Interview with Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street is primarily a jam band with a vision to play and write music unbounded by genre or style. With Jerome Mascarenhas on vocals and harmonica, Bharath Kumar on the keyboards and synthesizer, Fidel D’Souza on the bass guitar and vocals, Chester Pereira on the guitar, Sudhakar Prabhu on drums and percussion and Ian Castelino on the djembe, Bourbon Street encompasses a variety of genres such as jazz, funk, blues, reggae, and good old classic rock. WTS got in touch the band and got them talking about their journey so far, the music they make and more…

WTS: When did you guys start off and how has the Bourbon Street journey been so far?

Fidel: We started off as an embryo (each) and haven’t looked back since!

Chester: We started off as a three piece band – I played the guitar, Fidel on Bass and Sudhakar on the drums. We kept adding members as time went by and we are now 6 (We call Sangeetha as a guest but she plays most concerts with us, so the total number could be considered as 7!)

Ian: I have no clue when Bourbon Street started, I met these jokers one day and they found me suitable enough a joker to join them.

Jerome: I got a call from Fidel one morning. This is an excerpt from the conversation – “Fidel: Dude, can you make it to Bangalore this weekend? Jerome: I AM in Bangalore… for good! Fidel: Cool, grab your harps, dust those rusty vocal chords and head over to a jam.” I entered the jam room and Fidel goes “He’s the guy.” Fidel, Sudhakar, Chester in chorus: Welcome to Bourbon street, our new vocalist! Jerome: Huh?” (this expression continues to this day!)

WTS: How do you approach your songwriting process? Tell us about your lyrics, the themes/concepts, where do you draw influences from?

Fidel: Trey Anastasio (Phish), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan)…

Chester: We have only one song with lyrics. Everything else is instrumental in nature. For me, music is the art of stimulating the listener’s emotions via sound; lyrics are nice to have, but I believe that they aren’t necessary – let your instrument control people’s minds and hearts and imaginations and you are a real musician. I try to incorporate new musical formulae that I learn in writing tunes. Some of them have been ‘accidental’ though – I play some random stuff on my guitar and like it and few days later, we have a new track!

Sudhakar: We all have different backgrounds in music. In most of our originals we try and include these influences at the same time keep the feel fresh and relatable. We do keep in mind that as a band that mostly plays live we are able to bring in a lot of energy into these songs.

Jerome: I’m just the vocalist!

WTS: Do you think folks in Bangalore are hung up with rock and metal or are you of the opinion that other genres are enjoying equal attention as well?

Fidel: Yes we are of that opinion.

Chester: I’d say that school and college kids are hung up on metal and the slightly older crowd are hung up on rock music. But, play anything relatively well and they will appreciate it, if not accept it. While genres like jazz and funk do not get as much attention as rock and metal, I believe it’s mainly because people haven’t been fed much of other types of music. For example, most people that frequent Legends of Rock are hard core classic-rockers. But everytime we’ve played there ( 4 or 5 times in the past one year) we have been well received by the energetic crowd.

Sudhakar: I guess again, its the energy you generate when you perform. No matter what genre it is, if the crowd is entertained, they don’t mind. That’s why we have been able to pull off a Carnatic set in the middle of blues and rock!

Jerome: Totally agree with Chester on this one. It’s largely dependent on how the band is able to capture and retain the listener’s interest.

Ian: To each his own including the clueless like me, but yes, other genres are enjoying attention. Umm,what’s a genre? Is anyone paying attention to me?

WTS: How has the line up changed from the time you started off? How did it affect your music?

Fidel: Its gotten progressively louder at each show.

Chester: We’ve grown from a 3 piece to a 6 (7) piece band. Nobody has quit the band (and nobody has been booted either) since we started.

Sudhakar: Hey, I was fired during recession. You guys hired a drummer half my size! (laughs)

Ian: I suddenly realize I was the last in the line up, so clueless again.

Jerome: At one of our gigs I saw Chester playing the drums, Fidel playing lead, and Sudhakar playing Bass – I freaked out! But I also learned one thing – we sound kickass no matter who plays what! (winks)

WTS: Do you have any favourites among your own songs?

Chester: ‘When She Smiles‘ is my favorite – it was an accidental track. ‘Opulence’ is another one of my favorites as I incorporated four different time signatures and three different Carnatic ragas into it.

Jerome: All our originals don’t feature me, so nah! (laughs) Kidding! Opulence is real neat. Varying time signatures and fusion of Carnatic scales is very nice!

WTS: What according to you is your greatest achievement so far?

Fidel: Playing to a crowd of three!

Jerome: Playing to a crowd of three AND getting them to cheer for us!

Chester: Playing our version of  Dr. Rajkumar’s song ‘If you come today’.

Ian: Being heard over the drums I suppose.

WTS: What are your plans album-wise? 

Fidel: We are album-foolish in my opinion. Our tour started at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and will reach the outskirts of Mysore on September 19th! (laughs)

Chester: We don’t really have plans of making albums. I guess we’re too lazy for that. We’re more suited to playing live than sitting around and recording in a studio, that’s too much work!

Jerome: Alcohol forms an integral part of our band. The more you drink, the better we sound. Now, unless we hand out booze with the albums, it ain’t gonna work for us.

WTS: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? 

Sudhakar: The biggest issue we have is getting jam time before the show. Since Fidel is from out of town and has to come only during a show, it gets difficult to get a full jam time before a concert. Most of the time we end up hurrying through songs and not really spending time as a band, refining them and structuring them. Then again, we end up jamming on stage. We mostly carry our shows through sign languages and the crowd’s inebriated state!

Jerome: Pretending to be a jazz band! We seem to be doing quite well so far! (laughs) On a serious note, it has got to be getting together for a full fledged practice session. How did we overcome this? Well, we didn’t. We just stopped practicing. To each his own!

WTS: What’s your opinion about the music scene in Bangalore?

Fidel: Yes, there appears to be one.

Chester: Getting into death metal and/or it’s gazillion sub-genres seems to be the in-thing for college kids.

Sudhakar: In general, you have to convince people that different is not always bad.

Ian: Hmmm,food for thought. Loads to improve!

Jerome: Music scene… Hmmm, it seems to be doing slightly better than the Bangalore ice hockey team!

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Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty

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