Published: 31st May 2019
We're Tamil boys first: Why you need to check out Funktuation's Funk Katcheri now
The multi-city, hyper-talented Electro-Funk and Neo Soul band who recently released their Tamil EP Funk Katcheri talks to us about their journey, the indie music scene and the bond they share
Question: When does a Funk Katcheri rank higher than an Uptown Funk?
Answer: When you're in Chennai.
Welcome to Funktuation land, where the grass is green and the tunes are pretty. Pretty groovy, that is. The five piece band helmed by Benny Dayal — the man whose smooth voice drove chartbusters like Badtameez Dil, Aadat Se Majboor and many more — Joshua Satya on guitar, Carl Fernandes on the bass, Alok Merwin on the keys, David Joseph on drums, Allwyn Jeya Paul on percussions and Toby Joseph, on the mix, just released their first Tamil EP Funk Katcheri a few months ago. The EP's showpiece is their breakaway hit Oora Paaru, which has raked in over 650k views on YouTube. Since its inception in 2010, this band (which plays, grooves and eats together by their own admission) has been adding their unique 'Funk' flavor to the most popular Tamil and Hindi songs to get you grooving. We decided to speak to Joshua Satya, the lead guitarist to decode the band, life on stage and indie music in India. Excerpts :
Can you tell me how it all began?
It all began back in 2010. At that time, we were all part of another band called Soul Sonic. When our vocalist had to leave, we bumped into Benny and Funktuation happened. One common ground we all had was Funk and so we wanted to experiment with popular songs by adding a Funk flavour to it. We just met up for a jam one day and then the rest is what we are right now.
How did the name happen?
The name Funktuation was Benny’s idea. Some of the band members were thinking of the name ‘Punctuation’. Then an idea popped into our head. Why not add some Funk to word ‘punctuation’? We decided to go ahead with it.
What was the idea originally? A cover band or something larger?
We wanted to create new music. The shows began to sound very good and that gave us a lot of hope. The next year, Benny was called for Bollywood shows and Tamil gigs. Benny felt that it’d be good if we go as a band. We don’t perform the song exactly the way it is, but give them a bit of the Funk flavour we have.
How is life on stage different from life in the studio?
(Being in the) Studio is the creative part. You have time to sit there and create art. The stage is an entertainment zone. It’s on the stage where you get dazzled when people enjoy what you play. It is basically portraying the art — which was born in the studio — on the stage. How we portray the art also matters as people will get bored if we don’t do well.
Most of you are session musicians as well, do you feel that is an added advantage while performing on stage?
Yes, we all do quite a lot of sessions. That gives us extra footage on what kind of music people like. We play for many different directors and so we know what kind of music they are doing. Everybody is making music according to what people like and at the end of the day if you don’t do what people like, then the entire input is a waste. So being session musicians, we have an added advantage. That plays a vital role. About a month back we released a cover called Funky Lambo (featuring Jonita Gandhi, Brodha V and The Hornflakes), which is basically our take on the Bollywood song Lamberghini by The Doorbeen featuring Ragini. The response has been overwhelming. People like Salim-Sulaiman and Vishal-Shekhar told us that we sound amazing. They never thought we could interpret the song in a completely different way. At the end of the day, we want people to cover our songs. That’s everyone’s goal isn’t it?
Get your groove on: The band has been adding their unique 'Funk' flavour to the most popular Tamil and Hindi songs since its inception
Most of your songs are layered and complex. Is some of the musicality lost when performed on stage?
Do you feel our songs are complex? I didn’t know that (laughs). We want to make music that people are listening to right now. For example, in our EP, the song Oora Paaru is a proper Funk track. The next song Poovey is a Neo Soul Trap, which is very popular in the US right now. Then for the people down south we have Podrom Paadrom Kilikirom (PPK) which has a southern folk beat. So I’d say the musicality isn’t lost as our songs aren’t that complex.
Can you breakdown your song writing process?
Everybody in the band has ideas. I’d suddenly come up with a riff during sound check and I’ll immediately record it using my phone. It’s the same with everyone. Benny would come up with something when he’s in a studio and he’d record it as well. For example, our song Oora Paaru was just a riff I recorded as a voice note one day and it worked. We then we meet up in the studio and play some chords, figure out the verse or chorus and send it to Benny. He then puts in some dummy words and also improvises the tune. After we finish the song, Benny would come over to Chennai and we will finish the final track. It’s a combined input of all of us.
That's very interesting, tell us the story behind Oora Paaru.
This song is Funktuation’s take on how life is in a hurry today. It speaks about how important it is to make memories and to be equally forgetful, as its only human. It speaks about how it is neither important to live in the past, nor necessary to live in the fast lane; it is important to be experimental with life and to follow your heart and let your heart lead you to your destination.
