Skyharbor: For the Long Run
After playing to packed houses in India, prog metallers Skyharbor prep for their longest Europe tour yet to promote their new album ‘Guiding Lights’
When prog metal band Skyharbor was formed in 2011, producer and guitarist Keshav Dhar said he didn’t set up India tours since they had few digital or merchandise sales to encourage them. Four years and one very successful album later, Dhar has changed his mind about Indian audiences.
When Skyharbor launched their second album Guiding Lights in November 2014, they played to packed audiences at NH7 Weekender in Pune and Delhi NCR, followed by club shows in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and another open-air show in Guwahati. Says Dhar, “We were really surprised – we sold a lot of merch this time, it was amazing. We ended up falling short. We had a fair bit of CDs available but they just disappeared. There were a few shows where we had nothing to sell and there were a lot of disappointed people.”
Skyharbor are more or less regulars on the European metal circuit now, and they’re set to make a bigger mark with their longest-running tour yet — 29 dates in 30 days. The band will be part of an all-international billing, alongside Australian post-rock band Sleepmakeswaves and Polish instrumental rock/metal band Tides From Nebula when they take to stage this month. Skyharbor are stopping by 14 countries, including UK, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland and more. Dhar jokes about playing 29 shows with just one day off, “It takes a full day to drive from Paris to Madrid. We can’t get there in a day, otherwise we would’ve put a gig in there as well. Our booking agency is pretty ruthless that way.” He’s certainly not one to complain about the back-breaking, relentless touring, because the guitarist and producer feels that’s the only way the band will break even with their funds. Adds Dhar, “We’ve always gone into massive losses every time we’ve gone out. This is really how tours are supposed to be.”
While guitarist Devesh Dayal will be taking time off from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and UK-based vocalist Dan Tompkins [now back with prog metallers TesseracT] will give his full attention to Skyharbor for the duration of the tour, but drummer Anup Sastry, who has been busy with Canadian prog metal band Intervals’s next album, won’t be making it on the tour. Says Dhar, “It’s just a case of conflicting schedules.” While that’s what kept Sastry from touring India last year as well, Skyharbor have roped in Mumbai-based drummer Aditya Ashok, who has previously played with alt metal band Goddess Gagged. Skyharbor asked Ashok, who is also a drum and bass producer who goes by the stage name Ox7gen and plays drums for Mumbai electro dance pop band Shaa’ir + Func, to record a video playthrough of one of their tracks before they could sign him on. Says Dhar, “His style is obviously very different to what Anup’s style is, but he pulls it off. He’s able to execute it. We can sense that he’s had a bit of touring experience as well.”
Ashok says playing with Skyharbor on their India tour was quite intense, but 29 shows in a month is a first. Adds the drummer, “I’ve been playing the whole [Skyharbor] set every day for a month now so that my fingers get used to it, and I’m building my stamina up. You can prepare all you want, but things will obviously change on the road.” Just like fans in India were expecting Sastry behind the kit, Ashok is aware he has to prove himself to fans in Europe as well. Says Ashok, “I didn’t intend to do exactly what he does, or waste my time learning the intricate fills. I cannot match up to him skill-wise, but I’m playing for the song.”
Once the tour is done, Ashok plans to head straight to Goa to laze on the beach, going from Europe’s sub-zero temperatures to sunny days. Dhar on the other hand, says that Skyharbor will continue to work on song ideas. He mentions that Tompkins may get busy with TesseracT, who have plans for a new album release this year. As for Skyharbor, Dhar says, “I don’t know what lies ahead, we’re just taking it one thing at a time.”