‘We want to reach out to a wider audience’

‘We want to reach out to a wider audience, sing in more languages’

Band ‘Masala Coffee’ has three vocalists now and is diversifying into languages like Punjabi, English and Arabic, says founder Varun Sunil

One of the most popular names in the indie music scene, ‘Masala Coffee’ has established itself firmly in the hearts of fans and the general audience alike. Known for a folk rock sound that is as unique as their name, the band sprung a surprise few months ago, when it announced that its lead singer, Sooraj Santhosh, was parting ways with them.

But they got two new vocalists on board almost immediately and are currently juggling a hectic concert schedule with their work in movies. Metrolife chatted with the band’s founder, vocalist and percussionist Varun Sunil, to know about their future plans.

Why the sudden lineup change?

Though we had performed all over the globe, many people still perceived ‘Masala Coffee’ to be a South Indian band. With good reason too, because most of our initial tracks were in Tamil and Malayalam.

We wanted to change that and rebrand ourselves as a band that caters to a variety of genres and audiences. We wanted to sing in many more languages and for that, we took on board two new new vocalists — Aslam and Crishna — who can sing flawlessly in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Arabic. We have also got a new keyboard player, Steve Kottoor.

Our lead singer Sooraj wanted to pursue his own interests and so we mutually decided to part. 

How did you select the two new singers?

We got many requests after we put out an official post that Sooraj is no longer with us. My cousin suggested Aslam’s name. Aslam is a versatile singer and a winner of Tamil Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa; he has also been a part of Indian Idol also. Jyothi Krishna aka Crishna used to be the lead singer of a band called ‘Katta Vibe’. We have been friends for a long time now.

I zeroed in on their names since I thought that the combination of our voices (me, Aslam and Crishna) would be a unique and interesting addition to the band. 

Will you still be performing the songs that Sooraj sang?

The ones which have a typical Masala Coffee touch will be continued. We will be avoiding covers such as ‘Munbe Vaa’ and ‘Snehithane’; these were dropped from our concerts a long time ago.

But songs such as ‘Alayal Thara Venam’ and ‘Kantha’, which come under the branding of the band, will be rendered.

You acted in a music video right? How did that happen?

I am signed to Sony Music India in my independent capacity and the video is part of a series that I am going to do. My new video ‘Whispering Hues’, a collaboration with veena player Rajhesh Vaidhya, was released recently.

You are also working in films right?

Yes, I am doing the music for three films as of now — two in Tamil and one in Malayalam. The band is working on a Telugu film titled ‘Bougainvillea’ as of now.

You made your Sandalwood debut with ‘Mundina Nildana’, which was well received. Any more Kannada films?

No, we haven’t signed any Kannada film after that.

Apart from music, what does the band do together?

We are all big foodies and love to explore a variety of cuisines. We make it a point to try the food at every place where we have a gig but we shun the big fancy places and go to the smaller shops, which usually serve the best food. Apart from this, we travel together a lot — for shows and so on.

So you don’t get to spend time with family?

Our main aim is to do as many shows as possible. So we spend very little time with our families, mostly the 3-4 days that we get in between gigs is all that we have.

What is in the pipeline for the band now?

We have started work on our new album — a multi-lingual project which will retain the core folk rock sound of the band but which will introduce new elements as well. The album, which is unnamed yet, will have nine or eleven songs, one of which will be an EDM version of the runaway hit ‘Kaantha’. All songs will be out soon. 

What about ‘Kimaya’?

‘Kimaya’ is an EP, with four songs. We are not working on any more songs for it.

Future shows?

We recently had a great gig at IISc, Bengaluru. We are performing at the Goa Carnival on February 23 and are coming to Bengaluru for rehearsals, since quite a few of our members are based here. We also have a public concert on February 27 in Singapore.

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