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In The Studio: BLEK

The Mumbai alt punk trio channel vanity on their second EP

Anurag Tagat May 07, 2013
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Midicore studios on the first floor of an apartment complex in Andheri, can fill up easily, but is just right for a three-piece band like BLEK. Bassist Jared Creado and guitarist Rishi Bradoo take the couch, with guitars in hand, while drummer Varoon Aiyer sits in a corner, kicking away on an electronic drum kit, as they take turns to rib each other. Producer Ayan De sits scribbling notes on a swirling office chair as the band records songs for their new EP. Creado insists that the studio is not small, by Indian standards. “This is the same size as Randolph’s (Correia, guitarist of electro pop duo Shaa’ir + Func and electro rock band Pentagram) practice room.” The bassist regards the guitars hanging from neck stands on the wall and says, “He (Correia) doesn’t even do that. He keeps his guitars on the floor.”

It’s a familiar place for the Mumbai alt punk/dance rock band, who also recorded their first EP, Hexes + Drama and Other Reasons For Evacuation, at Midicore Studios with De. BLEK is all about transition, which is why they didn’t want to put out a full-length album as a follow up to their 2012 EP. “There’s more experimentation, because we’re still trying to find our sound. We weren’t comfortable enough to do a whole album,” says Aiyer. The drummer adds that he has been listening to a lot of metal and dance music, but credits only EDM as an influence on his drumming. “We decided the only time we would put out an album would be when we say, ”˜Okay, this is going to be our sound for the new album. Let’s write an entire album around this idea’,” says Bradoo.

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For their new four (or five) track yet-to-be-titled EP, the lyrical theme is vanity. The first EP was “really emo shit,” according to Bradoo, who adds: “It was just different reactions to women.” Within an hour, they track “Here, There and Back Again,” “Dance With Wolves,” “Back At The Start,” all staples at their gigs. “Calvin,” a new track with a working title, starts out like a theme to a cowboy Western, but is roomier and filled with more instrumental sections. That might be because Bradoo hasn’t written its lyrics yet. The guitarist admits that he ends up singing nonsense lyrics at some gigs. “I’m usually making up lyrics on stage. We often start playing songs live before their structure is done. If the lyrics aren’t written, that means the structure isn’t fixed yet. That’s why they are deliberately unnamed,” says Bradoo. While tracking “Newest,” which features a jumpy dance beat from Aiyer, Bradoo begins goofing around on the guitar, but the track remains tight.

De, who rarely interrupts to point out glitches to the band, seems more of a pal than mentor producer. De jokes that the band chose to work at his studio only because of its proximity to a coffee shop. “From a production point of view, we have a trust thing where I can tell them, ”˜Oh that part just sucks,’ or ”˜What are you singing there? It doesn’t make sense.’ Or they can tell me that my idea is terrible,” says De. The producer says he wants to tap into “this whole vintage indie dance sound” with BLEK. “Where it sounds a little saturated, a little heavy, a little unclean (but) very dancey, very glued together,” he says, before adding: “We might add some trumpets.”

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Through the session, De can’t stop poking fun of Bradoo’s guitar parts, threatening to remove them from tracked songs and add his own. After tracking “Dance With Wolves,” De and Aiyer get into a discussion of tracking drums from a live kit, so that the cowbell sounds just right. They begin listing all studios equipped for live drums, and De also assigns some homework to Bradoo. “Write down all the lyrics of the songs, or at least whatever you have,” De says, as he hands Bradoo a notebook and pen.

This month, BLEK head out to the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, UK. De promises he will ready a “new sounding EP” by the time the band returns to Mumbai. The band hopes to stay true to the dance rock sound in the new EP, which is slated to release in June. “When we write songs, we expect a room full of people dancing. We want to keep those people dancing, and we don’t want to do it as DJs or anything,” says Creado. 


This article appeared in the May 2013 issue of Rolling Stone India  


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