By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
Bangalore’s stoner doom lords Bevar Sea are all set to release their eagerly anticipated self-titled debut album this month, and are playing a launch gig in their hometown, at Counter Culture on October 19th along with support acts Kryptos and Shepherd. This is an album that’s been in the making for a while, and the songs on it are already popular amongst the band’s fans, and followers of the stoner doom sub-culture in the country. Yesterday, I caught up with guitarist Srikanth Panaman to talk about the making of the album, the launch gig and other things. Read the conversation below, and visit the official Bevar Sea website for more info.
You’ve been working long and hard on this debut album of yours. What are your feelings at this point, now that the album is ready for release?
I’m mostly relieved, because we’ve been playing these songs live for a while, people had been listening to the rehearsal recordings that we uploaded, and finally we have the pro-recordings out almost a couple of years since people first heard these songs. This will also mean that once we finish promoting this album, we can really start working on the next set of songs and look forward to the second album. That’s my incentive as the main songwriter for the band.
The fact that some of you have day jobs, was that the biggest challenge for Bevar Sea, in terms of finding time to complete this album?
To be honest, we hardly took any time recording the album. Let me break the recording process up a bit. We took a digital mixer to one of our shows which happened in a big room and our drummer played on a great sounding kit. The kit got mic’ed up and we recorded all the drum tracks into the mixer. It was just an experiment and the results were fantastic. So we decided to record the rest of the album using these tracks as the starting point. Chacko and I share a house with a home studio, The Doom Cave, so this was where the rest of the action was going to be. We did some pre-production demos with just the guitars and some scratch vocals and bass, to fine-tune some of the arrangements, and for us to understand the process better. A couple of months later, we recorded all the final guitars over a few evenings, then Ganesh came in and finished all his vocals in less than three hours, including multiple takes mind you, and Avinash came in and finished his bass parts over a couple of small sessions. So the whole recording process took probably seven days in all. We had a six month wait because we wanted Billy Anderson and no one else to mix and master this, and he’s a busy man to put it mildly. Time is not an issue with Bevar Sea – Chacko is a freelance artist/writer, Avi teaches bass for a living, Deepak teaches drums for a living, and I run my own little business so my timings are flexible as well. Ganesh is the only one who’s getting buttraped by his corporate masters.
The next album’s recording process should be smoother for us though. We’d like to think that we know more now, and we are also planning to improve our home studio infrastructure considerably, in time for the next album’s pre-production. Exciting, expensive shit, this.
How did you manage to recruit the well-renowned Billy Anderson for the mixing and mastering of the album, and how much difference did he make to the final sound?
You know how staring at your favourite album’s liner notes while it’s blasting through your stereo, you’re wondering how great the thank lists are, and how awesome the producers and engineers would have to be to churn out such great albums over and over. A lot of these people achieve some sort of mythical status in our heads. As a fan you start to obsess over every little detail you find about the band, and you sort of have a wishlist when you chase a certain sound for your own band. That guitar tone, that bass sound, that particular vocal style, the themes, the imagery, and also the production. We’ve seen Billy’s name attached to way too many of our favourite releases to keep count of. Billy understands this sound like no one else in the business. We had one shot at a good sounding debut album and our source was pretty damn good, so we thought we should see if he’d be interested. We sent him our pre-production demos, and he was in.
We thought our pre-production mixdowns were serviceable. But when Billy started sending his mixes for us to audition, we knew we have a long way to go as mixing engineers. The production on this is simple, heavy and raw, yet you can hear every little detail. I think we achieved what we were chasing in our heads for this album, thanks to Billy.
Bevar Sea is widely known amongst stoner doom fans in the country as a great live band. Have you given importance to capturing the energy of your live performances into this record?
We’ve always kept that in mind. We’re a live band first, so we approached the mix of this like how we position ourselves on stage. The drummer is in the middle and his kit is panned from his perspective, the vocalist is in the middle with 20% panning on either side, to make it sound full, yet to make it seem like it’s a single guy singing it. The guitarists on either side, and very often hard panned because hard panning is fucking awesome, and there’s a lot of room given to the bass and kick in the mix. We realize people are going to be listening to this and they don’t get to watch us, so we’ve also added choice embellishments like harmonies, some very in-the-background layers, that sort of thing.
