Published: 09th October 2017
Wayside Story: Why this trio from Chennai could be Indian music's next big thing
Meet Wayside, a three-piece band that juggles criticism, diminishing crowds and the highs and lows of being young musicians in Chennai
The smell of old leather and wood wafts through the studio while a deep thrumming echoes off the speaker and resonates through the room. The boys are in play mode and the air crackles with the sounds of riffs and verses intertwined with jokes, concentration and more jokes. Meet Wayside, a three-piece band that juggles criticism, diminishing crowds and the highs and lows of being young musicians in a city that is unwilling to upgrade.
So, what do you think happens when three Chennai musicians with eclectic tastes form a band? You get Wayside, whose members are Pranav K R (drums), Shiv Rekhi (bass) and Elvis Xaviour (vocals/guitar), a trio that shares quite an unconventional bond that sways between classic rock, grunge and pop — and recently aced the Red Bull Band Hunt.
Most bands start because of common music tastes, and that is how a lot of bands lose their individuality and end up sounding just like the band they want to listen to. I don't think we have that issue
Pranav KR, Wayside's Drummer
The sounds of Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Porcupine Tree, John Mayer and Rage Against The Machine are a few of the styles that influence their music. "And that's what makes us different; that's how we stand out from the rest," says Pranav, who, along with Shiv, has previously played for metal band Spine Shatter until they disbanded recently. Elvis, the newest member, is just a year old in the setup, but the trio say that, "this is how we like it." However, the three-piece band, usually not a commonality, are not only driven by their passion for music, but also their disregard for fame. "We play what we like and if others like it, then great," says Pranav, smugly.
Fight back: When someone says they can't do it, the trio push themselves to prove critics wrong
Most bands have four members, thus giving the vocalist more freedom to perform, rather than being tied down with an instrument. Despite Elvis being the latest addition, the trio can't imagine adding another person. "I can't really imagine finding a fourth person whose differences flow so easily to compose music that is different and comfortable, to our ears at least. We like our lineup and that's one thing we won't change, despite numerous suggestions by pros," adds Pranav.
Talk about songwriting and all eyes fall on Elvis, who "handles the words", as he finds inspiration in everyday objects or ideas. "Once I get an idea, I obsess over it and turn it into a song. The idea can be random," says Elvis. He goes on to add that their song, Keyboard Warrior, was inspired by people ranting regularly on social media. Now, with its much-Snapchatted ‘Friyay’ nights and groovy Bay 146 stories, ask if Chennai is a budding music hub and the answer comes in grunts and sighs. Chennai, according to the trio, has an unwilling crowd, and with the recent hike in tickets from Rs 500 to 750, music aficionados seem to be thinning by the week.
We write what we think sounds nice; we don't shy away from making any sort of music that people want to listen to. We don't make it technical, and we never try to make it too mainstream. We are open to suggestions, but whether we like it or not matters. If others like it too, we're lucky
Pranav KR, Wayside's Drummer
And while they understand that youngsters could hit a dead end with this kind of a hike, the older crowd seems hesitant and the audience still looms large where older, better-known bands like Skrat and Junkyard Groove, play. But there’s still hope. "A lot of older people appreciate our music and tell us that it goes with what they used to listen to. We also get the same reaction from the younger crowd. So, we've found the middle ground and that's because we also listen to music like that," states Shiv, who adds that unlike Mumbai with its many venues, bands and growing live music culture, Chennai is a bit more choosy.
Despite their love and passion for music, looking at it as a full-time job is not on the list, unless "someone pays us well to play." The problem, they explain is that organisers are iffy about letting in fresh voices as they prefer to stay within their comfort zones. As for scoring gigs in other cities, the situation is just as tense. "Organisers will always look out for their local bands, so those guys get dibs on gigs," they add. But does this deter them? The answer comes in a musical wave of laughs and snorts. The band does, at the end of the day, rely on their own judgment and that confidence separates them from the wannabes Audioslave or Porcupine Tree. While many bands strive to perfect their music to match their idols, Wayside brings in a fusion so different, it brims with individuality and newness.
Bring up the Red Bull Band Hunt and the three break into charming grins. What started as a mere competition turned into a battle of the cities. Wayside ended up beating six bands from six different cities to win their spot atop the Red Bull Tour Bus. "At first. it was just about asking people to vote for us, but later we realised that we may actually have a chance to win," says Pranav. The bands are selected based on the number of votes they receive, and through bouts of laughter and a whole lotta feels, they say, "At the end, it just resulted in it being a city pride thing."
Well, it’s safe to say that the city did them proud, but what brings in the actual pride for them is that they are the only other band from Chennai to have won such a competition. "It wasn’t until later that we realised we did have a chance. And even the Red Bull field marketing team helped us a lot. The funny thing is that the only other band to win something like this was Skrat, another three-piece band from Chennai," adds Pranav with a smile. Between all the writing, performing and heavy stream of criticism, while many musicians still take a lifetime to figure out their priorities, this trio has found the perfect 'way' to the 'side'.