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Band of the month: Antariksh

How did the band come about?

Antariksh came about back in 2012, however the roots of the band were laid way before. Founder of the band, Varun Rajput used to play in a bunch of popular progressive rock bands Feedback and Under Siege from 2006 to 2010 before entering the corporate world as a management consultant. Once that happened, music took a back-seat – however as he mentions, all through his college years, he had dreamt of and wanted to explore the possibility of making a career out of playing music. After having worked in the corporate world for a few years, he decided to get back and give a serious shot at pursuing music as a full-time career. Fortunately, at the same time, his friends Mridul Ganesh and Gurtej Singh also had a similar ideas and came along. In August 2012, the three of them got together to write a bunch of songs and kickstarted Antariksh. Fortunately, Antariksh’s first single, ‘Dheere Dheere’ which was released in early 2013 did really well, which further propelled the band to write more music for their first album and take Antariksh more seriously. However, around 2014 Mridul left for the US and Gurtej also had to leave the band in 2015 as he was struggling to manage his day-job along with Antariksh since the band became more and more busy with touring. After Gurtej’s departure from the band, Varun has met, jammed with and got on board some amazing full-time musicians based out of Delhi. In the beginning of 2017, Varun met a keyboard player and singer, Joshua Peter who joined the band as a full-time member and two of them have been spearheading efforts towards working on Antariksh’s upcoming album. The present line up of the band has Varun Rajput on Lead Vocals and Guitars, Joshua Peter on Keyboards and Vocals, Shrikant Biswakarma on Guitars and Backing Vocals and Dan Thomas on Drums.

What makes your music unique and how do you describe your genre?

We believe the very fact that we all have such varied backgrounds and tastes in music brings about something that’s very unique in itself. For example, Varun and Shrikant have been long-time Prog heads, while Joshua has a background in Western Classical and Gospel Music. Dan listens to a lot of Rnb, Hip-hop, Soul and Jazz artists. So when we compose and record music together, it always end up sounding like something we’ve never heard before. As a basic principle, we like to experiment a lot with our music and don’t like to restrict ourselves to any particular style. You can hear influences from so many different styles (pop, rock, prog, Carnatic, reggae, funk, etc) in our music. However, if we were to broadly categorize the overall sound of the band, it would still fall in under the category of Rock music.

If there are artists you’d like to collaborate with, who would they be and why?

Among some of the Indian artists, we would love to collaborate with Shankar Mahadevan sir for he’s one hell of a singer with such extensive knowledge and understanding of music. Varun would love to collaborate with Bruce Lee Mani from Thermal and a Quarter, for he loves his songwriting and guitar playing.

Among some of the international artists, it’d be a dream come true to have John Petrucci from Dream Theater play a guest solo and Daniel Gildenlöw from Pain of Salvation to sing on one of our songs.

What’s your take on the indie music scene in India?

Indie Music scene in India has been growing consistently over the last ten years and we feel it’ll continue to grow at an even faster pace as the audiences in India are opening up to and accepting different styles of music other just popular music. The ever-growing live music scene in India has also contributed to it considerably. We’ve also witnessed a tremendous increase in skill and quality of musicianship of artists over the last 5-7 years. However, for Indie artists to become household names, it needs the contribution from the mainstream media (TV and Radio). If the radio starts picking up and playing more Indie music, there’d be no looking back because we truly believe – a lot of independent artists are creating way better music than what we’re hearing in Bollywood these days, which somehow seems to have lost the plot and originality and is mostly interested in creating cringey remakes to cash in on the popularity of old Hindi songs.

How has your music been received so far and what makes you stand apart considering you’re specific to a certain language and genre?

We’re really fortunate to have received an amazing response to our first album, ‘Khoj’ as well as our single ‘Kaahe Re’ which came out in 2018 which has given us the confidence to continue pursuing music and helped us come this far. We recently concluded a 5 city International tour of Mauritius and Madagascar. We were ecstatic to see so many people who didn’t even understand Hindi or the lyrics but were grooving to the music all through the concerts, which truly reminded us that music has no language – in fact, it is a language in itself. Those who get it, get it. All we want to do is be absolutely honest with our own selves, keep improving as musicians and create the best possible music with our abilities and the rest will follow. That being said, so far we’ve been sticking to Hindi as the main language but we won’t be surprised if we end up writing a bunch of songs in English for the 3rd album. In fact, one of our upcoming songs from the second album has both Hindi and English lyrics, a sitar solo, Carnatic breakdowns, and heavy prog-metal riffs. So, broadly the idea is to keep an open mind and keep evolving.

Tell us about your tech set up 

For our live concerts, we usually have 4-6 members on the stage. We have Varun on the Lead Vocals and Electric Guitars, Joshua on Keyboards, Electronics and Vocals, Shrikant on Guitars and Backing Vocals, Dan on Drums and Sarang/Sahil on the sound. For a few gigs, Abhinav Jain and Kimberley Rodrigues accompany us on an acoustic guitar and additional vocals. We play our entire set to a click – bass guitars and samples are triggered through a Backing Tracks machine that we recently bought – it’s called the LP 16 and we’d say it’s a must-buy for anyone playing samples – bye-bye to the glitchy laptops and soundcards. Ha! Other than that everyone has stereo mixes in their in-ears and we have a few floor monitors just for reference. Here’s some of the gear we play on:

Varun – Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty Guitar, Fractal AX8, Marshal JCM 900, Shure BLX288/PG58, Shure SE 535 in-ear monitors

Shrikant – Fender Strat or PRS Custom 24, Analog pedalboard setup and a JCM 900/Fender Twin Reverb

Josh – Juno DI keyboard, Macbook pro, LP 16, Shure BLX288/PG58, Shure SE 215 in-ear monitors

Dan – whatever best drum-kit we manage to get 😀

Upcoming projects

  • We are almost ready with our new album. The plan is to release a new single off it in the month of February, another two in March and April and then release the full album this summer.
  • One of our new songs (working title, Quest) features a collaboration with one of the world’s top guitar players. We’re super stoked about it and just can’t wait to put it out for all the rock music lovers in India
  • Fingers crossed, we have a few more international gigs and tours lined up for 2020
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