Being Indie and Hindi: The Local Train interview
Independent rock band ‘The Local Train’ is a part of a new generation of artists coming up in India who refuse to, in their own words, take orders from anyone and do their own thing.
The band rose to prominence for both their soulful music and their relentless energy to perform at venues across the country, especially in college campuses. They returned to Manipal, less than a year after performing at Revels last year, to perform at Nawaazish ’17, a public concert organised by The Rotaract Club of Manipal and MIT Student Council.
In a candid post-performance interview with The Manipal Journal and Manipal The Talk.Net, Ramit Mehra (bass) Raman Negi (vocals and rhythm guitar), Paras Thakur (lead guitar) and Sahil Sarin (drums) from The Local Train, talk about their journey through the independent music industry and discuss how important it is to stay true to the art and remain independent.
This is your second performance in Manipal, and you mentioned a few times during the concert that Manipal is your favourite place to perform. What brought you back here?
Ramit: To be honest, we say that wherever we perform. We just tell them “Manipal is our favourite place to perform.” (Band laughs).
Raman: But really, we feel that you guys know the songs better than anywhere else we go, which is great.
Ramit: We don’t say that to impress you, it’s just like a business deal, you guys like us, and we like you, simple.
Paras: You guys are alright, basically.
We heard the band had a lot of difficulty shooting for the video of your song Dil Mere. Can you tell us more about that?
Paras: Yeah, that’s a lie.
Raman: This is how it’s going to happen now. We’re done with the formal interviews, and we’re going to be honest. Dil Mere was shot in 8 days, and took around 30 days to edit. The director planned the scenes and gave us all our parts.
Ramit: The video was shot in different parts of Manali like Solang valley
Paras: The last part of the video was actually difficult to do, because it took place at a frozen lake.
Ramit: The police was cordoning off areas so we couldn’t go where we had planned to go before, and we reached this place and our director told us to climb it. After a while, we realized it wasn’t snow and that it was actually a frozen lake. Our legs kept going inside that icy water, and it was very chilly. As we went up, we saw footprints of what seemed like a leopard or something. So that way, it was fun.
You performed a new song today, Khudi. Can you tell us about the songs in the upcoming album?
Raman: “Khudi” means yourself. “Khudi ko khud se mila le” (making you meet yourself) could stand for anything. For us, it’s more about finding yourself through doing stuff that make you realize who you are.
Paras: It could be anything – from self -discovery to following your dreams. We did not write it keeping anything specific in mind.
Raman: None of our songs are close-ended. They can’t be. People look for different meanings in songs, and take what they like out of them. Everybody will have his or her own interpretation, and that is how it should be.
The band has around a million views collectively on the YouTube channel, and has skyrocketed in popularity lately. Is the decision to stay an ‘indie’ or independent band a conscious one?
Ramit: A lot of people get confused about what indie is. Indie does not mean that a big label does not sign you. Indie is the freedom to make your own music. Usually when a big party gets involved, they are influencing what you are doing. If you are staying independent, what you are saying is that you want the freedom to decide what you are doing with your art, and that is something we don’t have an option on. Our personalities are that way.
Raman: I will tell you the real reason we are independent is because we do not like how the industry functions in the country. You see actors singing on screen, but they’re not really artists, they are just stars. At some point of time, somebody has to really call it out. The only people, who can call it out, are people who remain true to their art.
Paras: We write the songs that we want to write, and we are very glad people want to listen to that. We do our own thing, but if anybody wants to associate with what we want to do, they are more than welcome. We are independent because we like the creative control we have.
Raman: The creative freedom that we have as a band is priceless, and you can never let that go. It took the four of us a lot of time to have this fan-base that we now have. We’re releasing a new album, and we are not signing on to any big label for that, solely because of our fans.
Ramit: In the future, say that we do associate with a label, we can assure you that we will make sure that we have our creative freedom intact, and this is a decision that all four of us took. If a bigger party is fine with how we are, all well and good.
Raman: Now that you have met us, do you really feel that we will take shit from anyone? That is what the truth is, we can’t take that from anyone.
Ramit: We don’t want anyone coming and telling us to write something with Fevicol and pyaar, and that some actress will dance in our next video, or something along those lines.
Raman: For example, we are currently shooting for our new video in Manali, and then the team comes down to Delhi and goes further down to Goa. This is because we hired the best that we could, and we are funding it. That is because it is our product, and it is something that will stay with us.
Ramit: That’s the way the culture in our music industry is today. Every one says go to this producer, they will make you successful, but we just have a simple question: why not do it yourself? Especially because of the Internet, we have access to everyone. I could even stalk you on Facebook if I wanted to right now (pauses). I won’t though.
Where do you draw the line between personal and band life?
Raman: There is no line right now.
Ramit: We live together.
Paras: It was the need of the hour when we decided to live together, but now I think it just works out for us.
None of you knew each other before, and met only as a band. How did that work out?
Sahil: I think it worked out nicely.
Raman: It’s a crazy story; I don’t know how this works out.
Ramit: But it does work out.
With inputs from Tejal Khullar, MTTN
Edited by Shriya Ramakrishnan
The interview was made possible due to The Manipal Journal’s first ever collaborative effort with Manipal The Talk.Net.
Read our story from The Local Train’s second visit to Manipal and check out our album of pictures from the event on our Facebook page.