Catching Up with The Local Train

You know a concert is more than just the lights, heart-throbbing beats, glow sticks and extended perm when the lyrics give you goosebumps, sweat drips down your body from all the fervent jumping, and you can’t seem to find your voice from all the shouting and singing. Revels ‘16 brought to Manipal the band that made us fall in love with Hindi rock music all over again, with an incredible performance that surpassed all our expectations. This year, The Rotaract Club of Manipal, in association with the Student Council, helped The Local Train find their station at MIT’s quadrangle once again at Nawaazish ‘17- and it was just as packed (their name says it all).

We, at MTTN, managed to steal a few minutes from the band members’ extremely busy schedule to get to know them better. Here’s an account of the interview, which unfolded quite comfortably (with tons of jokes and laughter) in an informal setting at Country Inn.

MTTN: This is the second time you’re performing here. Tell us what you like about Manipal.

Raman: Manipal is our favorite place to perform – and we say that in every college that we play. We genuinely like it here and you guys know the songs better than any crowd we’ve performed for. Plus, the venue [the quadrangle] is a brilliant place to stage a show at.

Ramit: I love Manipal because I can just be myself here. Unlike certain other colleges where the crowd is formal, there is an informal air around you people. If suppose we’re performing at a college for MBA students, half of them are successful people who are proper in their conduct with us, so we naturally feel obligated to be proper to them too. You guys are the chill ones – you can take that on record.

Paras: You’re an intelligent crowd; you sure know how to have fun. We can’t thank you enough for having us over again.

MTTN: We hear you had a hard time shooting the video for your song ‘Dil Mere’. Would you like to recount that for us?

Paras: Yes, of course – that’s a lie. We had an incredible amount of fun during that shoot. The last segment was a bit rough though, where we’re actually trekking.

Raman: ‘Dil Mere’ took us 8 days to shoot, and about 30 days to edit. We travelled up north, took a cottage, went around and chopped wood – and that part we cut out (chuckles). We shot every day. The director planned the scenes and gave us all our parts.

Ramit: Everyone shot at different places around Manali, like in the Solang valley. The police were cordoning off areas, so we couldn’t shoot where we had planned to and ended up going elsewhere for the same. The director asked us to start climbing and after a point we reached a frozen lake. It wasn’t snow, just flimsy ice over the lake and our feet kept going inside it. The water was more than freezing cold. That was quite dreadful. We kept climbing, and as we did so, we came across footprints that looked like those of a leopard or a wolf; it added to the thrill. That way it was fun.

MTTN: So, can we ask you guys a deep question?

Raman [laughing]: Who doesn’t like it deep?

Ramit [smirking]: I know a few people. Anyway, go ahead.

MTTN: You performed a new song for us today – Khudi. Can you tell us what it’s about?

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.

Ramit: None of our songs are closed-ended; they can’t be. When it comes to perceiving a song, everyone likes different things. Hence, everyone has their own interpretation of songs, and that’s how it should be. It reinforces the whole point of music. All our songs are very close and meaningful, and that’s the beauty of it.

MTTN: Who’s the funny one in the group, and who’s the mysterious one?

Paras: Depends on what day we’re talking about.

Raman (laughing): Who do you think? Let’s see if you guess correctly.

{We guessed Raman to be the funny one and Sahil to be the mysterious one, considering he generally keeps to himself.}

Paras: Sahil just has those criminal eyes. You don’t even know what he can kill with those eyes.

Raman: You’d think I’m the funny one because I get to talk on the mike. That’s the usual trend – but once you hang out with us, you’ll see that all of these guys [Ramit, Paras and Sahil] are downright crazy! We’re all from different places and have our own distinct personalities. That is what each of us bring to the table. If everyone looked like this (points to himself), we probably wouldn’t have a lot of female friends.

MTTN: Why do you choose to remain an indie band, despite all the success?

Ramit: We have 4 million hits on our YouTube channel collectively, which I think is a decent number for an independent band. A lot of people have misconceptions about what indie is. It isn’t “not being signed by anyone”. It is having the freedom to make your own music. Usually, when a third party gets involved, they end up influencing what you’re doing. Choosing to be independent gives me the liberty to decide what I want to do with what I’m making or doing with my art or music. I guess that is where we don’t get much of an option, because this is how we are and this is what we want to do. I don’t think we’ll be able to work with a label.

Raman: To tell you the truth, the real reason we don’t want to associate ourselves with someone else is because there is a lot of bullshit happening in our country; the quality of art has no credibility left, what with actors and actresses singing. They’re not really artists – they’re stars. At some point, somebody really has to call it out, and the only ones who can do that are those who are true to their art and have something real to show. We don’t even want to be a part of that circle.

Paras: We’ve always wanted to do our own thing. We enjoy the songs we write, and we’re very glad people like listening to the songs we make. If anyone wants to associate with what we do, they’re more than welcome, but we won’t change anything. We like the creative control over everything. When we envision a song in a particular way, we want to do it in that very way because we prefer to.

MTTN: Do you ever see yourselves associating your band with another party?

Raman: if you observe, all our songs are quite dissimilar, and that’s our USP. The creative forum we have as an independent band is priceless, and we won’t negotiate on that. It took the four of us a tremendous lot to reach the place we are at now; and we’re very thankful to our fan base, because they are who make us, giving us the power to stand and be independent.

Ramit: In the future, even if we do associate with a label or with any bigger party, we can assure you that we would still do what we want- and that’s a decision that all four of us took. We want to have our own game plan, and if anyone fits into that, then great. What we can’t do is the whole “fevicol ko dil se jodna” crap.

Raman (laughing): If it offers money, then why not. However, we won’t compromise our freedom over it. You’ve met us and I’m sure by now you would’ve figured that we won’t take shit from anyone. For example, Khudi’s video is being shot right now in Manali, then the team comes to Delhi to shoot us, and goes on further to Goa. We’ve hired the best we could and we’re funding all of it by ourselves. It’s our product, and it’s going be with us forever. We don’t want to owe anything to anyone.

Ramit: Sadly, this is the culture for upcoming musicians in India; in order to be something big, you have to first go to someone big and they’ll make you a star. I don’t get that concept. Why can’t you do it on your own? Especially now, because of the internet, we have access to everybody. I can even stalk you on Facebook if I want to.

MTTN: You tour extensively. Where and how do you draw the line between your band life and your life outside?

(All of them): There is no life outside!

Ramit: We practically live together in the same house!

Paras: We’ve known each other for many years now. Back then, it was in the need of the hour that we decided to live together, but after a point it just worked out well for us.

Raman: We only got to know each other after this band formed. It’s a weird story; I don’t know how it works out, but it does.

The Local Train won our hearts both on and off stage. From Raman’s nest of uncombed hair to Sahil’s silent yet selective speech, the insight into the band member’s lives was a heart-warming experience.

(Questions courtesy of MTTN and TMJ)

Tejal Khullar for MTTN

Photographs by: Nishant Sahoo

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