Munz, vocalist of The Down Troddence, traces the band’s journey from obscurity to the top of the charts

“If I saw someone on a bike with a guitar, I chased them down just to say ‘Hi’ and get to know them. They would usually be part of a troupe or church choir. I would be happy just to meet them, for someone with a guitar was a rarity in Kannur then,” says Munz, the vocalist of the metal band The Down Troddence from the district.

If that was the metal scene in Kannur in the late 1990s and 2000s when Munz and his band of friends were growing up, he says, the change is noteworthy. Have the guitar-lugging youngsters grown? “A lot” says Munz. “Youngsters today buy original merchandise from bands. You will see them wearing Metallica T-shirts now,” he adds.

Top-seller

The Down Troddence may not have brought about the change. Nevertheless, they are a big part of it. Testimony is the overwhelming response and reviews to their debut album How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You released digitally on New Year’s Eve. In little over two weeks, the album has topped the ‘Top selling album’ and ‘Top selling artists’ category at oklisten.com, a digital platform to buy music of independent artistes in India. The band, which includes Vipin Raj on the guitar, Sushin Shyam on keyboard, Nezer Ahmad on bass, Ganesh Radhakrishnan on drums and Advaith Mohan on guitar, is pleased.

“On the first day of the digital release, there were about 40-50 downloads for the entire album which is a good number for a metal band,” says Munz on the phone from Bangalore. What the band calls a “dream” — releasing physical CDs — is no more just that now. “We were initially planning to release about 100 CDs as a collector’s item. But in the first two days we got a pre-order of 70 and that’s when we decided to release about 500 CDs by January 30 which can be bought through Flipkart,” explains Munz.

If The Down Troddence finds themselves in a happy space, they can trace it back to taking their mere interest in metal to the next level. To their credit, they drew inspiration from around the world, but never disowned their roots. Though, barren rock music wise, Kannur lent enough to the band with its brand of politics and folk traditions.

“The folk influence and local stories will always be there. It is in our blood and it is the key to our music,” says Munz. These elements make “Shiva,” the band’s most popular single yet, with over one lakh views on YouTube. Drawn from mythology and adapted from the Shiva Thandava Stothram, the band melds to metal the story of Ravana and Shiva and the injustice meted out to Ravana. The album also defined the band’s politics. Though, Munz insists it is not deliberate, their music naturally allies with the downtrodden. “We never compose for the sake of it. From some riffs would emerge the lyrics. Nezer does most of the lyrics now.”

The band is hailed for finding their “sound” early. But Munz says, the process was slow and is continuous. Music bound them. But they had much to learn. For long Munz never thought of himself as a vocalist. “One day as I sang away in the wash room a friend heard me and told me I could be a vocalist,” he says. Munz adds, “Varun and Sushin had a longer link with music. They had their first concert when they were in class I and kindergarten respectively.”

Family support

Most of the band members now work in firms in Bangalore, while two freelance out of Chennai. Their families were a support, though they initially thought the boys were wasting time. “If my father went to a wedding and someone asked him what I was doing, he would never mention my job, but instead say I am a growler. We jam everywhere and all our families have given us space and made food for us at midnight. They helped us with finance and marketing. Now that we have a product to show, they are all happy,” he says.

According to him, the band is still discovering its sound. But he admits Kannur’s quintessential folk forms are its soul. “In one sense, we know what our sound is but we do not yet how to categorise it. But we can call ourselves a South Indian groove metal band.”