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Artists to Watch Out for: Machli

The recently formed electro-acoustic band on finding their feet

Paul Dharamraj Feb 24, 2014
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Bengaluru band Machli was formed in April last year Photo: Courtesy Machli

Bengaluru band Machli was formed in April last year Photo: Courtesy Machli

Once you get talking to them, it’s apparent that Bengaluru-based electro-acoustic/trip-hop band Machli belongs to that school of thought that believes in doing more with less.  Says keyboardist Aniruddh Shivakumar Menon, “Honestly, the reason our sound is so weird is because we can’t afford to buy other instruments.” Vocalist Sandhya Visvanathan interjects with “Yes, we’re so poor!” to collective guffaws.  In fact, they’ve only recently retired a 30-year-old Yamaha keyboard and traded it in for a newer MIDI one.

But the idea of keeping it simple isn’t limited to their gear alone, but is an ethic that has found its way into their tunes as well. Synth sounds,  sparse acoustic guitar chordwork and Visvanathan’s melancholic vocals make up their sound.  Even in their current fledgling stage, Machli has promise of musical maturity well beyond their years.

Formed in April 2013, the band has released three singles, all recorded in an apartment kitchen, that have made Bengaluru’s music scene sit up and take notice. Menon and guitarist Musharraf Shaikh, who are flat mates and study design along with the rest of the band at an art and design school in Bengaluru, began jamming and writing material for Machli. Meanwhile, classmate Visvanathan “was bullied” into joining after Menon “found out that she could sing very well.” Not long after, Maitreya Deepak Mer, who’d just started taking guitar lessons with Shaikh and was learning “prodigiously fast,” joined the band as their second guitarist.

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The ideas for jams seem to have been inspired by the all pervasive sound of Indian cinema among other influences. Their first single “Black Eye,” was built around an arbitrarily-downloaded sound sample from a random Hindi film that even Menon can’t remember. As the song segues from one section to the next, Menon throws on a sample of one of Rajnikanth’s iconic dialogue from the film Baasha. It’s an influence he attributes to his cinephile parents. “We tried to write the song from the point of view of a villain, who is coming to terms with the fact that he is a villain,” says Menon, adding touches of the cinematic influence as noticeable on all their jams, in terms of both the sonic aesthetic and the lyrics.

Playing on stage, however, has forced them to rejig their set a little; most recently, when they opened for singer-songwriter and frontman of now-defunct post-rockers Drones From The Turbine Anand Vijayasimha last month. Says Menon, “We’ve had to change our entire songwriting process. Like with “Ortala,” [their second single] it was impossible to play live with all the post production. So for the live version, we rewrote it with just a keyboard synth, a beat sample, two acoustic guitars and vocals.”

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But compromises such as this one aren’t a grave concern for the band ”” if anything, the stripped-down sound gives the songs more clarity, according to Visvanathan. With two more singles slated to release in the next few months, the band says that they’re always looking for creative ways to mold their tunes. In a parting jibe that revisits our earlier conversation about the limited gear, Menon adds with a grin that they’ve “just got a xylophone” and tells us to “expect some of that in the next few sets.”

Listen to Machli’s most recent single, “Nightsong,” here 


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