Simple lyrics and five-chord tracks prop up The Supersonics’ from Kolkata who have a debut album coming up
The origin of The Supersonics lies in a shared revulsion for cover bands that left little space for candour or creativity. A time came when four musicians ”” bassist Nitin Mani, drummer Avinash Chordia, Sen and singer/guitarist Rohan Ganguli ”” found themselves at vocalist/guitarist Anando Sen’s home on Kolkata’s Park Street ”” moping lots, smoking some, always irked. “In our own ways, we were all frustrated for doing what we were doing then. We had to give vent,” The result was Supersonics ”” a meaning-business, brook-no-convention, we-play-originals-only rock collective.
Now two years, 40-odd original tracks and countless concerts wiser, stupidity, for Sen, is their categorical devotion to a cause that has often failed to post returns. “We are doing this at a great cost,” he sums up the issue of lack of support to music that doesn’t quite pander to mainstream or established palates. “In fact, we are lucky to be in Kolkata where rock music audiences are more liberal and less aggressive. But if Kolkata is the best among the metros in India, it’s pretty sad really.”
For Ganguli, it is the carefully handcrafted nature of their music that is the driving force. Sharing songwriting responsibilities with Sen, Ganguli draws inspiration from the wellsprings of the Beatles’ and classic punksters The Clash, among others. Stripped down structures (“We don’t have many songs with more than five chords,” informs Mani) and accessible sentiments (“Little joys dance in her eyes/ small feathers fall from the sky because/ she looks so beautiful tonight”, goes a line from ‘Love Song for a Blotter or a Lover’) prop up The Supersonics sound.
“Lyrically we deal with the very basic issues. Sex, depression, happiness, god, and we keep it simple,” says Sen, for whom Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead enjoy top-of-the-mind recall. “And there is no point playing complex chords when three chords can do the work well,” adds Ganguli.
Going by the premise that Indian bands are rarely willing to move out of carefully-cultivated brackets (“it’s either too heavy or too poppy; only metal or only like Coldplay”), the Supersonics have patterned their music. In reality their music is a combination of much of the above: heavy at times, poppy too; if not heavy metal, occasionally quite like Coldplay. Part improvisational, part predictable.
And there are songs like ‘Moving’ that takes a distinct Rolling Stones approach, while ‘I Don’t Ever Want To’, with lines like ‘I don’t ever want to be god/ I don’t ever want to lie dead by a doll’ and consciously bloated vocals, evoke Frank Zappa in mood and sentiment. “Some say our music reflects that of The Strokes, but how many of us get to hear The Strokes perform?” contends Ganguli, while avoiding being pigeonholed. “We follow the tradition of songwriting and when a good song comes up we don’t care if its rock, punk, rap or jazz.”
So they are “just a rock band.” When the band performs at the Princeton Club in south Kolkata, it’s a listener supported affair, with friends among fans taking charge of designing ingenious posters and the website, writing band profiles and managing Supersonics’ affairs.
On stage, the vibe is casually chic and the music interactive as the band rolls out songs from its 40-song kitty. There is the chirpy ‘Yeah Whatever’, the super-charged ‘Hey Aloha’ and when the band launches into the punk-rock ‘In Memory Of’, the first few rows in the audience match lyric for lyric.
The song recently made it to the Kolkata Underground album, brought out by Saregama along with Mumbai and Delhi Underground albums. With a contagious two line chorus and frantic rhythm, ‘In Memory Of’ is a sellout tune in more ways than one. “We had to change a couple of words and substituted it with a theme about selling out. We did it this time, but we won’t do it for too long,” holds out Sen.
Their time is coming, reckons the band. Says Chordia: “This year we are determined to record our first album, irrespective of any company signing us. We have to get our first album out of the way. We’ve gotta move on.” Maby Baking, their debut album and a baby in the making for two years, when it is delivered, hopes the band, will set the record straight for The Supersonics.
‘Yeah Whatever’:Â A sing-along chorus, easy construction and stress-free sentiments. Come join the band.
‘In Memory Of’:Â Oozing attitude. Simple in design, potent in effect. Catch the catchphrases that are the scourge of record companies. Great fun.