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Here Comes the Fuzz

Delhi rockers The Superfuzz wait in the lull before what promises to be a pretty decent storm

Aug 09, 2008

Laxman Anand

As far as rock trios go, The Superfuzz (originally Superfuzz Bigmuff, after Mudhoney’s debut album) have more in common with, say, Dinosaur Jr than the Seattle band whose name you probably thought of first. Because purveyors of hard-hitting angsty guitar-heavy pop they might be, but without the iconoclastic or self-destructive inclinations. “I am mainly influenced by pop songwriting”¦ The Beatles, Led Zeppelin,” lead vocalist/guitarist Sanchal Malhar tells Rolling Stone. So the lads – the band is completed by bassist Nikhil Rufus and drummer Aditya Paharia – know their classics well. Which means that while they might often begin with cliché, the end result is far from a foregone conclusion.

In case you are new to this band, The Superfuzz came in second at the 2004 Campus Rock Idols, which obviously pissed them off, since they went on to win the Great Indian Rock in 2006 and Channel [V]’s eagerly contested pan-Indian battle of the bands, Launch Pad, with assured recklessness in 2007. A series of nods from the powers that be, which are finally bearing fruit for them, as we’ll see. What but, can we say of the sound that’s captured many an imagination? Well, given the slightly narrow aforementioned context, it is quite diverse. A typically grungy song, like ‘School’ (“Lets pretend we’re a happy hearted bunch of people today”), might be rescued by some surprisingly melodic guitar-bass interplay. Metal and blues-rock may frantically vie for space (‘Four Times and Once After’) before abruptly changing direction and tempo after a spoken-word break taken right out of Alex Turner’s book. Pop-punk motifs (‘What I Really Think’) might make way for chiming guitars and a thumping alternative riff backed by an as-one rhythm section. The band is also capable of wading into sentimentality, as they do on ‘Maple,’ a short ballad with moody seconds that wonders what would happen if “I asked you to love me another time.” (You can hear all these songs, which are part of a four-song demo, on their MySpace page.)

Even on the basis, and perhaps because of the location, of our short interaction in the tiny glass wool-lined cubicle in one corner of a tinier third floor South Delhi apartment, it is clear that the one thing we don’t have here is a bunch of pretenders. “The rent for this place barely comes to two-three thousand per head [the flat is shared by four friends]”¦ and we hardly have any expenses,” said Malhar. “This is all we’re doing right now,” Paharia chipped in almost immediately, as if to make clear that what one saw, was it. Though they’ve played only a couple of times this long and muggy summer, in the time since winning Launch Pad last year the band has been busy on a slightly larger scale. Besides being offered the Hard Rock Café stage in New York for winning LP (they will perform in September), The Superfuzz were handpicked by John Leckie, after a private performance, to be one of four Indian outfits to fly to London for a special recording compilation overseen by the legendary producer himself. Then there’s the possibility of gigging in the UK and the impending recording of their debut, which already has a substantial longlist of fifteen or so titles. Clearly not a time to worry about day jobs, sedentary summer or not.

Talking a few weeks ago to Adhiraj Mustafi, the founder of Prospect A&M (the people who brought us Eastwind), the conversation drifted to, of course, western music in India. And in an interesting observation, coming as it did from a musician himself (Mustafi has played in HFT and Level 9), the drummer offered that more than record labels, new copyright laws and thought control, what rock & roll really needed now was for a band to come along and step up the game. While it might still be early days to find the answer in our trio here, to see The Superfuzz live, it’s hard not to see what John Leckie saw. Already masterlings of the 3-minute scorcher, they also have the knack for penning that odd lyric with anthemic potential. Now, if only the generation they’re born in has the imagination to own them.

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