In this interview with Daira, a Hindi alt-rock outfit from Mumbai, Pratika talks to the artists about where the idea to host the show Daira: Unmasked came from, the individual dynamic each band member brings, and what the future looks like for the band. All episodes have been listed at the end of the article!
Before we dive into this longread, here’s a little history lesson. I discovered Daira during March of 2017, three years after they’d released their 2014 self-titled debut album. My brother used to mix the band’s live gigs and always told me I should catch them live. When I finally did, an instant connection was formed. Walking down the stairs to SoBo’s then-basement venue, Antisocial, I made it just as the band began introducing themselves – five men with faces clad in paint embracing the stage like it was their home ground. While, technically formed in Mumbai, each of Daira’s members bring their collective influences from different parts of the country; infused with desi humor, pop culture references, and exuberant confidence – Daira is nothing if not unique!
Since that very night, I began hanging out with the band extensively and discovered how every single person had distinct eccentricities as artists. Jolly frontman (singer and trumpeter) Piyush Kapoor, is expressive and imbibed with a loud grittiness; guitarist Shivam Pant, observant and wise; other guitarist Vikalp Sharma is a learner and lives the classic-rock lifestyle; drummer Pratik Kulgod is humble and kind while being as talented as they come! All their madness is strung together by the silent, hard-working hero and band manager, Savi Srivastava.
Back then, the band was in search of a bass player and played with sessions bassist Aswin Lal from Kerala. They now have the amazing Sourya Mukherjee on permanent duties, who also plays with Mumbai bands Blakc and Cuttlefish. Each of these characters make Daira (which means limits or boundaries), but they were truly limitless in their thoughts, more so with the music they released in 2017. Their second experimental album Vipreet Buddhi (Side A | Side B) got me digging them way more than I expected, even though I struggled with understanding the lyrics initially. I must say, together, they increased my Hindi-speaking consciousness by 10,000 points. *giggles*
Anyway, since the lockdown, Daira decided to stay away from the typical I’ll just do a live gig on my social media idea. They developed what seems to be one of the most riveting live series, one that appeals to both music listeners and live audiences. Through Daira: Unmasked, the artists invite people they admire and have an hour-long chat with them on their Facebook page through a well-planned live session. I interviewed them to find out what their idea was behind this series, so happy reading! Please scroll to the bottom for the entire episode list with some amazing indie guests!
P.S: Don’t miss out on the ticker at the bottom of the screen, full of mazedaar one liners and fun facts!
- I remember a very long time back, you guys had the idea of doing a sort of talk show, because everyone is fairly talkative and has their share of stories. Was this the reason behind starting Unmasked? If not, then what?
Savi: Everyone being very talkative was definitely one of the reasons, but the main reason we started it was after the lockdown. Everything became absolutely inactive, and we thought we should do something to stay relevant. We were still recording songs and planning to release something. While we’re not big fans of online gigs, at the same time, I was enjoying the talk shows and webinars that were happening online. I thought around the same lines, not having something extremely serious. It made sense to have a talk show where everyone comes together, and then we stumbled upon a way to package it better, put a ticker. We started off with a pilot episode without any guests and just the band members, and the response was pretty good. Then we thought, why not get someone from the scene, whose work we like, or people who inspire us? It would be a great way to bring out some good stories because the music industry has plenty of them. That’s why we started it. It got a good response, the band members were also enjoying it, and was a good exercise to get everyone meeting online and sharing stories.
We’ve successfully managed to do 21 episodes so far, planning to do 4 more and wrap season 1.
- This is for each member – I want to know which your favorite session or episode was so far? Which was the most insightful session where you went ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that!’ or ‘Oh, something to learn there!’
Pratik: The most insightful session for me was the one with Anand Bhaskar (from Anand Bhaskar Collective), and I really liked it because Anand spoke about his work ethic, the way he got into singing and composing work for jingles back when he started music full time. He spoke about how he approached other composers and clients, and that was really inspiring. He also told us about how he’s also learning to mix and master during this lockdown, and I think it’s for all musicians to know that this time can be used to learn new things.
Vikalp: My favorite session was with MC Mawali (from hip hop collective Swadesi), especially the part where he was explaining how he lived with the Adivasis (tribal people) and learned about their culture, traditions. He spent much time with them and researched everything about them when writing about The Warli Revolt. It’s very inspiring to see how an artist can work on something so organically just to present that piece of art to us.