In short, yes, the record is mixed exactly like how we play live, with some additional effort put into making it sound richer. It’s all live drums, tube amps mic’ed up, it’s not compressed-as-fuck so you’re required to crank up your stereo, and it’s all rock ‘n’ roll, just the way it should be.
Even though this is your debut album, these songs have been heard plenty of times at your shows and have been around on YouTube, etc. So, because these songs aren’t previously unheard, have you had to make extra efforts to ensure that the album is released as a package that fans are still compelled to buy? If yes, what are some of the things you’ve done (apart from the music itself)?
Absolutely, our fans know these songs already, so for their ears (and ours) these are the best sounding recordings of Bevar Sea’s best 40 minutes so far. For the physical format, the CD, we’re going for a 3 panel digipak with amazing artwork from our main man Chacko, and a 12 page booklet with song specific artwork and more. To go just with the pre-orders we’ve come up with different bundles that include embroided patches, stickers, posters, silk prints and tshirts – all exclusive and limited. Fans can choose from what fits in their budget.
Having this album out also allows us to have a better reach outside our existing fan base. It’s going to be distributed in other countries, through itunes, amazon, spotify, rhapsody, or whatever the cool kids these days are using. The idea is to give our existing fans access to very limited merch, and also offer the newcomers enough options to check out the band too. Perhaps someone would discover us on Spotify and end up buying a tshirt in the future, or tell a few friends of his about this obscure little band from south India.
Is the album available for pre-order yet? If yes, how and where can people place their orders?
It’s just a matter of days now. We’re our own label, distro, PR, web developers, designers, all rolled into one, so just making sure everything is tight and ready before we hit publish on our pre-order page. Everything is going to be online, so people can pre-order using a credit card, or if they don’t, they can just find a way to send us the money using bank transfer or a money order, and they get immediate access to the album in digital. They can download high quality digital version of the album the moment they do the pre-order, and rock out to the tunes, while we take a few days to get the orders ready and ship them out before the album’s release date. So if you pre-order you’ll get to listen to the full album immediately, and your physical copy will reach you before the official release date of the album. Bookmark BevarSea.com – that’s where the action’s going to be in a few days.
For the sake of people outside of India who’re reading this interview, I would just like to ask and clarify: Are you offering international shipping for the album orders & pre-orders?
Yep, as long as they have paypal or a card for online purchases! The album should be with distros abroad once it is actually released, but the pre-orders are exclusively from the band’s site.
Talking of the album launch gig now, you’ll be playing at Counter Culture in Bangalore on the 19th of October, with support acts Kryptos and Shepherd. You’ve been really building this up and getting people excited about it. Can we expect this to be the biggest and best Bevar Sea show of the year?
(Laughs) Some might think it’s anti-climactic though, because it’s the same lineup that played Kryptos’ launch show earlier this year. The way we look at it, that gig was so memorable, we wanted to basically repeat it at a new venue for our album launch. Shepherd are such a powerful band, and they really deserve more exposure. It’s just so easy to work with Kryptos because they’ve been at it for years, and they know how it’s done. The three bands are drinking buddies, so we’re very easy to work with, and we just want this gig to be an extended party involving all our friends and fans. We’re playing our longest set yet, at 90 minutes, so it’ll either be the best or our worst set ever.
Aside from the live music, there are a couple of interesting things you’re offering. Firstly I’d like to talk about the ticket price. I believe you’re asking fans to choose a ticket price? It’s really cool of you to be doing that. Whose idea was that, and how did you get the venue to agree on it?
