The second half of the year has started out with a string of releases from indie bands across the country. At the outset, I feel obliged to include a caveat: I use the term "indie" rather loosely here. If the "indie" festival line-ups and "indie" television shows/channels are anything to go by, the phrase is, at best, a well-intentioned but largely misguided catch-all grouping of a whole range of disparate acts that can accommodate everyone from the Dixit brothers to Demonic Resurrection. This scene is an urban-centric monolith that has churned out some of the best bands I've ever heard, a generous amount of run-of-the-mill tripe, and an entertaining weekly genre-based thread war on the interweb.
But I digress. The scene, as we know it, is certainly chock-a-block with bands from across genres - post-punk-thrash-folk-carnatic-prog-dub; and, you know a band's really reaching when they starting filing under "experimental". The best measure of the progress we've made (ever since the covers-versus-originals era of debates in the early 90s) is the proliferation of releases. Singles, EPs, full lengths, each of varying merit, have been out almost on a fortnightly basis this year. But amidst all the noise and invitations to "share my Soundcloud link", one release that really stood out was disco-punk/noise rock quartet Hoirong's second album, Dandaniya Apraadh. For the uninitiated, Hoirong started out as the solo project of Kamal Singh, former guitarist/vocalist on the now-defunct Bangalore post rockers Lounge Piranha. Subversive, tongue-in-cheek and replete with in-jokes, the band is indicative of the slow but steady churn against decades of cock-rock and indulgent guitar solos that will always have a special place on Saif Ali Khan's playlist.
The second album from Hoirong follows fast on the heels of the band's first release, The Resurrection Of The Princess Of Woe And Her Vampire Hound Posse, a 34-minute punk burst from March last year. Between the two releases, Singh's been chipping away at new material, with a mix of re-imagined covers and nursery rhymes. The broader takeaway point being made here is just how consistent Hoirong has been with song writing in just a little over a year since the band began.
The sophomore, or follow up release to a debut, has often been the albatross around most bands' necks, in any scene, anywhere. It's been the undoing of several pretty decent bands and it's no different in our fledgling scene here either. Getting the first EP or album out these days, while not hassle-free in any sense, isn't as arduous a task as it was, say, a decade ago. Bedroom studios have mushroomed (Hoirong's first album was recorded on Singh's laptop with regular mics), it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg to get a decent mix and master, and there's no paucity of online platforms to peddle your tunes on. But what most bands struggle with is the follow-through. For a majority of the bands that start out, the first EP/album is really just a consolidation of all the tunes they've been playing to audiences since their inception. Once they have that box ticked off, there's little drive to write a whole new record's worth of unreleased material and then tour in support of it. The band essentially peaks and that solitary record becomes their calling card for nearly a decade.
Understandably, it's never as simple as it seems. Playing music which appeals to such a niche in this country isn't the most lucrative career. And, there's always that annoying bassist with commitment issues who leaves the band to "pursue higher studies" just when things are picking up pace, throwing a spanner in the works. But that's not to say that we haven't seen any great follow up releases recently - Sky Rabbit's 2013 Where EP, Adam and the Fish Eyed Poets' Dead Loops (2011), Bhayanak Maut's Untitled album followed by the Metastasis EP from 2010, to mention a few. Kolkata post punk act The Supersonics dropped their widely-anticipated new record with Heads Up in August, a follow up to 2009's Maby Baking. Plus, as far as the debutantes go, there are still records from Kolkata's Ganesh Talkies and Bangalore's Space Behind the Yellow Room to expect this year.
I guess it's developing a consistency with releases that really prevents bands from being relegated to nostalgia-ridden conversations about "that great gig from GIR 2007". Getting the next few records or even single right and striking while the iron's still sizzling is what we need more bands to do. Otherwise, at the risk of sounding hyperbolically apocalyptic, our bands are doomed to suffer the same fate as "scene stalwarts" Parikrama: 23 years and not even one single album.