Indian post-rock band aswekeepsearching on their new album, and a fresh minimalist approach
Indian post-rock band aswekeepsearching talk to Firstpost about their third album Rooh, taking the band in a new direction, and putting in effort to emotionally connect with listeners.
Indian post-rock band aswekeepsearching's third, eight-track album Rooh, released on 27 September.
With Rooh, aswekeepsearching has donned a brand new band image of minimalism and monochrome.
Musically, while still recalling aswekeepsearching’s familiar atmospheric and ambient feel, Rooh touches upon a wide range of elements lying in and between rock and post-rock.
Talking to the Indian post-rock band, aswekeepsearching, is an intimate experience of understanding what goes into the making of the band, their music and its philosophy, besides sharing lighthearted quips and generous laughs. Sambit Chatterjee, the newest member of the band, who’s come on as drummer following the departure of Gautam Deb, has joined guitarist and vocalist Uddipan Sarmah, keyboardist and guitarist Shubham Gurung, and bassist Robert Alex on aswekeepsearching’s third, eight-track album Rooh, which released on 27 September.
Alex explains post-rock as essentially being a “spaced-out version of rock” and adds: “It’s about representation. How we see patterns in loops, this is just a sonic representation of that.” And the band has a straightforward process when creating this music. “The creative process is very simple. We all think of our personal spaces and then discuss the idea,” says Sarmah. After this, Gurung structures the song, and the band gathers to jam and ideate, until they arrive at a consensus about its sound. “It’s not very often that we have creative conflicts,” reveals Alex. “Because we’ve been really close friends – if any one of us hears a new band or a new artist we like, the first thing we do is share it within ourselves. So that, in a way, helps us sync our music sensibilities without forcing it,” he adds.
With Rooh, aswekeepsearching has donned a brand new image — minimalistic and monochromatic. This minimalism is also reflected in their sound, which is calmer, has a more studied focus on fewer elements, and technically, has extensive layering and structuring that gives the album a grand, engulfing feel. “And it’s emotional; it’s a very sober version of aswekeepsearching,” says Sarmah, adding that the members are past their days of partying all night and have generally acquired a more responsible outlook towards their art. “We have matured actually, it shows in our music also,” adds Gurung.
‘Rooh’ means soul, and the band describes the album as the 'musical adaptation' of their 'experiences, struggles, emotions and self-awareness over the years', having honestly bared themselves through their music. “For us, this album is what comes absolutely naturally at this point,” says Alex. It’s also their most well-thought-out album thus far, with each song having a story behind it. “This is more of a storytelling kind of experience rather than just an album,” adds Sarmah. Given their interest in tying in stories, Rooh also boasts of more vocals than any album before it, and Sarmah’s singing is among the most emotive highlights of the album. His voice ranges from quiet wailing and incandescent distortion, to soft and expressive, like a blanket of comfort, to heavy and forceful.
Rooh has been recorded at Mumbai’s Island City Studios, and mixed and mastered by Australian producer Forrester Savell, with cover art by Anoop Bhat. Among the many collaborators on the album are Ritwik De on production and additional guitars, additional programming by Amitabh Barooa, sarangi by Ustad Alla Rakha Kalawant, and female vocals by Meg D’Souza. “I don’t want to learn music,” says Sarmah with a laugh, about the collaborations. He adds, “I have invested my time in terms of learning music, but I found that was only spoiling my creativity, because the simplicity is maybe my character and personally I want to keep it that way… But we need people who are musically educated to help us create things in a beautiful way.”
Musically, while still recalling aswekeepsearching’s familiar atmospheric and ambient feel, Rooh touches upon a wide range of elements lying in and between rock and post-rock. The opening track 'Chasing Light' is a contemplative, synth-heavy introduction to Rooh that is overdrawn with a sense of urgency. It’s followed by 'Green and Blue' that sounds brighter, with lyrics expressing positivity, accompanied with energetic guitar riffs.
Next on the album is 'Aas Paas', which sees aswekeepsearching indulge listeners in a sound with layered depth, featuring a sarangi that blends into those layers, creating a swirling, yet grounded and psychedelic atmosphere. It’s followed by 'Eneke Najaaba,' a soulful interlude leading to the title track. 'Rooh' is a straightforward rock song with distinct drums, bass, guitar and vocals, for which the band has released an official music video, directed by Kaushik Sinha.
Next on the listing is 'A Night in Zottegem,' named after a Belgian hamlet. The piece has a delicate sound, complemented by Ajay Jayanthi’s soaring violin. 'Aitbaar' is the album’s only acoustic number, thematically representative of their love for nature, which also happens to be one of their overarching inspirations. The album closes with 'Gangtey,' named after a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan. The song’s melody is that of the Tara Mantra, an ancient folk song with female vocals guiding the album to a chanting, meditative close. A video released for the song documents Sarmah’s personal experience of travelling there early this year.
While the band is experiencing much change, Sarmah is confident of their fans’ continued support. “They will adapt with us,” he says, adding: “Because even though we have changed, we still have that character, but in a different way. Because at the end of the day, if I think ‘okay I can’t change’, then I’m limiting my creativity, which is dangerous.” And so far, his confidence seems well-placed. The band’s steadily growing, loyal fan-base – whom they call the AWKSgazers – has likened the experience of listening to Rooh to that of "a raging river flowing down to a mellow sea”.
“After a while I became the album," reads another fan comment on social media.
aswekeepsearching seems to have earned this admiration not only because of their consistently well-performing sound, but also, in large part, due to their dedicated listening sessions. “We’re very focused on building a community with this album,” says Sarmah, who considers the sessions an important bonding opportunity. To further enhance the band's ‘experience’, they launched the brand Zia, a limited-production apparel line with designer Tanaya Sharma earlier this year. “I’m telling you, it’s a cult. You never know, [we] might just have our own small villa and people wearing our clothes,” jokes Chatterjee, at which they all burst into laughter.
aswekeepsearching begin their album launch tour starting 1 October. More details here.
The band will also be seen performing at the OnePlus Music Festival this year, slated to be held on 17 November at Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium. While singers Katy Perry and Dua Lipa are headlining the concert, aswekeepsearching will be opening the act, alongside performances by Amit Trivedi, The Local Train, and Ritviz.
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