyote neo soul sound. With perfectly cushioned odd time rests and volume shifts between grooves, bassist Yohann Coutinho (also of Unohu) and drummer Linford D’souza (of Mumbai alt rockers BLEK) seemed happily drowned amidst their parts, sharing a laugh every now and then at probable mistakes only they could tell.
Their set was beautifully led by frontman Samarth Bahl who played around with his parts through a vocal processor, blanketing the overall sound as they moved into “You Don’t Even” and “Hec.” But the person who stole the show was lead guitarist Shankar—he would tiptoe in and out of each track, playing some of the most free-flowing yet lucid guitar solos we’ve heard in a while. Smalltalk ended the set with the soulful “I Don’t Know Where to Go from Here” even as the crowd wildly requested for encores.
The next band on stage was Week Four’s favorite act: Inthenow. The Bengaluru rockers started on a high note, whipping up frenetic riffs, tight grooves and filling choruses on the songs “Within Me” and “Falling Out of Line.” After quick round of stage histrionics, the band members exchanged instruments and played the best song of their set. “Summer Breeze” struck an instant chord with the crowd with its anthemic refrains and robust guitar work. Inthenow ended the set with “Jungleman,” a song about Tamil Nadu’s scenic hill town of Kodaikanal.
With both Smalltalk and Inthenow having played stellar sets, it was only natural for the rest of the finalists to experience some performance anxiety. Pune-based Scriptures In The Attic tried to put their best foot forward but managed to woo everyone only towards the end of their set. Bassist Tushar Verma’s (also of the city-based post-rock outfit Celestial Teapot) slick basslines backed by the vocalist duo comprising the George brothers (Girin and Githin) did fetch the band a roar from the audience as they concluded their performance with the soaring “Traveller.”
Knowing what was at stake, the boys from Eden also gave it their all. Frontman Clynton Fernandes, with his trademark Freddie Mercury-style high vocals, enthralled everyone with their set comprising mostly ballads. Somewhere towards the end of their set, Fernandes pulled a rabbit out of his hat and played an ethereal violin piece on a song called “First Timers.” The soothing strings were a much-needed respite from the relentless guitar onslaught. It was also heartwarming to see Eden’s drummer Akshay Nathwani killing it on their stage, despite being wheelchair-bound due to an injury he sustained recently.
Bandcubator 2017 finale was judged by a panel of some of indie music’s most influential names – Randolph Correia (Pentagram, Shaa’ir + Func, Func), Koco (Agnee), Nikhil Udupa (4/4 Entertainment) and Christopher Fonseca (Chehre, Strange Brew, Colonial Cousins).
The night ended with the announcement of Smalltalk’s triumph (it was bassist Coutinho’s second win in row with two different bands). The band took home a cash prize of 1.5 lakh rupees, an EP recording deal with Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studios, a music video screening slot on 9XO and a four-city tour with the artist management agency Mixtape—not a bad springboard for a six-month band at all!
PS – In other news, we’ve heard bands are lining up to ask ‘lucky charm’ Coutinho to play bass for them next year
All photos by Swaraj Sriwastav.