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Artists To Watch Out For: The F16s

When they’re not dodging cops, the Chennai electro-rockers are playing all over the country supporting their debut EP ‘Kaleidoscope’

Anurag Tagat Dec 14, 2013
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The F16s

(From left) Vikram Yesudas, Josh Fernandez, Harshan Radhakrishnan, Shashank Manohar and Abhinav Krishnaswamy Photo: Courtesy Siddharth Dugha

Who: Formed in August 2012, members of The F16s got together after playing in Chennai with several other bands. Vocalist-guitarist Josh Fernandez, bassist Shashank Manohar, keyboardist/sampler Harshan Radhakrishnan and drummer Vikram Yesudas had previously played together in the rock ”˜n roll band Blacklisted, alt rock band Bishop’s Got Papes and prog rock band Totem. Guitarist Abhinav Krishnaswamy was previously with Chennai alt rock band The Shakey Rays and stepped in when The F16s’ original guitarist Viraj Yesudas quit this July.  Says Krishnaswamy, who also plays with Chennai alt rock band Adam and The Fish Eyed Poets, “I’d seen The F16s play and liked them but then, I was already with The Shakey Rays. After The Shakey Rays decided to move to Delhi, I decided to join The F16s since I already knew most of the songs.” Krishnaswamy joined the band when the band’s debut EP Kaleidoscope was almost complete and ended up playing on just “My Shallow Lover.”

Sound: Kaleidoscope proves how a band can use electronica to win over  both bassheads and rock fans. On the same page as bands like The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Vampire Weekend, The F16s also drive into the dance floor with electronica influences ranging from trip hop to dubstep. While the other members knew their electronica and had similar musical leanings, guitarist Krishnaswamy got an initiation. “There’s so much electronica out there. I’m barely  scratching the surface right now.” The guitarist adds that newer material is moving into “much calmer territory” although The F16s continue to work on heavier, rock-oriented songs. At their live gigs, they follow American elecro-alt rock band Mutemath’s lead and switch instruments around for a noisy closing jam, all drums beating and guitars on overdrive. 

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Big Break: Even before the release of their debut seven-track EP, Kaleidoscope in August, The F16s were playing festivals such as India Bike Week, the first edition of which was held in Goa this year. As soon as the EP released, the band performed in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. 

Work and Play: When we spoke to them, three out of five members, who are still in college, were prepping to reappear for some of their exams, but Fernandez says that their sole focus would be music once college is out of the way. That, and evading the police. Says Fernandez, “We used to get caught by cops. It was for the usual ”“ drunk driving and bar fights. We ended up in the police station once and spent time taking a couple of pictures and just talking.” 

On The Cards: Although The F16s usually  stay away from college competitions, they played at Hornbill International Rock Contest in Nagaland and later head to perform at the semifinals of IIT Bombay’s Livewire band competition. The band agrees they could use the prize money to fund their album and jams. Says Krishnaswamy, “It costs a bomb to jam and we can’t afford to book a jam room for a whole day.” Fernandez says Kaleidoscope was recorded entirely from the band’s earnings from gigs and competitions over the last year, but feels competitions often don’t take music seriously. Radhakrishnan adds, “We do competitions for two reasons ”“ one is to reach out to new audiences and college organizers, who can get us more gigs, and the other is the money.” The F16s will also play at the three-day Magnetic Fields Festival in Rajasthan and a few gigs in Delhi and Gurgaon, before winding up in Goa to usher in the new year. 

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Spin This:  The mellow “Light Bulbs,” can get the party started, but an F16s live set really kicks into gear during, “Little Forest Cry,” when Radhakrishnan drops the bass, dubstep-style.

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of the Rolling Stone magazine

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