Setting the stage on fire

Setting the stage on fire

Setting the stage on fire

Over the years, Bangalore has seen some fabulous rock bands come in and strut their stuff and then go on to disappear into the sound of silence.

College bands entering the professional circuit has been a rarer occurrence. Another bane of the Bangalore bands has been tenure, but Thermal and a Quarter have been one of the very few bands that started off as a college band and are still around 16 years later, setting the stage on fire.

The band, now simply known as TAAQ, has played all over India, toured in the US, United Kingdom, West Asia, China and Southeast Asia. They have released five studio albums, supported acts like Guns N’ Roses, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull, and won awards for individual music as well as overall contribution to Indian Rock.

The TAAQ, which started off originally as the Christ College band, went on to represent the college in intercollegiate festivals across the country. Talking about how they came into being, frontman Bruce Lee Mani says that they were “conceived like most of us, in a bedroom, in 1996. After sweeping all the awards at almost all of these festivals, we went semi-pro and made our debut as a semi-pro band called Thermal and a Quarter at the St John Autumn Muse Rock fest in 1996.”

At a time when almost every band played popular covers, TAAQ took on the original compositions route, with the full knowledge of the fact that audiences of that time pretty much hated new stuff from semi-pro bands. Talking extensively about the early days, Bruce says, “From day one, TAAQ always focussed on original compositions.

We did play a few popular covers of Mr Big, RHCP, The Police etc, but there was never a show without an own composition. We had written almost 10 to 15 songs before we released our first album. Although we had recorded these songs, we never thought of releasing them. Our sound was very different back then.

A lot of our songs had other influences, quite obviously, but we had not yet found our own unique sound. This was pretty much the lead up to the first album. By the time we wrote and recorded our first album in 2000, we had been playing pure original sets for a long time and were fully aware of the baby TAAQ sound emerging.”

The sound of the band evolved from the first album and kept growing with every subsequent album and live performance. The stature of the band also grew exponentially across the country. The second album, Jupiter Café, that released in 2002 more or less established TAAQ as a professional band.

The third album, Plan B, was out in 2005, followed by This Is It in 2009. The latest album, 3 Wheels 9 Lives, was released last year, and featured 28 tracks. The feature on the award-winning series Dewarists led to the single Make Love, which was among the best songs of the series.

The line-up of the band has gone through several changes over the last 16 years, with Bruce on guitars and vocals, and Rajeev Rajagopal on drums remaining a constant right through. The early days saw the likes of Sunil Phillip Chandy on bass, Ajit Abraham on vocals. Rzhude David played bass on all songs and also did the vocals for a few songs on the first four albums. Others who have played with the group include the amazingly talented Prakash K N.

Guest musicians like Vinnie Valentino and the mind-blowing Prassana have also contributed to the band’s music. Recently, they also had a singer called Sunshine join them on live performances. Currently, the band features Leslie Charles on bass and Michael Dias on guitar and vocals.

The unique sound of the band has captured not just the imagination of the country, but regular performances across several major musical destinations in the world have also wowed pockets of audiences. Summing up the unique sound of TAAQ, Bruce says, “We call our music ‘Bangalore Rock’. Imagine the bands Yes meets The Police meets The Beatles, while eating idli vada sambar at a Darshini in Bangalore. That’s the kind of vibe the TAAQ sound has.

” As for the songs, he says, “We have been telling simple stories of life and love and existence in Bangalore through all our albums, it’s the most honest musical representation of what we go through as individuals and as a band living and working in this crazy city and country.

The extremes that are present in India in everything we see, do, eat or breathe is fodder enough for any creative endeavour.” About the success of the band, they typically underplay it by saying, “Honestly, just being able to play music for a living is success enough, especially when comparing it to the “Indian idea” of a regular respectable work scene.”

The future for the incredibly talented TAAQ is immense. They are looking at producing new music, and a European tour is also on the cards. Closer home, they will be headlining the Go MAD festival in Ooty next month. The band is looking forward to playing at this festival and recalls the last time they played there as being a beautiful and special experience. “The festival was set in the most beautiful venue you could possibly think of and had such a great vibe about it. It was peaceful and fun and energetic and laid back, all at the same time. We are really looking forward to being there and hope more people turn up and stay there as it is such an amazing experience,” says Bruce.

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