Oora Paaru: This song speaks about how important it is to make memories and to be equally forgetful, as its only human. It is important to be experimental with life and to follow your heart and let your heart lead you to your destination
Wow, that sounds great. Tell us more about your EP Funk Katcheri.
We have five songs, in which Oora Paaru is the first song. The second one is Poovey which is basically about how you can love a flower. It has a punchy lead synth line. The flower can denote either a man or a woman. Azha Poraa is our third song which is about a mother’s love for a child. It’s dedicated to all the mothers in the world for their hard work. Infact, we’re working on the lyric video for it, which will come out shortly. Then we have Romba Bad Boys, which tells about us. We are not bad boys, but we act as though we are bad. We may seem like bad guys, but we’re just blah. It’s like showing off and saying ‘Naanum rowdy dhaan’. We also featured the The Hornflakes in that song who did an amazing job. The last one is Podrom Paadrom Killikrom (PPK), which is a Chill-out song. It also has a message asking everyone to relax as everything will work for your good.
Considering Benny is popular in Bollywood, why did you want your first EP to be in Tamil?
Tamil is where we belong. All of us are from Tamil Nadu. Even Benny studied in Chennai at Madras Christian College and started his musical career here with AR Rahman. So Chennai and Tamil Nadu are very close to us and what is better than doing a Tamil EP? We are Tamil boys first and only then comes Bollywood.
I’ve heard that most of you play all kinds of genres, do you incorporate various genres or stick one genre?
We keep listening to a lot of tracks and draw inspiration from all around the world. We believe it’s time India portrays what it has also. The west has always been dominating. It’s time we stand out to portray what we have. Recently at our gig we played our EP and one guy from abroad was awestruck as he didn’t expect anything like our music in our country. There are a lot of great musicians in the country and it’s time to portray some of our original music to the world.
Most of you are into film music and making independent music. How do you balance both? Do you have different approaches or do you compartmentalise?
Right now, Oora Paaru has become so popular that the directors want to exact that kind of Funk music. The movie industry is also changing and they draw inspiration from indie music. Recently I played in a movie called Super Duper and the track was very similar to Oora Paaru. We don’t compartmentalise at all. We definitely put in the same effort for both. But we do spend a little more time when we work on our indie music because we are creating something new. At the end of the day, it’s just giving the heart and soul to whatever you are doing.
Playback success can make you a star. But a true star is one who can handle solo success as well as team success, which makes you a bigger example to those who are trying to be a success story in the music industry
Benny Dayal, Lead vocalist - Funktuation The Band
How often do you meet for rehearsals amidst your busy schedules?
We try to meet once a week. We just brush up and try to do something new. We love travelling as a band. We eat a lot and crack up. That’s our routine. We don’t really practice unless we have a show coming up.
I'm sure a lot of youngsters want to be like you. What's the golden rule here?
I’d say aim higher as there are crazy people out there and you have to be the best. Take a genre you love, you can play and become an expert, then, put it up there and see what the world has for you. Most importantly, we must keep practicing something new at least 30 minutes a day. That’ll help you big time. Also, it's good to listen to a lot of music and be updated with the world.
You guys bond on a whole other level, we hear..
We in Funktuation are a family. We understand each other. More than music, we always have fun and also eat together. I think this is a common feature in all bands, but I’m not sure to what extent. Once in a while, Carl cooks and we have dinner at his place. We are not just colleagues but also a family. If you treat a band as a band, then it’ll be just a group of people. If you treat everyone has musicians, then you’re going to be a musicians band. We don't treat each other like ‘Hey man, thanks for coming. Please come for practice next week at 3:00 p.m.' That’s a boost for us. Don’t be a musician in the band. Be the band.
We are not just colleagues but also a family. If you treat a band as a band, then it’ll be just a group of people. If you treat everyone has musicians, then you’re going to be a musicians band. Don’t be a musician in the band. Be the band.
Joshua Satya, Lead guitarist - Funktuation The Band
Is there one unforgettable moment from a performance that you recall?
We have a lot of unforgettable moments, but the recent act we did at the NH7 Weekender is very memorable. Oora Paaru was released at that time and we were the newbies at the weekender. People were chanting ‘Funktuation!’ and ‘Oora Paaru!’. It was a exhilarating feeling when we came to know that people are actually listening to our music and they wanted us to play it for them.
Do you have any goof up stories?
We have a mess up story every show! We are there for each other even if we mess up, we don’t let it ruin the spirit. The more you mess up, the more you become attentive on stage and play properly or something even better.
And were there times when things just went haywire?
Well, yeah, once my airline forgot to carry my guitar and there was only one flight for a day. So that day I had to play acoustic for the entire set. I feel that’s how musicians should be. I’ve seen musicians being stubborn and will be willing to use only their instruments and tones. It’s better to be the best with what we have.
Reach out: youtube.com/FunktuationTheBand