Flight Path: Charting The Rise Of Sky Rabbit
Over the last year and a half – the time between the long-delayed release of their self-titled debut album in January 2012 and the issue of their speedily-dispensed EP Where last month – Mumbai-based electro-pop-rock quartet Sky Rabbit has gone from being the band you told all your friends about to the band whose gigs even your friends who don’t usually go for gigs attend. The universally positive reviews for both Sky Rabbit and Where have been accompanied by appearances at almost every venue in this city, both established and new, from usual suspects such as Blue Frog, Hard Rock and Bonobo to Cheval and The Irish House in Kala Ghoda (but surprisingly not Kino 108 in Andheri – at least, not yet).
In the interim, Sky Rabbit also went from mostly doing shows in Mumbai and Pune to being booked for a slew of major festivals across the country, among them Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh and Ragasthan in Jaisalmer, NH7 Weekender in Bangalore and India Bike Week and Live From The Console in Goa. Or as vocalist and songwriter Raxit Tewari puts it, “from the mountains and the desert to the beach”. “On a certain level, we thought that would happen,” says Tewari, when asked about the band’s busy concert calendar. “Because for a sound like ours if we got down to recording things and had people listen to them, we figured a lot more people would interact with [the songs] and automatically come for gigs. It’s not about half-an-hour[-long] extensive jams that can only reach [their] full potential at a gig. All these are songs that you can listen to at home. I think that has helped us and translated into a lot more people wanting to listen to the songs live.”
Between all the gigging, Tewari and guitarist Rahul Nadkarni have managed to develop side projects. Electro-pop act Your Chin is Tewari’s solo avatar, while Snowshoe is Nadkarni’s ambient electronica outfit that also features Sky Rabbit drummer Harsh Karangale. Snowshoe’s minimalist beats are fairly distinct from Sky Rabbit’s compositions, but because Tewari is the sole songwriter of both Your Chin and Sky Rabbit, there is a bit of an overlap between the sounds of the two. However, as Tewari told us back in May, “Your Chin’s music is made interacting with machines and ideating with them [while] Sky Rabbit’s music is more about the interaction the four of us share in the jam room and studio.”
Where, as most fans have observed, relies far less on samples and reflects the sound of a “live” band far more than its predecessor. This, in part, is thanks to their finding a kindred soul in producer Ayan De, who they got on board to helm their EP. “We’re exactly the same kind of people, listening to the same kind of music, laughing at the same kind of jokes,” says Tewari. “I guess if you can find another person who can work with you, like Ayan [does with us], you won’t wait five years for recording.” That can only be good news for fans who – if things go to plan – won’t have to wait too long for the next installment of tunes from the Sky Rabbit burrow.
“I guess after a while, you have to put [the songs] down, otherwise they lose their sheen,” says Tewari. “It would be like dragging a half-dead horse and waiting for it to die and suddenly standing and doing something on top of it.” Thus far, they have four unreleased songs that occasionally make their set lists – “Sun Me Out”, “One”, “A and B” and fan favourite “Who’s Your Daddy?” – but they’re unsure of whether they will end up on an upcoming album or EP for which they “have close to about 50 to 60 loops, two of three out of [which] might just turn into songs,” says Tewari.
You’re likely to also hear their music pop up in promos for everything from fashion magazine cover shoots to television shows, as it’s become the de facto soundtrack for when video producers are looking to lend their clips a cachet of cool. One of the more unusual gigs they performed recently was the GQ Best Dressed Men 2013 party, a sign that they’re not opposed to playing “corporate shows” provided “you’re allowed to do what you want to do”, says Nadkarni. Or in other words, if the only thing that changes is the setting, not the set list. “[The party] wasn’t really like a corporate gig,” says Tewari. “The setting might be corporate, [but] they just really wanted us to come and play our music there. For us, it’s literally like just taking our music to another set of people who probably wouldn’t just generally land up at our gigs. A corporate gig would be where you only had to do Beatles or Boney M or something.”
But for a band that has indisputably moved up a few rungs on the Indian indie ladder, Sky Rabbit, according to their manager Vidhi Jhaveri, is making just “one-and-a-half to two times what they were charging” two and half years ago. Tewari is the only member of the group – whose average age is 25 – not living with his parents, while bassist Siddharth Shah continues to work as a copywriter at an advertising firm. Yet, the act has reached a level where they are able to draw about 100 hardcore fans to an un-tested venue on a particularly rainy week night, as they did two Thursdays ago at The Irish House in Kala Ghoda. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with the scene [because] they’re still not making what they deserve to make,” says Jhaveri, who feels that they are now finally “in a position to say no” if the money isn’t good enough.
Sky Rabbit is in the awkward predicament of a band that spent so many years as an “upcoming” act that today, they find themselves fighting old perceptions even though they’ve established themselves. Interestingly, when asked where they see themselves in the hierarchy of Indian indie, the band – which it should be said is far less reticent than they were two years ago – is at a loss for words. “We don’t think like that,” says Karangale. “We just do what we do.” They’d rather see themselves as fitting into a community of acts whose music they enjoy and identify with. “I guess we think some music is interesting,” says Tewari who includes in this lot The Supersonics, Peter Cat Recording Co., Blek, PINKNOISE, and Sridhar/Thayil. “And maybe that’s the group we belong in.”
Sky Rabbit’s gig on Wednesday, August 7 is the next Mumbai Boss night at Blue Frog. In other words, 20 of our readers (and their friends) can get in for free. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Sky Rabbit at Blue Frog” in the subject line for a chance to walk in without having to shell out the Rs350 per head entry fee or Rs1,000 per head cover charge. If you’d like a +1, you need to specify that in your email. The free entry will be provided to those who write in before we reach our cap of 20. The winners will be notified directly via email and their names will be left at the gate with the venue’s managers on the night of the event.