Being goofy comes naturally to them as does their unique brand of music. Saroop Oommen tries to decipher the TWKC foursome.
TWKC or Tundu Beedi-Water Packet-Kuchi Ice-Curd Rice. That is Chennai's (possibly India's!) only experi-metal band. Classmates from kindergarten, (PSBB-K.K. Nagar) banded together in 2008, TWKC recently placed second at IIT-Saarang and Technofest Anna Univ, third at Deepwoods, MCC, and bagged some individual awards.
Personally, I've seen them mercilessly tear apart the whole ethos of live band music, and yet keep a straight face; and stay committed as a band! I've searched hard to find a comparison to slot them into, to justify why I don't dislike them, or even the need for this article! Failed miserably!
On stage, the lanky front-man Harish, complete with a bushy beard and geeky spectacles, portrays the most pitiable disposition. Then you catch an impish smile just before a near perfect ‘Linkin Park' scream hits you. And remember, Chester Bennington is tearing his vocal cords on lyrics like, ‘I've become so numb I can't feel you there' whereas Harish is vexing about, “Do I ever care a damn, if Mary had a little lamb!”!
Are they for real! Shock! Laughter! Disbelief and some amount of euphoria, hits you, strong! Ashwin's guitar riffs are neat and drummer Karthik and bassy Thej are enviably tight! And everywhere they have performed the audiences is stoked! But, how can they be so at peace with themselves by being totally goofy? We can decide to brand them as taking the music fraternity for a solid ride, or try and see what method is in the mess that is TWKC.
How do you define irreverence?
Harish (Mildly offended!): We are not irreverent. We never planned to be what we are now. We wanted to sound different from other bands and do what feels right. We were initially apprehensive about our lyrics and style, but with the great response we've had, we are so ready to fly away to the sky!
Karthik: It's not just about being funny. It's not just about being funny. That's just how we work... We all listen to different styles of music and it's not like we try to force it.
Why do you choose to remain in the quirky space?
Harish: It's not that we don't care about what people think or say. It's not that we don't care about what people think. Like Arjun always said, “It has to be worth the money! People are paying to come for the gig, so make it worth it”. So it was always about striking a balance between making it pure entertainment and finding our space.
Karthik: We don't have what other bands have; they can write about war, peace and love, but we can't! Maybe those topics are a little clichéd for us too! We look at life a little different and so our songs are…different.
Losing Arjun (Vasudev) must have been a great shock?
Harish: March 27, 2009; it's been two years. We host the annual OURJ concert to keep his passion alive. His family has also instituted the Arjun Vasudev Trust which supports artistic awards thru Loyola College and Unwind Center.
Thej: This band was Arjun's initiative. Arjun forced us to enter into competitions, and we won Best Song at UNDERGROUND 2008. In 2009, we swept everything in the metal category!Our lives revolved around his parents, his house; we did everything there. Even now it's my second home; I don't even knock! I would never say Arjun is dead; he is just not there for now!
In the same poignant vein, one of their first songs ‘The Untold Story' written with Arjun states, “The world that is too much to take, The end of the story, no one told me…and no one told you too?!
You craft a technically great song about Muthu Pandi's dietary preferences and perform it with a straight face? WTH?
Harish: Our song-writing sessions are really weird. People actually think we are high on something but no, we are really organised and serious about what we do. We prastice, then go our separate ways.
Thej: The music came first, then the lyrics. I think the music became even better when quirky lyrics were added to it. Then when we perform it, the audience gets so pepped up and we get energised too; it's great!
Ashwin: Initially, I used to come prepared to play different genres according to those rules. The TWKC style was shocking initially. Now I'm very proud!
Bands break their heads over inspiration to write great songs, but you are almost bordering slap-stick comedy? Are you really satisfied as an artist/performer?
Karthik: There is lot of satisfaction when we do something like this. Some bands think we are not respecting music and that we are getting away by just being funny. The truth is that we put a lot of effort into the song structures and the phrasing and adding breaks and stuff.
It's sort of unity in diversity. This is how we sound right now. It turns out that we complement each other pretty well.
Harish: (Really Offended!) We do not like to be called slap stick comedy!!
What has ‘Mary's little lamb' or ‘Chicken song' got to do with Metal?
Thej: A lot of people think Metal is only about being dark. We believe metal music themes can be whatever we want it to be as long as you put it across clearly.
Karthik: Our music is heavy enough for the metal genre. What type I don't know; that's why we call ourselves ‘experi-metal'.
What are your musical influences?
Thej: System of a Down; I never get bored of them. Their music is from the cosmic. Beautiful, random lyrics & music, amazing. We also love Metallica, used to like Iron Maiden, now Green Day, Pink Floyd. Suddenly all their songs have meaning; or maybe we've started to understand!
Ashwin: We actually listen to all kinds of music. This summer we even plan to add some funk to the songs. We have a three-song recording deal after winning at Saarang, so we want to put out an EP for more people to get the TWKC bug!
Karthik: Even in school, when we used to cover songs, we used to add our stuff to it; a pause here and there, drop the tempo, it was great…still is.
How did the name come up?
Harish: Karthik is the intellectual one. He says, “The name has to be the product of our environment!”
Karthik: I swear I don't know where the name came from. I think Harish and Arjun came up with it!
Thej: I was not involved. Random names were thrown in. We wanted something that shows our roots and that is quintessentially Chennai.
At the end of a TWKC performance, it feels like the laughter is at the expense of the audience or the band itself or the whole rock performance scene.
Harish: Maybe the first time people laugh at us; the next time they know what to expect and they get seriously entertained! If the sound system is good, we enjoy ourselves and go ballistic. Don't know why we go crazy; it just happens.
Thej: I think it's at everyone's expense!
Karthik: People are laughing because of the characters in the songs. I don't think anyone is laughing at the expense of anyone. But I don't mind if people make fun of Harish.
Ashwin: The final thing is to entertain the crowd; we never want to make anyone the butt of our jokes.
Conclusion: Statistically, 3/10 bands last more than three to four years. Time will tell if TWKC will cross the break-up barrier; with the commitment shown so far, they can. Time will tell if this article was an absolute waste of time. But hey, that's exactly the concoction of emotions you are sprayed with at a TWKC gig! Anyway, here's to one of the most peculiar, original bands Chennai has ever seen!