Sourya: I think the episode with Kaushik Ramachandran was really fun and insightful. We got to know about how Paradigm Shift started, the lineup changes, and personally since I’d known about Paradigm Shift through their Roja cover back in college. In fact, I’d covered the song in college competitions too. It was great to know that the band personally did not take the success of Roja too well because they wanted to push their own songs and wherever they’d play, they’d get a request for that song which was a cover. The funny part we learned was Kaushik didn’t turn up to a band rehearsal just one day, and that’s when the band decided to do this song!
Piyush: My favorite episode would be Sherrin Verghese’s episode (one part of India’s first boy band sensation Band of Boys). Well, mainly because the way he tells a story is very engaging and I find that interesting. There are others also, like Anand’s episode. It’s just many inspiring stories and the way these inspiring people tell them, which is very important. That’s why Unmasked is quite unpredictable on how the show’s going to be because it totally depends on the guest. We’re just there, 4-5 faces looking at them, talking, asking them random questions, and letting them speak their minds. They actually go ahead and say a lot more than in a normal interview!
Shivam: The most insightful one for me too was the session with Anand Bhaskar. He explained a lot about his life – how he had a job first, and how he left it completely to focus on music. He started pitching to people, how he had to make phone calls after phone calls, and make his way through the industry. These kinds of stories really help give people direction, and to what extent you can do things, how you reach your goals, and how things work. It was really good.
- Do you think this is something you intend to continue even when the lockdown is done?
Vikalp: I think after 25 episodes, we will end this season. Then we’ll be back with a new concept on the same lines – maybe we’ll call it season 2. There’ll be quite a few changes and some upgrades. We’ll see when that happens, but we’re definitely doing something in the future.
It’s turned out to be great, and it’s very interesting to talk to people, and put out our own voice over a variety of topics. We can speak through our songs too, but this is more direct and people can relate immediately.
- Dogs or cats? (because there’s nothing like random questions!)
Pratik: Between dogs and cats – the choice is cats.
Vikalp: I like both because I’ve loved dogs since I was a kid, and I have a cat! It’s really difficult to pick one. I like horses, cows, and rabbits too! I love animals.
Sourya: Cats when I’m living alone as a bachelor, dogs when I’m living with family or other people!
Piyush: Dogs, any day. Dogs are the best, that’s what I’ll say! Very selfish creatures.
Shivam: I honestly connect a lot more with dogs!
- Basar is out! I know it’s soon but, can we expect more from Daira very soon? I’m just used to that 2017-18 phase I think. I’m talking album, EP type things!
Pratik: Yes, there is more material coming. We’ve written quite a few songs. It might be in the form of singles or an EP, but yes, a lot of songs have been written and we’re in the pre-production process of polishing and finalizing parts. So yes, you can expect something very soon, maybe early next year, can’t be sure. But yes, something is in the works and we’re using this time to make that release happen.
Sourya: We do have a bunch of songs ready. I think the audio for Mazaar is ready, and we were thinking of doing a video for that one too. The song has a different sound and the video aesthetic also aims to be a little different. The lockdown happened and delayed our plans for this song, but that’s when we wrote Basar. We also have more songs that we’ve played live and have scratch tracks for, like Khayal, Sab Dhua Hai, which you may hear by the end of this year.
Here’s a list of episodes, in case you want to watch this super fun and insightful sessions with some amazing people from the music industry!
- No Guest – Ask us anything
- Arsh Sharma
- Pritesh Prabhune
- Anurag Rao
- Shashank Bhatnagar
- MC Mawali
- Goran Milosevic
- Mae Thomas
- Ashok Nelson
- Special Episode with Friends feat. Arshad Bhati, M Prashant, Aruna Jade, Pratika Prabhune, Anjana Suresh, Ashwyn Warrier, Kalyaani
- Jimmy Bhore
- Karan Chitra Deshmukh
- Anand Bhaskar
- Sherrin Varghese
- Tanmay Bahulekar
- Shubhangi Joshi
- Kaushik Ramachandran
- Sagar Kapoor
- Siddharth Basrur
- Varun Sood
Read about Daira’s new single in this article we wrote about Basar.