The Local Train on their second album Vaaqif, changing the way Hindi rock music is perceived
The Local Train talk about achieving popularity in tier 2 Indian cities, and what the songs from Vaaqif are about | #FirstCulture
Up until two years ago, you’d hear New Delhi rock band The Local Train win over college crowds with covers of AR Rahman. Cut to their packed show at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in December, just a month before they released their second album Vaaqif, and The Local Train leaned into a lot of new material, no longer needing to stake their claim as one of the most dependable bands for a big stage.
Active since 2008, The Local Train worked their way up probably due to their emphatic sound and Urdu and Hindi lyrics delivered most often in an anthemic fashion. Songs from their debut album Aalas Ka Pedh (2015) were so evocative that the audience can often drown out the band when it comes to singing along to tracks like ‘Aaoge Tum Kabhi’ (used in Angry Indian Goddesses) and ‘Choo Lo’, which have amassed over a million views on streaming websites. Vocalist-guitarist Raman Negi says their first album was more inclined towards pop, while guitarist Paras Thakur calls it "a very comfortable space musically for everybody.”
Vaaqif, on the other hand, was the band’s turn to “consciously push the envelope,” according to Thakur. Negi says, “You know we sing in Hindi and you know how people think, ‘Hindi mein rock kar rahe hai?’ That (impression) we’ve tried to change.” A fully independent band who have self-released Vaaqif, The Local Train still appear bemused that their music doesn’t make it to TV or radio much, with the only exception being RJ Sarthak on Hit 95 FM. “I really hope they start playing everybody’s videos on TV. We still don’t understand… everyone has really nice music videos – even better than the ones that are currently on TV – we really hope they show them,” Negi says.
And The Local Train have it all figured out on the music video front – relishing the idea that they can commission filmmakers from around the country to work with them to breathe new perspective into their songs. The lead single off Vaaqif, ‘Khudi’, follows the story of a frustrated restaurant staffer who finds his calling.
Similarly, the album comes from a place of truth for a band who have gone from just another stereotypical Delhi rock band to becoming a must-hear act. In Vaaqif, they touch upon the suffering that stems from communalism (the title track, which encourages hope), existential crises (‘Mizaaj’, which the band says is about “getting nowhere in life” and was written last) and belief. Negi breaks down the tracklist, “‘Gustaakh’ is like a conversation between a conservative leader and a neutral youth, who is telling him we have to move ahead and not just keep looking back. ‘Aaftaab’, it’s one of our favourite songs, because we love acoustic songs. It’s about when you’re down, feeling better – we wrote it for a friend. ‘Aakhri Salaam’ is written from the perspective of a non-believer.”
They might seem like they could polarise a crowd of young audience members out to just listen to music they can jump around to, but The Local Train took their most recent promo tour to several towns across the country late last year. Tirupati, Hubballi, Indore, Jaipur and many more were first time stops for the band, who say they played to strong crowds where they expected very few people to turn up. About a show that was attended by over a 150 people, Negi says, “Indore, we thought, kaisa hoga, kaun aayega. When we were doing the sound check and it was late, people started turning up outside. We thought 50 people will come. The entry fee was Rs 150. The venue we were playing at was for DJs and metal gigs. We knew this. They knew the songs from the first album. We thought, ‘Wow, it’s finally reached here.’”
With the festival stages conquered and a steady flow of shows, The Local Train are aware about how they need to prove themselves. “A band can only do something in this country if we sell our own tickets,” says Negi. Thakur gives the band a pat on the back. “The journey from where we started – back in the day when we wanted to become professional musicians, writing our own songs – it’s something we’re very happy with. There’s a visible growth,” he says.
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