When Chai Met Toast on their new album Believe, finding their footing — and a growing following

Anurag Tagat

October 27, 2018 13:11:31 IST

If the charm of Kerala folk/indie rock band When Chai Met Toast had to be summed up, you’d just have to listen to ‘Khoj (Passing By)’, the opening track on their new EP Believe. Beyond its perfect production values and gentle melodies, one’s ears instantly take note of how vocalist Ashwin Gopakumar sings in three different languages in the span of 30 seconds.

Tamil, Malayalam, English and Hindi are effortlessly transitioned through for Gopakumar and When Chai Met Toast, which includes guitarist/banjo player Achyuth Jaigopal, keyboardist Palee Francis and drummer Pai Sailesh. Since 2014, the happy-vibes band have slowly found their footing and gained a following for a sound that recalls a blend of indie faves like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and Dave Matthews Band.

But Believe comes across — for the most part — more as an emotional meditation on life. Bolstering horn sections and emphatic rhythm sections punctuate the four-track release, whose fully triumphant sound only emerges on the closing song ‘Forever’. It’s fair to say that this release is far more tempered emotions-wise compared to their 2017 EP The Joy of Little Things. While Jaigopal mentions that the members were “geographically estranged” during the making of Believe, Gopakumar notes that the music has always reflected their “life experiences.” The vocalist adds, “In this EP, there’s definitely a more emotional connection than anything we’ve probably written before. Sonically, we experimented by retaining the core of the earlier WCMT sound, but adding new synth elements with brass and violin sections. We love the way things are taking a turn.”

When Chai Met Toast

When Chai Met Toast

The EP is being promoted with a launch tour that runs through from October to December, including the major metros and an appearance at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune. Although they’re signed to Only Much Louder, one of the country’s best-known artist and event management companies, they’re still a close-knit unit managed by Kishan John from the early days. Gopakumar says everything is still DIY for the band. He adds, “We have got on board some very talented and dedicated team members working with us on the design, video, lights and logistical fronts which enable us to focus more on the music side.”

In the last three years alone, the band went from being hugely successful in Kochi and Bengaluru to gaining an audience across the country and even some international success. Jaigopal says that they’re still exploring new territories and playing cities for the first time — like the Agumbe Bloom in Green Festival in Karnataka, held this November. The guitarist says, “Every gig is daunting because we want to give every audience the best we can, be it five people or 5,000 that we are playing to.”

Chances are that the numbers never dip too low for a gig anywhere, considering their manager is hard at work to put the word out. Kishan points out that getting booked to perform at food festivals or general art and culture showcases is “opening up quite a lot of opportunities” for the band. Like every other musician in 2018, they rely on tours and live shows for income and getting booked for as many shows as possible is the aim. Kishan explains his approach, “We look at buying email databases from sites and shoot emailers with show details and also circulate word through a campus ambassador network that we have developed. We now have a 125-member strong campus ambassador network across colleges in the country who endorse and promote our music in their city and college, which is working wonders for us. And yes, quite a bit of paid promotions on social media channels as well.”

And while there may be a rained out show or a run-in with questionable businessfolk on occasion, the thrill of touring is still a positive one for the band. A cancelled flight to Dibrugarh led them to take on a 15-hour road journey to Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh to perform at the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music in December last year, but Gopakumar says one of their best shows came at the Mojo Rising Festival in Kochi earlier this year. “It feels great to see a lot more of the regional audience taking to our music,” he says.

Updated Date: Oct 27, 2018 13:11 PM