Recorded and mixed by Aviv Pereira at Guitar Inc., Thane, and mastered by Zorran Mendonsa, the peculiarly titled The Feni Farm Riot is Dischordian’s debut studio release. The Mumbai-based band is an acoustic project led by songwriter Garreth D’Mello (also the front man for the alt-rock act Split). The album also features Aviv Pereira on guitar, Howard Pereira on guitar and Agnello Picardo on trumpet and percussion.
“Dischordian seems to be my attempt to move away from the wall of sound and aggression and testosterone that makes up most rock music,” explains D’Mello in the band’s biography. “I just wanted to do something different. Strip the music down to its basics, one guitar and one voice, just rhythms and melodies and words.”
The band is cautiously optimistic about their future after this album. “When this started, it was just me with a couple of songs that I’d maybe do before a Split set, once every few months. I didn’t imagine it would turn into a 4-piece band with some 15-odd songs, an album out, and a pretty decent fan following, if the launch gig and the overall response are anything to go by. So yeah, we’re just gonna push this the best we can, keep playing, and hopefully we’ll find ourselves pleasantly surprised once more.”
Recording the album took the band just under a month to complete, usually recording from midnight to 3 am. “If there was a clear plan, it was only with regard to the sound of the album – I was trying to capture the sound of the music as naturally and cleanly as possible, unadorned and unpolished” reflects D’Mello. “These were just songs I wrote over a period of time. A couple of them were written well before I started the band, even before I thought of doing a solo project. And the songs that were written specifically for Dischordian were also written simply as songs, not as a body of work that would eventually go out as an album. The thought of putting out an album came quite a bit later. Even after the album was recorded, the music kept evolving. The album was in fact recorded in a state of flux – Aviv had recently left the band and Howard had recently joined”.
The very creative and eye-catching cover art depicts a grim morning-after-wild-feni-induced-party picture on a beach somewhere, with an outside observer reading about ‘The Feni Farm Riot’ in the ‘Dischordian’ newspaper. “(The Feni Farm Riot) It’s just an evocative phrase, doesn’t really mean anything. It just popped into my head, and sounded like the perfect mix of hazy indolence and chaos. The fact that all three drinkers in the band love feni made it seem even more apt.” The inlay continues this theme, with lyrics and Garreth D’Mello’s commentary on some of the songs, which gives the whole album a very Storytellers vibe.
The album starts of with D’Mello going solo for the first couple of tracks. Both ‘One of These Days’ and ‘How I Wait’ serve as excellent mood-setters for the rest of the album, establishing the whole acoustic singer-songwriter vibe and providing glimpses into D’Mello’s songwriting prowess, while still holding back and not going all out, adding the element of suspense.
‘The Old Whore’ has become something of a cult underground anthem, and it’s not difficult to see why. A very strong melody coupled with cleverly written lyrics make the song instantly likeable. The simple but very catchy trumpet line interspersed throughout the song adds a fantastic dimension to an already strong song.
‘Same Old Conversation’ and ‘Lover’ continue the melody driven laid back vibe and highlight the bands ability to come up with really good hooks that get stuck in your head. The ‘You and me’ chorus in ‘Same Old Conversation’ was stuck in my head for a good couple of days. The song also showcases D’Mello’s unique lyrical style: “Communists and anarchists and nihilists, who gives a shit. A man constructs a school of thought, another man dismantles it.”
The next three songs after ‘Stone’ are the strongest ones from the album. With ‘Your Right Heel’ the album takes a definite turn away from ‘laid back’ and on to ‘intense’. According to D’Mello’s commentary in the inlay, the song was written after the 2009 Mangalore pub attacks and depicts a vision of one strong woman, who fought back against her attackers. The aggressive lyrics coupled with very strong vocals bring out D’Mello’s anger. “I hate lots of people, but most of all I hate totalitarian, fascist motherf***ers, and of that varied group of motherf***ers, I hate religious fundamentalists the most,” writes D’Mello.
‘Bucket of Blood’ continues the violence-driven lyrical theme, which culminates with the very strong chorus line “I come to you with a bucket of blood, a bucket of blood my friend.” D’Mello’s voice is strained and stretches, to extreme levels at some points, which accentuates the aggression. Howard Pereira’s acoustic guitar solo in between the verses is worth a special mention.
The haunting ‘Save Me’ is by far the best song on the album and reaffirms the point that you don’t have to have blaring loud electric guitars and drums to express anger or aggression. The slow, haunting guitar work by D’Mello and Aviv Pereira, coupled with the apt background percussion by Agnnelo Picaardo build a virtual platform, on which the vocals ride throughout the song. The strained but powerful chorus, “I don’t need you, I don’t need you, I don’t need you to save me,” drives home the song’s message.
The album eases back into the original acoustic vibe with ‘She Lied to Me’ and ‘November’ , bringing you back after the intensity of the previous songs.
The album ends with ‘Don’t Wake Me’, a song co-written by Garreth D’Mello and Nikhil D’Souza written in D’Mello’s earlier band Mr. Jones Band, and is one of the oldest songs here. The version on the album is a stripped down rendition of the original song, which D’Mello continued to play over the years. The sweet chorus harmony of the song acts as an apt ending and outro to the album.
Overall, The Feni Farm Riot is one of the most original and accomplished albums to emerge from the Indian Indie music scene. It is an album that reflects distinctly mature songwriting, captured in an extremely raw and organic form. If you haven’t managed to hear the band live yet, this album is a definite must have!