College fest fixtures (well, back in the day) and Indian rock pioneers Motherjane have returned after over a decade with a new EP, 111, and fans have immediately been transported back into their adolescent obsession with one of the most unique sounds to come out of this country’s soundscape.
However, the artistic growth is apparent, influenced not just by line-up changes but also deliberate decisions to evolve without losing their roots. The album is both a slice of nostalgia and blazing foot forward, blending the fidelity to ethnic sounds that won them fans, with sharper, smarter prog.
Naturally, The Score Magazine had to catch up with these Indian rock pathbreakers, and talk about why it took so long for a new release, what their newer directions might mean, and how they never stopped rooting for their fans.
We have to ask the obvious question. Why did it take so long to release the third album?
Hahaha. We were expecting this. Simply put, it just wasn’t time for the EP to come out.
It’s no secret that Motherjane has gone through constant line-up changes. We tried creating music but, when one is in a constant state of flux, it’s hard to put all that aside and concentrate on the bigger picture.
When the dust settled, we found we finally had a group of artists who are on the same wavelength. The music flowed organically and the EP happened.
What would you say to a fan who hasn’t gotten around to listening to the album yet? How would you describe it?
It’s a chip off the ol’ block. It’s still progressive rock peppered with a generous dose of ethnic elements. Just newer. With the changing times, the band evolved, so you have to expect our sound to have mutated too. Give it a listen, if you have the inclination.
With new members, how has Motherjane changed in its musical aesthetic and thematic priorities?
About the change in our musical aesthetics, well, Motherjane’s sound was never the contribution of any one single member, but rather a meeting of the minds. Therefore, it developed on its own and will continue to morph. Through the years, even with changing lineups, the focus remained and continues to remain on making good music, rather than maintaining any signature sound. That happens organically. It’s not a conscious decision.
We had started experimenting way back in 2014 with Clay Play. That was before Niranj and Anubhav joined the band. Even though it was a drastic departure from our previous records and songwriting methods, along with our producer Rex Vijayan, we decided to focus our creative energy on bigger sounding tracks with many layers. We hoped that with every listen, the music would grow on the listener. Clay Play was the start of the EP, but we ended up releasing it as a single in 2015.
With the arrival of Niranj and Anubhav, the EP quickly took shape. Apart from bringing their immense talent into the pool, they also shared Motherjane’s vision. Niranj did the additional programming on the EP. Anubhav, his mad skills on the guitar aside, is also a sound engineer/producer, and he also contributed to it.
Our themes remain relevant. In current times, there is an urge amongst all of us to go within and seek answers to all that’s happening. In this EP, we vocalize some of our thoughts.
As veterans of our country’s independent musical ecosystem, what do you think is the good and bad of how the scene has changed since your last album?
We see only good things now but that’s only cos there’s no point dwelling on the not-so-good things.
The scene has changed quite a bit over the years. The independent scene has come of age with a lot of bands releasing original material. It is a lot easier for aspiring artists/bands to produce, release and let the world know about their music.
From a point where the only way to make our songs heard was via TV, radio or CDs sold at concerts and select stores, we’ve come to a system where you can release a track worldwide in 48 hours. It definitely is a great time for musicians around the world. And with a lot of new venues opening up, the frequency of concerts/festivals have also increased tenfold compared to the last decade. Not to mention, the arrival of a lot of new players in the sound and light department has pushed the scene to a completely new level. Touring has also gotten real professional.
Of course, the pandemic really slowed us down with the sudden halt of activities and the uncertainty it posed to our community. Fortunately for us, we managed to hold the line and sprang into action once it faded away.
Having said all that, we do have to mention that given the fact that the music industry which we started in doesn’t exist anymore. Also, having transformed into an entity many of us are still trying to figure out and navigate, there’s a lot more effort that we need to put in to stay relevant without losing sight of who we are.
What have the band members been up to for the last decade or so?
Even with the lineup changes and the pandemic, we did manage to release a couple of tracks and tour quite a bit – locally and internationally.
Take us through the songs one by one, if you could.
Awoke: The song was shaped out of a drum phrase based on a ‘Korvai’ (Carnatic rhythmic pattern). It talks about the illusion that is our reality. All this is but a chaotic dream and the sooner we realize this and wake up, the sooner we get to finding out who we truly are.
Plane Man: This talks about what happens when the constructs we grow up with (that make us believe that we control everything) fail and you come crashing down.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet – Franz Kafka.
A quote that inspired this song.
Clay Play: This actually is a collaboration with Rex Vijayan. Apart from producing the song, he also programmed the drums for this track. We think it has the most complex drum parts ever written by any band in India and still grooves like a dream. The song is about not taking life too seriously. Be playful, flexible and malleable like clay to be truly joyful.
Contact Sense: It’s a call to action song which evolved out of a Carnatic rhythmic phrase. A tavil phrase was also used in the intro and in the verse. The name is a play on – Contact Lens and Common Sense. Don’t just follow the herd. Use your eyes to see and your common sense to seek out the truth.
What does the album art signify? What does the boy on the raft sailing to a lotus mean?
1 1 1 is about synchronicity and the long and continuous journey of self-discovery. The album art is an artist’s rendition of this. It is a painting of a man on a raft, giving up his oar and letting the lotus, which has wrapped itself around the raft, guide it. Basically, the raft signifies your journey, and when you relinquish control (throwing away the oar) and surrender to the Universe (the lotus), things fall into place and you come into your true self. In our case, it produced the EP – 1 1 1.
Now that you have returned, can we expect faster new releases? Are you working on anything new right now?
Had we gone somewhere? We were always around doing the concert circuit and making music. But to answer your question, yes, absolutely. Of course, that is if all the forces in the Universe align and will it.
The 4th record is already 50% complete as we had started working on it in the post production phase of the current EP.
Tell us about your touring schedule right now.
We just finished the EP launch gig at Bengaluru and returned from a concert for Harman Pro India- at Palm Expo 2022, Mumbai. We have few gigs in the south of India coming up and are working on a full-fledged ‘1 1 1’ India tour. We are also in discussions with promoters abroad for dates.
How about a shout-out to Motherjane fans, both old and new?
Our deepest gratitude to our loyal fans for keeping the faith and helping us through our darkest hours. We owe our existence to you. Our music is who we are and we remain true to it. Here’s hoping we can keep you entertained for many more years to come. Love and light to you all.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/motherjane/