Society

Music that will make you smile

When Chai Met Toast sounds something like the musical equivalent of a pinball game. Guitar notes, vocals and drum beats do little joyous somersaults inside your head. The band calls its music ‘happy’ and you can see why.

All set to release its EP tentatively titled ‘The Joy of Little Things’, lead performers, Ashwin Gopakumar and Achyuth Jaigopal say they don’t want their music to be defined purely by the genre. “But if you must, we are an indie-folk-alternative band,” says Ashwin, the main vocalist. “We are not acoustic, but we are acoustic, too. Just a little louder and fuller,” he adds. Achyuth plays the guitar and banjos and does the backing vocals.

The band has eight original songs to its credit, five of which will be releasing as the EP. They write their own songs and they call the process spontaneous. A song can happen even when Achyuth and Ashwin are not in the same city. They share lyrics over Whatsapp, discuss it and meet to set it to tune. While some songs just fall in place, others take time. “There have been numbers which we have completed composing in just half an hour,” says Ashwin. Most of the songs are in English, some with a smattering of Tamil and Hindi. Why not Malayalam? “It just didn’t fit in. Malayalam as a language has rounded sounds and it jarred with the rest of the lyrics,” Ashwin says.

The four-member band, which has Palee Francis on the keyboard and Pai Sailesh on the drums, was formed with just Achyuth and Ashwin. Achyuth, who is now a part of the Raghu Dixit Project, met Ashwin two years ago at a music studio in Kochi. He wanted to intern there; and gradually found himself jamming with Ashwin. Several jamming sessions later, the two learnt they shared common interests and influences. “We initially thought we could remain a two-member band, but gradually we found that we could do with a few additions,” says Achyuth, who has completed 8th grade in western classical guitar from Trinity College of Music at the National Academy of Music, Kochi.

A common friend Richy Sebastian soon joined in on the keyboard and he was part of some of the shows the band did.

When Chai Met Toast disbanded temporarily when Richy had to leave for Australia and Ashwin to the U.S. for studies and Achyuth was roped in by Raghu Dixit to play for him. “After I came back in December 2015, we regrouped, and brought on Pai and Palee,” says Ashwin. Since January, they have done about 17 shows in Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. While they are delighted by the crowd response, they also observe that the dynamics changes according to the place and venue. The recent show at JTPac was “brilliant”, as their performance practice includes a little interaction with the audience.

Ashwin, who is from Thiruvananthapuram, has been singing from 2007, when he was part of an experimental metal band, Purple Blood. He studies ‘Music Business’ at the McNally Smith College of Music, Minneapolis.

Achyuth has been performing with Raghu Dixit for over seven months now and says the exposure he gained has been great. “I heard from a friend that Raghu Dixit was looking for a guitarist. I just wrote him a mail he got back to me,” says Achyuth. Impressed with his style, Dixit asked him to cover his acoustic in his absence. Soon, Achyuth became a part of the Raghu Dixit Project.

When the band performs, the audience get a little ‘chai box’ that they can take away. The colourful origami ‘chai box’ contains a little chai bag, a fridge magnet, and a sticker. “This is just our way of reaching out to people. The QR code given on it takes you to the band’s music,” explains Kishan John, who manages the band. The EP, which the band plans to release, is produced by musician Vivek Thomas.

When Chai Met Toast is performing at ‘Cult-A-Way’ in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.

Into films

Achyuth Jaigopal and Ashwin Gopakumar have done the track, ‘Home’, for Shan Rehman in Vineeth Sreenivasan’s upcoming film Jacobinte Swargarajyam. Achyuth composed a song for the film, Humans of Someone, produced by aum-i artists. Singer Shakthishree Gopalan has lent her voice for it.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 10:05:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-indie-band-when-chai-met-toast/article8441702.ece

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