Sunneith Revankar Talks About the Long Road to Releasing His Debut Solo EP ‘Hymns For The Drunk’
The vocalist of metal bands Undying Inc. and The Silent Offensive floated the folk/indie project Shipperman in 2016 with the single “Pills”
It showcased a more vulnerable side to the former co-frontman of metallers Bhayanak Maut and the project brought in friends like guitarist-producers Nikhil Singh, R. Venkatraman (also from Bhayanak Maut) and Adhiraj Singh (from metal band Noiseware). An album was in the works but Revankar was also upfront about the road ahead. “With this solo album, there’s a lot of coordination involved. It can get quite tedious, if I may be honest,” he told Rolling Stone India.
As it turns out, Revankar – who moved from Bengaluru back to Mumbai and exited Bhayanak Maut, eventually becoming a part of metal band Undying Inc. and launching The Silent Offensive over the last six years – was still unsure of Shipperman. He says, “I decided to just put my head down, stick to metal, and keep doing what comes naturally to me – running from responsibilities. But like a very sexy run.”
Interest in the project was sparked again only years later, which pushed Revankar to put together another team of musicians and record what became his debut EP under the moniker Shipperman, Hymns for the Drunk. Angad Bhatia helms guitar and bass duties, while Shezan Shaikh aka Ronin handles cinematic synth flourishes (and produced the opening and closing tracks “Killarney Deep” and the title song) and Siddharth Basrur took on co-producing Hymns for the Drunk, alongside adding keyboard and bass.
Released last month, the five-track EP explores storytelling like Revankar has never done before, delving into grief and introspection over sometimes folksy, sometimes dreamy and indie production. Revankar might still be a powerhouse growler but his quietened sung vocals are astonishingly evocative and openhearted in a weathered kind of way, heard on songs like “Football Season Is Over,” “Roju” and “Spitshine Strawberries.”
In an email interview with Rolling Stone India, Revankar talks about the journey of Shipperman, how seminal rock band Screaming Trees’ late frontman Mark Lanegan is connected to it and what’s coming next. Excerpts:
Hymns for the Drunk is out about six years after the first song “Pills.” What was it like reaching the stage of being ready to release the EP? And of course, what was the time-consuming aspect?
One sunny day in February, years later, I felt like it was time to bring Shipperman back to life. My wife Nishtha suggested I speak to Angad [Bhatia], who’s her first cousin, that maybe he’d be the right guy to help me bring this project to life. This kid is the future. He’s so talented. He’s also the most stoic and inexpressive person I know. He scares the shit out of me.
I invited Angad home for some beer and pizza, and we just spoke and listened to songs. I told him what I had in mind for the sound of Shipperman, did some referencing with him, and sent him some extremely rough song ideas which gave him a feel of the space I wanted to play in. A few months later I had the three songs in my inbox along with the intro and outro that Shezan wrote [after losing the two songs he had originally written because he didn’t remember what he had titled them. They’re still somewhere in one of his hard disks]. I called up Basrur and asked him if he’d be willing to mentor me through the vocal recording and production phase, and he thankfully said yes. I sent the songs to Z [Zorran Mendonsa, audio engineer and producer] in January and here we are.
The most time-consuming aspect of this process was definitely the vocal recording. Basrur is an extremely patient man but he’s also a hard taskmaster. He really pushed me through the vocal recording process. There were good days where we’d wrap up a song in five hours. There were days where I wouldn’t land a single note. In the end, it was incredibly fulfilling.
You’d previously worked with Venky, Nikhil, Joy and Adhiraj. The tracks that bookend the EP – “Killarney Deep” and the title song – have this post-rock, atmospheric sort of sensibility. What did you want to convey with those two tracks?
The title “Killarney Deep” is a tribute to Mark Lanegan. I was actually in talks with Mark about him doing the spoken word on the song. I even sent him the whole EP pre-mix master. There was radio silence after a point, I guess he didn’t vibe with the songs. But the fact that a) I got to speak with one of my idols and b) had him not only entertain a dialogue with me but also listen to my music is just incredible to me. I was broken when I read about his passing. A part of me still can’t believe he’s gone.
I am a huge fan of Shezan’s cinematic work. You hear what he’s done on Cargo and that’s not what you get to hear regularly in Indian productions. That’s some truly grand, high-quality international-grade work. The concept of Hymns for the Drunk is about faith for the most part – or rather grappling with it. I wanted the two songs to lay a grand, yet bleak canvas for the narrative – God narrating the time he met a guy at a bar on “Killarney Deep” and the man narrating the time he met God at a bar on “Hymns for the Drunk.” Shoutout to my friend Viraaj Braganza who has captured both voices with so much love and detail. Fun fact – vocals for both spoken-word pieces were recorded and sent by Viraaj on WhatsApp.
You did also mention about “Roju” online and how it was about your mother. It feels like one of those tracks that wasn’t easy to write but cathartic when it was finished.
It was quite cathartic writing “Roju,” yes. I wasn’t debilitated or overcome or anything of that sort during the writing and recording of “Roju.” Truth is, my sister and I never really got to mourn her passing. This song felt like I was finally mourning her and giving that grief some kind of form. Almost like I wanted to turn that grief into a song and put it out there so that I can keep my eye on it.
Now that this EP is out, what else is coming up for you through 2022, with Shipperman as well as your other projects?
Something very exciting is brewing in both the Undying Inc. and The Silent Offensive camps. I want to give a shoutout to my bandmates in both acts for being so patient with me through this past year while Hymns for the Drunk was being made.
Listen/buy ‘Hymns for the Drunk’ below. Stream on more platforms here.