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The Mavyns – The Art Of The Analog

Spurred on by an adoring audience at Mumbai’s Blue Frog, the Sixties hippy/psychedelia-loving quartet The Mavyns launched their debut (studio) album From The Tree Of No Ledge with a stirring set that featured a revolving carousel of musical guests.

Shawn Fernandes Mar 22, 2012
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The Mavyns' Varoon Nair performs at their album launch gig at Blue Frog. (Photo: Tej Balachander)

The Mavyns are kind of like those camera apps you get for your smartphone. Apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram which take your pictures and give them that warm, fuzzy analog look. That’s exactly what the Mavyns do with their music ”“ they take their cues from contemporary rock and garage punk and infuse them with a warm, fuzzy layer of Sixties psychedelia and and lo-fi goodness.

Spurred on by an adoring audience at Mumbai’s Blue Frog, the Sixties hippy/psychedelia-loving quartet The Mavyns launched their debut (studio) album From The Tree Of No Ledge with a stirring set that featured a revolving carousel of musical guests.

Vivek Nair (Photo; Tej Balachander)

The Mavyns are Vivek Nair on lead vocals, guitars and keyboards, Varoon Nair on vocals, bass and guitar, Pradeep Mathews on lead guitar and vocals and Kristofor Paul Mendonca on drums and backing vocals. With their beards and long hair (only Mendonca has neither) reminiscent of early day Kings of Leon, The Magic Numbers and even a little ZZ Top, The Mavyns sound smacks of vintage Sixties garage rock dressed up in contemporary pop clothes.

Vivek Nair kicked things off ”“ “We’re The Mavyns, show us some love” and what followed was a lesson in the creative payoff that that comes from a band sticking to its musical vision.

Pradeep Mathews (Photo: Tej Balachander)

Having insisted on recording their debut studio album completely live, the Mavyns are masters of the gradual build-up in their live show, with almost all songs starting off unhurried and minimalistic, before growing into monster-sized stadium-busting rock outs.  Musically, the The Mavyns were able to pull off the paradox of appearing laidback on the one hand and running through a diverse array of musical ideas on the other, sometimes in the same song! The musical references in each of the songs swept by with a hyperkinetic energy, switching between tempos and genres at warp speed.

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The first three songs ”“ “Bad Milk” (bad-ass harmonica-fuelled bluegrass), “Little Woman” (“a lesson in positive manifestation”, according to vocalist Vivek Nair) and “Starseeds” (slow burning haze rock with guests Bradley Tellis on guitar, mouth harp players Neptune Chapotin and Kenroy Sequiera, and djembe player Anand Bhagat) ”“ saw the band swing between chugging garage rock and sweeping psychedelia.

Another impressive skill the band members have is the ability to switch between instruments and roles mid-act. Everyone plays everything and everybody sings! While this (and the entrance and exit of the various guest players) did stretch the time between songs (how everyone managed to keep switching instruments and places without smacking into each other is a skill in itself!), the band more than made up for it with their jaw-dropping dexterity.

Bass player Varoon Nair switched to guitar and lead vocals for the song “Vagabond” while lead guitarist Pradeep Mathews sang lead vocals on the jazz/soul tune “Under The Streetlight.”  The guests, including bansuri player Clive Vaz, added a new layer to the songs that fans won’t find on the record. On “Golden Silence,” the band used the flautist to create an almost Eastern exotica motif over a Sixties pyschedelia-meets-Sufjan Stevens moment. Sounds a little hard to imagine? The Mavyns are that kind of band!

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On “Soulfriend,” their soaring torch song, the band asked for the lights to be dimmed, building the tune from a simple piano intro into a huge stadium-shaking anthem with its “Take it as it comes” chorus. “The Long Dawn” saw lead guitarist Pradeep Mathews switch things up, singing the chugging soul-garage rocker in his raspy Joe Cocker-like style. The high point of the set (or so we thought till then) was the band’s performance of “Echoes,” where bass player Varoon Nair played a searing guitar solo that made our jaws drop. As if that weren’t enough, Mathews then jumped in for another scything solo that cut through the Blue Frog like tracer bullets during the Gulf war.  (For the record, I might be a little in love with Mathews’ bluesy wailing soloing style).

Kristofor Mendonca (Photo: Tej Balchander)

The band closed the gig with an all-star jam on a funky bass-led call-and-response cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Turn On Your Love Light.” Drummer Kristofor Mendonca, owned the song with his Steve Wonder impression, turning the song into the biggest song of the night. If this gig was at a musical festival, this would’ve been the point when you’d see the TV shots of the crowds getting up and going wild!

At the end of it all, the Mavyns gig seemed about four guys making the music they wanted to make and then having the time of their lives playing it live. The audience got that and went along for the ride with Messrs. Nair, Nair, Mathews & Mendonca. The Mavyns sound like no other band out there and that’s pretty much what makes them so special.

The Mavyns continue on their album launch tour in the following cities:

23 March, Friday: High Spirits, Pune

24 March, Saturday: BFlat, Bengaluru

29 March, Thursday: Blue Frog, Delhi

 

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