Published: 12th October 2018
Post the success of their album Believe, When Chai Met Toast is touring the country with the music of hope
In the thick of their Road to Believe tour, When Chai Met Toast's Ashwin Gopakumar and Achyuth Jaigopal talk about their music and the story of the band
Need the perfect example of irony? Achyuth Jaigopal and Ashwin Gopakumar of When Chai Met Toast still can't believe that their single Believe is #1 on the iTunes Indian bestsellers list. "It is literally overwhelming but completely underwhelming as well," Ashwin tells us and adds, "But we still have no idea how big this truly is." Trust us (read believe), he is not kidding.
Tell us which rock you've been under if you haven't heard at least one song from Kochi bands album, Believe. The four-piece band's songs have been taking the internet by storm. Ashwin, the vocalist and Achyuth, the bass player were preparing for their Road to Believe tour when we spoke to them. "It all started a year ago. Believe was our most aspirational project and we wanted it to sound better than the best. A lot of work has gone into that project. It was a collective effort. It wouldn't have been possible without the other two members — Palee Francis and Pai Sailesh — and our producer Vivek Thomas," says Achyuth.
Believing yourself: The music video of Believe
Believe's music video that was released a month ago, already has about 5,000 likes on YouTube. It depicts the story of a young woman who aspires to be a ballerina. As a child, she watched her mother perform on stage and that was a happy memory for her, probably the only happy memory in a long time. Sadly, her mother is no longer around and her father, who is now an alcoholic, stands between her and her dream. How faith in herself and a little encouragement takes her to the same stage her mother once performed, forms the rest of the story. Now, you are free to interpret it whichever way you'd like. The little boy who also appears in the video could be seen as a figment of one's imagination. He could be the dancer's inner self, pushing her to do what she wants. Maybe he's meant to personify God? Or are the artists asking you to gather all the inspiration, positivity and happiness around you and head towards success?
Dreaming big: Achyuth says that the band's dream fests would be Coachella
"We wanted to tell everyone that they can become whatever they want to be. The song shows that you have to go through a lot to be who you want to be. It's all about believing that you're your own superhero," says Ashwin, adding, "We wanted to show something that resonates with everyone — mothers, grandmothers or sisters — whoever watches the video must be able to relate to it. Also, we wanted to show the world the struggles artists go through." The video was conceptualised by Pranav Bhasin, who is known for his role in TVF Pitchers. So, did these four artists have to struggle to make their mark? "We're still struggling," says Ashwin. "Even though the band is three years old, the real struggle began eight years ago. We've been in the field for a long time. We were all in different bands. It all came together for us. We write songs in English and we live in India. But it's hard being independent artists. No one is investing in it," he adds.
Our favourite show is yet to come. We're dreaming big, so let's see
Ashwin Gopakumar, Vocalist, When Chai Met Toast
Now, when you hear a band with an uncommon name like theirs, it is only normal (and pretty clichéd) to ask them the origin of the name. And though Ashwin and Achyuth have been asked that question over a hundred times, they still answer my question patiently. "Toast is to symbolise the English folk element we play and chai represents four brown boys," Ashwin laughs. So, chai literally met toast. Also, for all the tea lovers out there, the band members cannot function without sipping tea constantly and will happily join your club. Everyone, except drummer Pai Sailesh, who drinks coffee.
Taking a walk down memory lane, Achyuth recalls how chai actually met toast. "We knew each other from Kochi's music circles. It's a small circle back home. Ashwin and I met at Springer, a music café. Palee and Pai joined later in 2016 and that was when we became a full-fledged band. Palee being a programmer was an ideal fit for us then," he says. 11 songs and one album later, the band's motto remains the same — to create music that spreads happiness. "Music is therapy and we're spreading the message that people can do whatever they want through music. We've had people tell us that our songs are like antidepressants," says a happy Ashwin, adding, "Whether the crowd has 5 or 5,000 people, we ensure that we make them happy."
Chai boys unite: The band also collaborated with comedian Kenneth Sebastian recently. They recorded four songs with Kenny, who is a musician himself. They got along so well that they ended up recording all four songs in a day
As they pack their bags for the next stop on their big tour, we ask them one last question. Were they as nervous as the ballerina when she gets on stage for the first time? "We get nervous before any performance. In fact, before our last show we were a nervous wreck. We need to make sure that people have a good time. Every stage deserves its own importance and we want to make sure that we deliver it," says Ashwin, signing off.