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Interview with the Unstoppable: SANAM Band!

How do you manage to cover so many songs without any copyright issues? Recently so many cover artist’s videos were pulled down by record labels.

Samar Puri – When we started out, even though we hardly had any subscribers and had no clue how far YouTube would take us, we still decided to do things the right way. From our first rendition till date, we always made sure we got all permissions from the owners of the copyright before we started working on them. Lucky for us, we have very strong management backing us. Our manager and 5th member of our band is Mr. Ben Thomas (Kurian & Company Talent Management). Having had many years of experience in the music and entertainment industry, after managing some of the biggest names like Sonu Nigam, Vishal & Shekhar, and many others, Ben has been guiding us in the direction from the start. If you are doing a rendition of any song, it is always advisable to take all legal permissions before going ahead with anything else.

Where does critical acclaim stand for a band that runs on popularity?

Venky S – Criticism is always welcome. It is important for any artist to take it in the right spirit. How the world reacts to your music is always a surprise that you will only see after you release your work. Just like anything else in the world, some of it might appeal to the masses and some may not. Since we record, program, compose, shoot, direct and edit most our songs and videos on our own, it takes up almost all our time. We also need to make time for rehearsals, shows and many other things. So, the moment we are done releasing one song, we forget about it and start working on the next one. This gives us hardly any time to read comments or dwell upon them. Criticism is good and will only help us understand our audience better and will help us grow as musicians and artists. Our advice to all budding artists is to focus on your work, don’t get too carried away in any amount of success or criticism. Just work hard and be cheerful!

How and when do you find the time to polish your craft amidst such busy schedules?

Sanam Puri – Like the famous saying goes, ‘The busiest people have time for everything’. Over time we have seen this to be true! It is all about time management I guess. We prioritize our work and make sure we get everything done to the best of our abilities. In the creative field, we are five minds working together. So, on every project, each of us take on different roles and get things done. The role varies depending on our schedules and on the project. It’s challenging but becomes possible with a strong and dedicated management that supports us all the time. So, together as a team, we work really hard and will continue to do so.

How do you internalise the magnitude of success coming your way?

Venky S – Success is really a relative term. To us success is measured in terms of happiness. Working together, making music, shooting videos, travelling the world, performing and entertaining so many different people makes us really happy. We are so blessed and grateful to be doing something we love. It also makes us really happy to see our music touching and connecting so many different lives together. We get so many messages from so many fans saying that our music has brought them together. People from different parts of the world, who would never have met each other, are now best of friends, enjoying our music together. We also get some really touching messages from fans telling us that in today’s day and age, where everyone is so busy staring at their phones and there are hardly any human connections between families at home, our music has now brought them together. Mothers, Fathers, Children, and even Grand Parents now sit together and enjoy our music videos. Things like these really make us happy and encourage us to work harder.

Does commercial viability and pressures impact you?

Samar Puri – As creative people, our focus and expertise lie in making music. It is imperative for any artist to have a strong management backing them up. We are lucky to have our manager Ben Thomas so closely connected with us professionally and personally as family. He takes care of the business aspect for us so we are free to focus on the music and on our videos. It is very rare to find such good management. We work in synergy. We make each other stronger. We are a team and will continue to work hard and grow.

When most of your repertoire is Bollywood film music, why have you kept away from playback or scoring for a film? 

Sanam Puri – I grew up listening to bands. Actually, so many different bands throughout our childhood have inspired all of us. Forming our own band and working on music together was always a dream for us all. When we got together, things just clicked! We knew immediately that this is what we wanted to do. After meeting Ben, we were finally confident that we can bring back independent music and band culture into India if we all worked together and worked hard. We knew that this was going to be a longer and harder route, but this is what makes us happy and this is what makes us strong. So since then there has been no turning back. We spend so much time every day, working on our music, videos, rehearsing for shows and doing so many different things that I hardly get any time to do anything else. I have sung for a few Bollywood movies before and I am open to lending my voice in the future as well. It’s just that I don’t get any time. Also, working with the band and working on our own music (originals and renditions) makes me really happy and comfortable. We get to do things our way, and as an artist, music is our expression and connect to the rest of the world. So, it is important to feel satisfied and happy with our work before we release it.

