Thermal And a Quarter tell Catherine Rhea Roy their New Year resolutions include going international and working on album number five
Everybody loves Thermal And A Quarter, and you cannot blame everybody. After 14 years of struggle and eventual success, Thermal And A Quarter can safely be called the inspirational figure for local musicians, . Starting from the anecdote behind the band's name to the miracle of holding it all together, Thermal And A Quarter is a story that is befitting of rock lore.
For those who have not heard of TAAQ, the boys describe themselves as a Bangalore band, who play what they call Bangalore rock. So the story behind the band's name goes thus, when they started off they were three Malayalis and a quarter Malayali, which became Three Mals And A Quarter, and was further altered into “Thermal And A Quarter”.
Since then the band's line up has changed and they are now a three member band with Bruce Lee Mani on guitar and vocals, Prakash K.N. on bass and Rajeev Rajagopal on drums. “When aliens land in 2175,” Prakash begins with a straight face, and Bruce takes it from there, “They will find a world that is equal. There will no longer be the haves and the have-nots, there will be no form of discrimination, in this future state all mankind will be equal. The unit to measure this equality will be a thermal, making us, Thermal And A Quarter, a global band.” Prakash then adds as a footnote, “All the gigs we have been playing these days, we need thermals and quarters to get through them.” All their recent performances have been in the North.
The journey from rented jam rooms to owning a jam room has not been easy, or to put it in Bruce Lee Mani's words, “It has been slightly harder than solving a Rubix cube, blindfolded, while crossing Avenue Road with a glass of water on our heads.” Every band has a struggle story; all the fame and fans did not just fall into place, “It is not a new story. This is an ecosystem where regular things don't work out, and one needs to improvise — it is a daily, and hourly adaptation,” says Rajeev.
With TAAQ, the men have now become full-time musicians for over a year and a half. They all had their day jobs, “You have to figure it out in your head first, we threw away our jobs and decided to focus on the band, but we wound up broke and had to find ourselves new jobs. The second time round we were more sensible and had a better idea,” says Rajeev.
As a band they first recognised the problem of space to practise which culminated in TAAQademy, “No band can say they don't have a place to practise anymore. We are giving them the space and the equipment, they just need to turn up,” they say. The men also teach music here, “The kids are keen and so are the parents, and teaching children keeps us on our toes. We strongly think that music needs to be introduced into the curriculum of schools, it rounds you off as a person,” says Rajeev.
Thermal And A Quarter have been accused of aping the West. “We are convent educated, and think in English. It is not very encouraging to hear people tell us that we are un-Indian and non-traditional,,” says Rajeev. In fact, TAAQ has contributed to the social spectrum of the country and has done several concerts for social causes. Their song “Shut Up And Vote” was composed for the General Elections in India.
“When we feel strongly about something, it comes out in our music. This has been a year of scams and corruption but we want people to see that it is just one side of it,” they say, and quote historian Ramachandra Guha who said, “India is the most interesting country in the world.”
“And for us Bangalore is the best. Music wise we have everything, look around you and there is inspiration. There are music schools, places to get gear, venues you can play at. More musicians are doing their own thing, and now on a weekend in Bangalore, you are spoiled for choice,” says Prakash.
TAAQ is also wary of a government that can ban live music on a whim. Few years ago, it was prohibited in places that served alcohol, “We wrote sad songs then,” says Rajeev on a light note, and adds, “We played a lot of gigs outside the city and protested. It is unfair to us, we pay taxes and yet our livelihood can be taken away from us at any time.” TAAQ is on a constant mission to promote new bands and talent, “Many young bands need the space to play, wherever it is, but they have to be doing something original, nobody wants to hear covers,” says Bruce.
In the New Year TAAQ is going international, “We play abroad, but we need to do it more consistently. We have an audience and are confident that our music is worthy of an international stage. We plan to take time off from performing and write album number five. That's the plan,” they conclude.