How Indo-Canadian Producer Arnob Bal Is Shaping the Sound of Indian Indie Musicians
The Mumbai-based sound engineer has recently worked on music with Indian artists Tejas, Short Round and The Koniac Net
When growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland in Canada, Indo-Canadian multi-instrumentalist/producer Arnob Bal managed to get his hands on American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers’ documentary Funky Monks which chronicles the making of their 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. “I watched it just over and over again religiously because I knew how to play that album at that time, at least on guitar, bass, drums, so I was just fascinated by that.” He adds, “As I watched it more, I noticed [American producer] Rick Rubin more than the Chili Peppers and I saw what he was doing and kind of how he was guiding them. I was like, ‘Oh that’s what a record producer does. That should be my career.’”
Bal tells us that his father was a singer and that his mother was always a patron of the arts. He says, “Music was a big thing in my family.” The producer’s musical taste includes everything from hip-hop and jazz to rock, metal and even country music. “I was buying CDs of film scores, the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack and ambient electronic tracks which opened up my mind.” Bal also began to develop an appreciation for songwriting while still in school.
After graduating from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Bal traveled for a few years and lived in Scotland before moving to Toronto. “I spent a year in a dead-end job working for an American health insurance company.” Once he quit his job, the producer started working on making his own music. In 2010, Bal began collaborating with artists in Toronto and by 2013 he recorded musician DrewLIVE (formerly known as AndrewLIVE)’s album LIVE From The 32nd Floor. He says, “That was the first full-length album I ever produced. And the title of the album was because we both lived together on the 32nd floor of this condominium in Toronto.” He adds, “Looking back it was just such a huge deal for me.”
Next, Bal was eager to work with a rock band. After watching Toronto rockers The Lipstick Junkies at a gig upon a friend’s request, he knew he wanted to produce their music. He says, “The energy was just unbelievable.” Bal adds, “I have no idea how I’m going to convince these random dudes that I don’t know that I should produce an album for them.” After Bal’s friend got him acquainted with the group, they began work on The Lipstick Junkie’s debut self-titled record (2014). The producer explains that this was the first album where he came in with a pen and paper and a proper plan to execute. He says, “The second that I showed up for this for the first time to make this album with a band, I felt I’ve just been training my whole life to do this in my mind [and] I’ve just been going through this process and then finally I have the chance to do it.” He adds, “It was such a smooth process.”
In 2015, Bal moved to Mumbai after the passing of his father and he says, “I dedicated to actually living in Bombay, living in the city, making friends and actually making connections.”
During this time, Bal’s then-girlfriend was visiting him in Mumbai from Canada and she happened to have an aunt living in Bandra. Bal narrates that after finding out he was musically inclined, the aunt gave him a phone number of a local musician. That musician happened to be Mumbai rockers The Koniac Net’s drummer Karun Kannampilly. “He took ownership of me, invited me to places and made sure that I showed up. If there’s a party or something, nine times out of 10 I would just go even if I felt like I didn’t want to go,” says Bal. The following year, Bal also tried his hand at producing Bollywood tracks but didn’t fancy it too much. He says, “I found that the feedback was also uniform and commercialized and in a corporate way.”
Bal’s next project probably has to go down as his most ambitious yet. The producer worked with Canadian alternative band Roundelay on their 2017 album There Just Might Be Enough Time. What makes it ambitious was that all of Roundelay’s band members were scattered around different parts of Canada at the time. Ask Bal what he did and he says, “Two guys, the guitarist and singer live in my hometown St. John’s Newfoundland. The drummer was living in Toronto which is a two and a half hour flight at least from St. John’s and the bass player was living in Whistler, British Columbia, which is on the other end of the country, five time zones away. I was like, ‘Listen, you guys stay where you are. I will fly to you.’” And that’s how Bal got the recording done for the band. He returned to Mumbai to mix the record at The Koniac Net’s guitarist Jason D’Souza’s Frank Gabriel Audio studio.
2019 has been quite a year for Bal in terms of music that’s been released by Indian artists he’s worked with. In January Mumbai singer-songwriter Tejas released his electronica leaning single “River” which included Bal’s touch under the moniker FamLi. By April, The Koniac Net put out their new record They Finally Herd Us and in June Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Jishnu Guha aka Short Round dropped his latest offering Favourite Strangers, with producer credits for both records going to Bal.
Currently, Bal is working on voice-overs, his own electronica music under the moniker FamLi as well as Mumbai singer-songwriter Mali’s forthcoming record. Ask Bal what the best part of his job is and he says, “Every now and then you put on something that you’ve done and it’s actually good and you’re shocked. You’re like, ‘Wow!’ That’s satisfying.”