Introduce us to your stellar management who play such a major role in your success

Keshav Dhanraj – Right on top of the list is our Business Manager and also SANAM Band’s 5th member- Mr. Ben Kurian Thomas. He is so passionate about his work and about our band. It’s rare to see or hear him talking about anything else. It’s always just SANAM SANAM SANAM. Ben manages each of us individually as people and as a band. The trust and bond we share with together is really something special. Having had so much experience in the entertainment industry, he is by far the most passionate and amazing manager anyone can ever have. Ben is the mastermind behind the scenes. Everything goes through him. Sandeep Chaudhary is a part of the KNC family and the SANAM family. He is our tour manager so he travels with us for all live shows and other engagements. We have all grown so close! He is really responsible and works really hard to keep us safe and to make sure things are easier for us when we travel on tour. We have around 15 to 16 people travelling with us on tour. Sandeep manages everyone and makes sure things go smoothly and as planned. It is a really stressful and tough job but he makes it look easy and is always smiling. Priyanka Bhambhani is the newest addition to our family. She handles our PR and a number of other things as a part of the team of Kurian & Co Talent Management. I don’t think we have ever seen someone so well planned and organized. She has everything so well planned out. It becomes so much easier for us having Priyanka plan, schedule and execute everything that comes our way. She is constantly sending us reminders and updates on everything that needs to be done. She is so passionate about everything she does. You can tell that her passion comes straight from her heart. We feel blessed and fortunate to have such wonderful people in our lives!

Retaining the essence of pop music while blindly being labeled as a “sellout”

Samar Puri – All four of us have always been interested in Pop music right from the start. Having said that, we grew up listening to all kinds of other genres as well. We each have rather different influences in music. While composing, we try to blend in all four of our ideas into one song. We don’t release a song unless each of us is satisfied. Yes, we make Pop/Rock music but we always make music that we enjoy and that we believe in. That’s the reason why we are taking it slow but doing only things that make us happy.

With over 3M subscribers, please elaborate on the challenges you have faced while garnering the interest of a virtual audience. And some gyaan to the newbies!

Sanam Puri – While we started off, we had no clue how to do any of this. We learnt as we went along. I think the most important thing is to just start doing things. That itself is a big learning experience. You will face challenges all along. But the idea is to be creative, work hard and think of ways to overcome each challenge one step at a time. I remember when we released our first few videos we sat for days on Facebook, sending links to all our family and friends. After that we would check with them again to see if they actually watched the video and would take feedback from everyone to make the next audio and video better. The best gyaan would be to keep things simple, work hard and be consistent. Everything else will follow.

Lessons learnt the hard way

Keshav Dhanraj – When we first formed our band. We won a 3-year recording contract with Times Music. At first, we were really excited, with so many expectations. Being signed to a big music label seemed too good to be true. We managed to record our first album, which was released by Times Music. However, after that, everything went south. We had shot 2 music videos, which were released on YouTube. Those 3 years with Times Music taught us a lot about the entertainment industry and also made us stronger as a band. There were so many ups and downs during that time. We had no idea who to rely on and who to trust. After the management at Times Music changed, we went to meet the new CEO. He was brutally honest with us. He made us understand that a music label is only equipped to sell and distribute our music. Whatever else was promised to us by their predecessors, were only false promises. He encouraged us to go out and find a manager before we do anything else. Those 3 years with times music taught us a whole lot and made us understand that there are no short cuts. Since then we decided to do everything on our own, so we didn’t have to rely on anyone else. After meeting Ben Thomas, we felt strong and confident to go through this journey together. There will always be ups and downs, the important thing is that we go through them together.

SANAM consists of Sanam Puri (Vocals), Samar Puri (Guitar), Venky S (Bass Guitar), and Keshav Dhanraj (Drums and Percussion).

Quick riff:

  • A recent musical trend that doesn’t make sense to you – Mumble rap.
  • One piece of advice that you wish you took more seriously – Practice makes perfect.
  • A change you wish to see in the music industry – More live venues for bands to perform at in the country.
  • Your biggest cheap thrills at this point – Trying out guitars in music stores; not buying anything and leaving satisfied.
  • An artist you can’t stop fanning over – Bruno Mars

This story was featured in our February 2018 issue:

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