We used to do all our club shows at Kyra, and then they died a slow death a few months ago. We spoke to CounterCulture, who have been operating for over a year now doing gigs of all kinds, but they hadn’t gotten into doing heavy gigs that much. A few drinking sessions with them later, we decided to do a recce of sorts with a Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett tribute gig with Shepherd, Bevar Sea and a few of our friends jamming as well. It’s honestly the best indoor sound we’ve had so far, and I was in the front row when Shepherd were playing sludged up versions of Have a Cigar, In the Flesh, Set the Controls…, and a few others, being blown away by the sound, the stage set up, and the lighting they have in-house. They also have Rahul who’s an excellent sound engineer. It was a fun little gig. So when we wanted to do a serious gig to launch our album, we had everything sorted out with CounterCulture, but we had to think about how to price this for the metal audience. What better way than ask our best supporters? The venue guys are easy to work with, so they were cool about it all the way.
Secondly, you’re offering cab service for a very reasonable price. Do you think the ride situation is something that plays a major part in the eventual turnout at any show, and you’re basically getting rid of that problem by doing this?
Bangaloreans are inherently small city people, and we find everything to be too far. I’m guilty as charged as well – I rarely even step out of Koramangala where I stay. Add to it, our public transportation is nothing to write home about. Considering the venue is a good hour away from the city, they had come up with a solution. They’ve tied up with cab drivers who’ll pick you up and drop you for 600 bucks. I think kids now can get together in groups of four and share a cab, drink all they want and not worry about how to get back home. Nicely done, CounterCulture!
The cab service also means people don’t need to go easy on the alcohol. That has to be a good thing for everyone concerned, right?
Good times for us all, and the venue sells more alcohol, so they will entertain more metal shows. Everyone wins. Quoting ol’ Lynott, “Drinks will flow, blood will spill, down at Dino’s bar and grill.”
As we all know, Slayer is performing in Bangalore the night after your gig. I think your scheduling is absolutely perfect, because people from outside Bangalore who’d be traveling for the Slayer show have the option of attending your gig too. Are you hoping for your non-Bangalore fans to turn up at Counter Culture?
We (our friends from TSF, Infinite Dreams, Dying Embrace, Kryptos, and us) had this great idea over Sik Vik’s restaurant pooris last year. Metallica was coming down, and people didn’t have a metal pub like back in the day to get together and warm up. We decided to do a show, called it Riff ‘em All, and kept it as a showcase of Bangalore metal for our visiting guests, as a nice warm up party before the big event. This is the unofficial sequel to that gig, and we hope to see the usual and a few new faces in the crowd again.
Talking of fans outside Bangalore, when is Bevar Sea expected to play cities other than Bangalore, for example Mumbai, Pune and the likes?
We’re working on a tour-ette of sorts. We’re working on dates in Bombay, Nasik, Hyderabad, Chennai, a couple in Kerala perhaps, and are in vague discussions with a couple of others too [the Nov. 18 Bombay gig was officially announced last night, after this interview was done]. It’s tough to do proper tours here, so we’re just planning weekend trips almost every weekend after the launch gig here. Let’s see how many we can pull off before December, when our vacation time kicks in. We’ll resume playing January onwards of course.
We Indians have always complained about and felt unsatisfied with the lack of metal shows in the country, but out of the blue, we have like 600 shows to go to in the next two months! I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing. What’s your take on this sudden outburst?
It’s good for established Indian bands definitely, because the college scene where they’ve been headlining all this while is gradually drying up, so they get to play with international bands now. It’s not good at all for smaller bands – because nothing changes for them. We need a steady flow of club level shows happening to complement the outdoor big-stage shows, and that’s not happening at all. Bangalore has probably had its least number of metal shows this year in recent memory – this is in spite of how crowded the rest of the year looks with international acts. So if you’re in a band and you don’t give a shit about competitions, chances are, you don’t know what to do and where to play. Take cricket for example: you don’t just have international cricket – you need kids playing in the streets, you need coaching in schools, you need to go rural and make sure kids have the infrastructure to play the sport, and then you have leagues, divisions, district tourneys, state tourneys, under-19, under-21, state teams, zonal teams, and it eventually leads to the internationals. You basically need to build it from ground up. The big gigs here don’t trickle down and help build the metal community at all. You instead need more niche festivals that start small and gradually grow into monster outdoor festivals, you know like all those European fests.