A triumphant and adventurous blend of Electronica, Hip-Hop, R’n’B, Reggae, Dubstep, Jazz, Indian Classical, Drumstep, effortlessly woven around lush, vulnerable yet assertive vocals is how I would describe the tranquil sound of ‘Stormy Weather‘, the 4-song début EP of the cross-continental duo Gods Robots (that’s without an apostrophe, in case you’re wondering), comprising of San Francisco based DJ/Producer Janaka Atugoda aka Janaka Selekta and Mumbai-based chanteuse Shridevi Keshavan aka Taamara. The very fact that Gods Robots has been chosen as one of the 5 bands vying for the coveted Artist Of The Week spot on MTVIggy this week, speaks volumes about the band’s impact on the global music map.
A few weeks ago, I happened to come across Gods Robots’ debut video ‘Stay‘, an irresistibly heady and intricate concoction of Reggae, Indian Classical and Pop with a Sarod intro, and after the very first listen, I was literally hooked on to their earthy yet surreal sound. The reason I’m not really into the live music scene here in India is cuz of the fact that there are less than a handful of Indian bands who deviate from genres like Rock, Metal or Fusion/World Music, genres which are the mainstay of the live music scene here in the country. I have yet to come across a band that delves unabashedly into Soul, R’n’B, Jazz, Country or even Pop for that matter. Following a few replays of ‘Stay‘ on loop, I decided to download their début EP ‘Stormy Weather‘, available as a free download on the band’s webpage. And after a listen to the 4 songs on the EP, it was evident to me that the sound of Gods Robots was nothing like I had heard before, here on the live music scene in the country. Unpredictable, unconventional and lyrically cohesive, the entire EP was proof enough of the band’s immense talent.
So when Blue Frog, India’s première live music performance club announced that Gods Robots would be performing live in New Delhi as a part of their ‘Stormy Weather‘ EP promo tour, of course I HAD to go watch them! And when pulling a few strings (grazie Pawera and Aditi!) got me an exclusive interview with the band, of course I reacted in a very mature and sophisticated way like any music fan would. I flailed and screamed and seized for a bit. Janaka and Taamara were kind enough to take time off from their insane schedule of promos and tours to discuss their music and upcoming live gig with me. And trust me when I say this y’all, they’re some of the nicest guys I’ve literally met in the history of ever!
‘Stormy Weather‘ is a cerebral fusion of some of the most diverse genres of music out there. There’s a subtle organic feel to the melodies which may be classified as World Music, although the beats and hooks make Gods Robots sound like the missing link between World Music and Pop.
‘Our music has been developed over a 3 year period in an evolutionary kinda way. We try creating a strong chorus, melodic thematic hooks and ethereal overlapping vocals with no necessary focal point’ says Janaka as I hang out with the band during an afternoon of shopping and coffee the day before their live gig at Blue Frog, New Delhi. ‘As far as our sound goes, we consider ourselves more pop. There’s definitely an underground feel to everything, but it’s the vocals that overtake the underlying sounds. Musically we’ve stayed ahead of what’s going on. We’re pop music for the world’.
Mumbai-based vocal powerhouse Taamara, the other half of Gods Robots has a voice that I feel is distinctly reminiscent of an eclectic, stripped down blend of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, Neo-Soul pioneer Erykah Badu, and subtle shades of the High Priestess Of Soul, Nina Simone. Tamara gushes, ‘Yes, I’m definitely inspired by Nina Simone. I also grew up listening to and being influenced by Etta James, Audioslave, Massive Attack, Nero, Shakti, Gwen Stefani, No Doubt, L Shankar, Prodigy, Metallica and Asian Dub Foundation‘. For Janaka, it’s the 60’s and the 70’s though. ‘I’m a huge fan of 70’s Reggae, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Guns’n’Roses, Queen as well as 60’s Soul’.
And as far as the present music scene goes, the band has pretty much the same views as me. ‘Nothing out there sounds really great these days,‘ rues Janaka. ‘There’s Adele, Lana Del Rey and Cee Lo. But that’s about it!‘. Taamara pitches in, ‘Don’t forget Gotye!‘. I couldn’t help wondering how amazing the band might sound on a duet with Bjork. Or probably Imogen Heap.
Out of the 4 songs on the EP, it was the title track ‘Stormy Weather‘ that literally blew me away. Taamara’s extravagantly lush vocals bring forth an exuberant and euphoric depth and melancholy to this particular number, and with its introspective lyrics and stunning productions by Janaka, the song stands out as a masterpiece. I pretty much went on and on about the song, about how I identify with it, and how it should be their next single, to which both Janaka and Taamara echoed, ‘We identify with the song as well, it’s definitely one of our faves! We’ll probably toy around with the idea of making a video for this song sometime in the future!‘. Listen to the song right here :
The band’s début video ‘Stay‘ has been well received, and the band might plan a second video soon, probably for the single ‘Falling‘ from their début EP. ‘We’re aiming for a summer release for our début full-length studio album, it all depends on the music company we sign with‘, says Janaka. I sure hope ‘Stormy Weather‘ and ‘Stay‘ make it to the final track-listing!
Another stand-out track from the EP is the song ‘Strange Old Song‘. It’s a thoroughly flawless mix of Carnatic music and Dubstep, two genres that I honestly had no clue would sound so good together! With everybody from Madonna to Britney to Rihanna to Pitbull incorporating elements of Dubstep today, it’s commendable that Gods Robots had already experimented with the genre in 2010 itself.
‘I’ve been listening to Dubstep since 2006, and it wasn’t even much of a genre back then. We’re more interested in the energy of the song. We’re huge fans of Massive Attack, and their song ‘Sly’ was our inspiration. So we created the rough cut of ‘Strange Old Song’, and the English part of the song came first. Taamara came up with it, and she sounded incredible. It’s more Drumstep than Dubstep’, says Janaka.
Spending time with the band made me realize that Gods Robots truly represent a global cross cultural sound, music that transcends all boundaries. And of course I couldn’t wait to hear them perform live the next evening! Arguably the best live music performance club in the country, I’m glad Blue Frog is catering to music lovers of every genre out there. Apart from the usual Rock music scene the country is so obsessed with, I’d definitely love to see more acts like Gods Robots, bands and artists who dabble in Soul/R’n’B/Hip-Hop/Rap/Country/Pop/Jazz/Bluegrass etc, cuz there seriously is a dearth of such performers here.
At Blue Frog, on the night of their performance, the band totally delivered. They brought the house down with a set-list comprising of songs from the EP as well as a few of their other compositions. And yes, their insanely amazing renditions of ‘Stay‘ and ‘Stormy Weather‘ were free of any flaw whatsoever! And omg thanks a ton for dedicating ‘Stormy Weather‘ to me you guys, that absolutely made my day!
In case you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard so far, download the EP ‘Stormy Weather‘ from the band’s website for free. It’s a prelude of bigger things to come. Janaka points out, ‘We plan to focus on creating more new music, now that there’s more communication between us. We don’t want to be stuck in a genre. We prefer people telling us, ‘that sounds like Gods Robots’, instead of ‘Gods Robots sounds like that’.’
I couldn’t agree more, and I’ve already warmed up to their sound. If you’ve liked what you’ve heard so far, don’t forget to vote for the band as this week’s Artist Of The Week on MTVIggy! And watch out for Gods Robots. Their alluring style of cleverly and intricately crafted music has inevitably carved a niche for itself, and I’m definitely waiting for their full-length studio album to drop soon!
Pics by Shweta Chanda
Location Courtesy Blue Frog, New Delhi, India.
‘Stormy Weather’ EP artwork by Archan Nair