The Other People Get Original
One of the most popular cover bands in the country releases an album of originals this week
The Other People from Mumbai were the unlikeliest choice for Independence Rock, better known as IROCK, an annual band competition, which used to be one of the biggest music events in the country. The six-member cover band’s frontman and vocalist Zarir Warden agrees, “Farhad Wadia [founder of IROCK] came to a few of our shows and called me very enthusiastically one day asking us to perform at IROCK, in 2011. I told him, ‘No chance. We’ll get killed.’ But it went off brilliantly. We played to about 10,000 people.”
The band’s rhythm guitarist Samuel ‘Sam’ Berlie, 30, who has been with the band since it formed in 2004, jokes, “It’s safe to say no one took off their shirts when we were on stage.” The Other People chose their setlist carefully for the predominantly metal audience to include Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home.” Adds Warden, 29, “But picture this: they had a hard alternative band who were the winners that year [Aftertaste] before us and Bhayanak Maut after us.” The band’s 45-year-old lead guitarist Gavin Cason pipes in, “They frightened us off stage also.” Warden joins in, “And there was Brahma after that. So we were like these little mice on stage. I don’t think we’ve ever been so scared before a gig. We went out to eat after our soundcheck and when we drove back into the stadium, we saw only men wearing black T-shirts. Our reaction was: ‘Fuck all the gear inside, let us turn around and run.’ But once we were on stage, we had a great time.”
Looking back, Warden admits that it was this show that convinced him to give up his day job at his father’s tour operating company to ensure that The Other People went places. Five years on, the band has performed at a wedding at a Parsi Agiary, swimsuit calendar launches, diamond jubilee birthday bashes, earned a residency of sorts at one of the best clubs in the country, and turned into one of the most popular retro pop bands in the country.
This week, The Other People are readying to launch their first album #Dreamers #Believers #Lovers, which includes mostly originals and two covers. Says Warden when asked what their reasons were to release an album when their repertoire of covers has brought them fame, “It doesn’t hurt our pride that we do covers. However, as a musician, you do need to grow and get creative. We’ve thought about it in the past as well – we started writing four or five years ago.” They caught the attention of Universal Publishing Music’s [UMP] managing director Achille Forler after they won a contest on YouTube titled The You Tube Fall Cover Carnival 2012. Says Warden, “It was organized by The Pixel Project [a Virginia-based NGO], which was working towards empowerment of women and to stop violence against women. We were invited to take part and send them a rendition of a song done by Kelly Clarkson called “Dark Side” We submitted our rendition and from 40 entries world over, we won. That was a big stepping stone for us because we got noticed after that.”
While UMP took care of the studio expenses, Warden wrote most of the lyrics on the album. Says the singer, “We wanted to keep it as simple as possible. We’re not trying to be extraordinary. Most of our songs have an anthemic vibe. This is how we work it out. If we’re playing in Wembley tomorrow and there are 75,000 people, how are we going to get them to sing along?” As a result #Dreamers #Believers #Lovers sounds like an Eighties American pop candy – think Wham! – with buoyant choruses and vanilla lyrics. Says Warden, “We’re not trying to write very deep lyrics or very dark lyrics or being very poetic even. If you’re driving in your car, you’d like to listen to the album. We like to give people what they want and they come back.”
Indeed, their fans have returned year after year, as the band played packed shows as part of the Retro Night, every last Saturday of the month at Blue Frog, Mumbai. Says the oldest member in the band, 64-year-old bassist Aloysious “Loy” Henriques, who looks like an Indian version of Ozzy, “No two gigs are the same. We have a huge playlist of over 200 songs. There are a few songs that you know people come to listen to – they don’t ever get fed up – but every time, we bring subtle differences in how we play the song so it remains fresh for us.” Adds Warden, “We played “Faith” at our first show 11 years ago at Not Just Jazz By The Bay and we do it at every show and the response we get to that at every show is ridiculous.” Their shows are high octane three-hour, no break affairs with their repertoire stretching from Ricky Martin’s “Livin La Vida Loca” to Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky.” Says Warden, “I work very hard on being a frontman. I have never considered myself to be the best singer or the greatest singer in the world. I know I can sing but I concentrate a lot more on the whole performance and interaction.” Drummer Jai Row Kavi, who has also played with the band in the past says, “They’re one of the most hard working bands I know. They had so many songs on their setlist that I hadn’t heard of, so it was so much fun playing with them.”
While rhythm guitarist Berlie and Warden, friends since college, first got together to form the band that has seen several line up changes, the band’s current line up includes keyboardist Garth D’Mello [who incidentally has a degree in Geology], 24, drummer Atish Thomas, 23, Henriques on bass and lead guitarist Cason. Henriques and Cason played together in a band at Starboard, the bar at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel, and quit to join The Other People seven years ago. Says Cason, “I’ve done a lot of Bollywood shows and I hated it. I came to fill in for another guitarist and stayed on. I’d given up work with all my other bands because I was enjoying what I was doing with this band. When we six are together, it’s great chemistry on stage.” You see this camaraderie off stage as well. The band members finish off each other’s sentences and don’t miss an opportunity to mock each other.
The Other People hope that this chemistry, fired by a whole lot of ambition will help them break through to a new audience in South East Asia. Says Warden, “We’ve stuck to our guns and yes, family and friends show up to support you for the first show. But we knew nobody was doing us a favor when we could see people enjoy themselves show after show.”
#Dreamers #Believers #Lovers by The Other People will be launched at Hard Rock Cafe, Worli on August 20th, 9 pm onwards. Entry: Rs 500 (cover). The album will be available on iTunes starting August 21st.