A Turbulent Flight
Five years of melodies. Five years of stage-lights. Five years of fan-love. Five years of bruises. When Chennai’s alternative/dance-punk outfit quietly boogied their way into the independent scene with their debut record, ‘Kaleidoscope’, little did people anticipate that they’d rack up this kind of sub-cultural clamour. Five years down the line, The F16s are considered to be one of the country’s hottest bands and are pioneering a contemporary representation of Indian indie to a global audience.
The band comprises of Josh Fernandez on the vocals, Abhinav Krishnaswamy on guitar, Sashank Manohar on bass and Harshan Radhakrishnan on the keys, who says, “In five years we never went backwards and that’s what kept us going as a band.” From touring diverse venues, cities, festivals and colleges, to reaching a million on various streaming services, The F16s have hit the right notes, which also helped them take their music abroad to places like Brooklyn and Singapore. But there’s more.
You see, the rockstar life isn’t always pretty. Beyond the sweet numbers on the screen and chanting crowds on the road, there are many more factors which need to be kept in check, and The F16s had to learn it the hard way. This was only made worse by the lack of money, bad show deals and line-up changes, all of which took a heavy toll on the band’s journey. But with time they got over this slump and back on their feet. With their new drummer Manukrishnan on board, along with a bunch of releases lined up for 2018, things are looking up for the lads. As Abhinav concludes, “I’ve been in bands before, so it’s good to be in one which has stuck around.”
So yes, The F16s are back. But more importantly, they need your help.
Music vs. Music Business
“Making music is the easiest part, everything else is hard”, says Harshan. Even for one of the finest acts in the country, the cold hard truth of sustaining a career in music took some time to settle in. With music being only 30% of the circus, The F16s are way more vigilant now of the importance of the non-music aspects of things – story-driven and appealing merchandise, well educated opinion on PR (if not an actual dedicated team), and an active social media presence to wrap it all up. “This stuff needs actual involvement and you have to be outside of yourself to do that, but it’s necessary if you want to break barriers as a band”, says Abhinav. However, all of this has one cardinal requisite, money.
With this sense of awareness and a clearer vision of where they want to go and what they want to do, The F16s have taken the bold step of starting a funding campaign. “The reason why there were delays in our initial projects was because we had financial constraints. We had to wait for the money to come in to put things out”, they explain. But they are adamant on doing things differently this time around, especially with records, music videos and tours being envisioned for the remaining half of 2018. This, aligned with their five year anniversary, made them set up their official website, where fans and appreciators of their music from across the globe can donate as much as they want or as little as they can.
Where’s the ₹ ?!
But why now? I mean, The F16s have three records out and have toured several cities; one may wonder why start a funding campaign 5 years into the journey? Well for one thing, they were continuously experiencing this weird dissonance which was hampering their growth. The delightful response of people to their music online, didn’t completely translate into the real world. Promoters and venue owners would offer them shoddy deals which resulted in them not seeing shows for months. This was particularly strenuous on the members, especially for a five-piece band. As Harshan explains, “The money evaporates as soon as we get it”. Surprisingly, most of the band’s streams are from outside of the country, so the fact that they’ve toured most of the Indian venues doesn’t help. And there’s no question that touring abroad is extremely heavy on the pockets, and the band had a taste of this bitter reality when they decided to extend their Singapore show by planning to explore certain Malaysian cities. Sadly, they had to drop the idea because the budget of their music video shot through the roof and drained their resources. All of this had definitely left a lasting wound on the band’s spirit, but with this funding campaign, they’re hoping to see some change.
“I always felt like a taboo about asking your fans for money. But now I feel 5 years is a good time not to shy away from asking for their help”, says Josh. And they’d be needing a lot of help, especially for their much-awaited upcoming record.
A 4 track EP/album, ‘WKND FRNDS’ is an upcoming record which has been teased by the band in social media posts for the longest time. This will be a follow-up to their 2016’s phenomenal full length album, ‘Triggerpunkte’. Despite being poured with universal love in India and being a head turner for the international audience, it’s astonishing to know that the boys weren’t full satisfied with the final output and felt they were short by 20% to 30%.
“We are really hard on ourselves sometimes so we expect just as much in return.”, explains Josh. They felt they overproduced and sat on the album for too long. But things are different this time around and the band has rolled up their sleeves for the upcoming record. Set to release in 2018, ‘WKND FRNDS’ is mixed at Mumbai’s newly established Island City Studios. Accompanying the record are three brand new music videos; one for ‘Cannibal Life II’ off Triggerpunkte, and the other two from the new project. One of the videos will be an animated one by Deepti Sharma, a final year NID student and an ardent fan, who the band says has been amazing to work with. All of this will be followed by a tour as they are eyeing to hit a couple of Asian cities soon. So yes, more music, more videos and more shows from Chennai’s very own.
It was 2016’s NH7 Weekender, Pune. Me and friends were heading towards the venue when we saw familiar faces at our hotel’s front desk. Stuttering through the conversation, I let the keyboard player of The F16s know how huge of a fan I was and how seminal their songs were in my creative journey. I was under the impression that the random encounter at the hotel front desk, would only be topped by witnessing them thrash the stage later that evening. But as things have neatly come full circle, I’m glad I get to tell their tale in a small way.
Do I think all of you reading this should definitely fund The F16s? No, because that’s a biased opinion. What I do know is this – counter-culture needs your support. In a country where establishments are ready to violently curb alternative forms of talents, we need to foster and preserve artistic expressions that are making relentless and honest efforts against all odds. Be it dance, poetry, film or music, all art deserves to breathe, express and stay true. So if you’ve been moved by The F16s’ music, do what you can to help them out. All they’ve ever wanted is to make good and honest music, and take it different places. So yes, if you can, help them fly.
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