They’ve been almost everywhere in India, but Faridkot have never played a gig in Faridkot.
The popular Hindi pop-rock band has received plenty of requests to make the trip to their namesake town in western Punjab, mostly in the form of comments on their YouTube videos. “It’s not like we don’t want to,” says keyboardist Akshay Raheja, “we just have no clue about the city.”
The band, whose debut album Ek was released two days ago, has a surprisingly wide reputation outside the usual metro-centric indie circuit. They’ve played in locations as diverse as the Infosys campus in Chandigarh and villages in the Siang valley in Arunachal Pradesh. “The fact that we sing in Hindi has always worked for us,” Raheja says. “It gets us a wider reach—out of the metros.”
Formed in 2008, Faridkot reached the finals of Channel V’s music reality show Launchpad the following year. Two years of intense gigging followed, with the band roughing it out at college festivals, corporate shows, award ceremonies and charity concerts. At the same time, they jammed continuously, building up a repertoire of more than 20 originals. “Their music is instantly likeable,” says singer-songwriter Raghu Dixit, who was one of the judges on Launchpad. “They’re lyrically strong, and are a great performing unit.”
Getting around: Faridkot will start a three-city tour to promote their debut album Ek
The band put on an energetic live act. Vocalist Inderpreet Singh twists and swivels around the axis of his mic stand while singing, while guitarists Gavin Pacheco and Rajarshi Sanyal flail spasmodically on either side. Raheja peers into his laptop, providing hints of electronica to the band’s sound, like the false start sample that opens Halle Dil.
In August 2009 (“on 15 August to be precise,” says Raheja), they took over a studio in Delhi’s Shahpur Jat and put together the eight-track album piece by piece. “We did everything ourselves, from the layering to the production,” Raheja says. The album was ready by September 2009, but it’s taken a year and a half to get a label on board (Times Music) and see its release.
As is far too common in Indian indie, the songs on Ek don’t quite represent the band’s current sound. Raheja admits as much. “We had enough material for three albums or so, but we followed a simple rule,” he says. “We picked the first eight songs we’d composed.” These were songs the band had been playing since 2008. “It’s been three years. We just had to get them out there quick.”
These are tunes from Faridkot’s early days, which remain their most popular. Songs such as Laila and Banjare follow a straightforward template for Hindi pop-rock—lots of clean, jangly guitar chords and hints of influence from Pakistani groups such as Strings. Laila, their most popular song, builds to a loud, singalong chorus and is usually played more than once in a show. “We’ve got influences ranging from Led Zeppelin to Kailash Kher,” Raheja says. “You could say our basic style is mixing eclectic Western influences over traditional Hindi vocals.”
The best representative of Faridkot’s changing sound is live show regular Titliyaan—the song’s opening part sounds more trip-hop than pop, with a stark guitar line floating over a complex, jazz shuffle on the drums. The chorus breaks into invocations flecked with dark anger like something out of Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack for Dev.D, and ends with a bluesy guitar solo. “We keep listening to new stuff. Our second album will be less pop, and completely different,” Raheja promises. The band has also seen a change in staff —drummer Reuben Narain left to pursue his interest in jazz composition, and was replaced by Sahil Mendiratta.
The band’s obvious next step is Bollywood. They’ve already taken a tentative first step, composing the title song for Sharafat Gayi Tel Lene, an upcoming “comedy thriller” from the producers of Khosla ka Ghosla! “We’re all full-time musicians. Our focus for the year is promoting our album, getting people to listen to it, and bring our music to new places.” Starting with Faridkot.