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Interview with Avial




Avial is a Malayali rock band formed in 2003. Similar to the popular Kerala cuisine that goes by the same name, the band is a mix of members belonging to different genres of music. The overwhelming response to their video single ‘Nada, nada’ in 2003 inspired them to form the band and they later released their first full-length album ‘Avial – The Debut’ in 2008. WTS caught up with band members Rex Vijayan, Tony John, Benny Isaac and Mithun Puthenveetil and band manager Jithu during their recent visit to Bangalore, and got talking to them about their music, hometown, fans and their new album and here’s what they had to say…


WTS: You guys started off in 2003, how has the journey been so far?


Tony: Hmmm how do I start… it took us three years to release our first album, then a couple of guys moved out of Avial but we stuck together and we’re right now working on our second album.


Rex: From 2003 to 2010, we don’t remember anything! (laughs) From 2003-2005, we didn’t do anything, the song ‘Nada Nada’ was released and had already become popular with the Malayalis, we were enjoying the success of that… after 2005, we thought of meeting people for producing an album.


Tony: We actually waited to get the feedback for ‘Nada Nada’. It was the first time we did something, we waited for people’s reaction, found that it was good and then we moved on.


WTS: Who is the primary songwriter of the band?


Rex: There is no songwriter in the band.


Tony: The songs are written in folk Malayalam and there are these experts who write the song, and we can’t. We sit together and we tell them this is the kind of song we want and they write them for us.


Rex: Sometimes we come up with tunes and they write lyrics for the melody.


WTS: How do you manage to make up for the fact that most people can’t relate to the meaning of the songs?


Rex: There are many bands like Spanish and German bands and we don’t understand what they are singing.


Tony: We listen to all kinds of music but sometimes we don’t follow what they’re singing, but still we listen to that because the sound

appeals to you.


Rex: We used to sing in English earlier, not as Avial, but we did get a lot more acceptance when we sang in our own language.


Tony: We were happy to be singing in our mother tongue, we were singing from our soul.


Rex: Frankly, I can never compare an English band from the USA or UK, when u listen to them their singing in English will probably be different. I cannot connect to how Indian bands are singing in English. I can never connect to that.


Tony: The soul is missing. It’s very important that you show off your roots.


WTS: Do the people back at your hometown support you?


Rex: We have more people listening to our music outside Kerala.


WTS: Generally, there’s a lot of unity among Malayalis…


Rex: Yeah that’s only in the beginning (laughs). Our performances have been mostly outside Kerala.


Tony: We haven’t done many shows in Kerala, because we don’t get shows in Kerala. We have only done about 3 or 4 gigs… they come to us but they don’t get sponsorships… there is lesser money flow in Kerala.


WTS: Will we see you guys singing in other languages in the coming years?


Rex: For now it’s Malayalam.


Tony: Any other language from India yes, we’ll be open to it.


WTS: Anand Benjamin Paul was an amazing vocalist. Why did he have to leave the band?


Tony: Anand got married to an American and had to leave the country. He left us in the beginning before our launch but we had to continue, the songs were our hard work… he was just singing , we worked our a**es off!


WTS: And what prompted the band to have a DJ?


Rex: He was already a DJ when we started off.


Tony: I never did DJing as in ‘DJing’, but just to bring in that element because 2003 was the time when a lot of bands were bringing in turntables. Just to give that wacky, funky feel to it. When we’re performing live, we have all that now played through a computer as a background track and I do the vocals.


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


Tony: To sing in Malayalam, being together as a band. We have had problems in the band too, but it never got to that point where it threatened the existence of the band. We have never had problems on a personal level, it has always been arguments over technical problems.


WTS: Do you have favourites among your own songs?


Rex: There are some songs I love when I’m playing live, but those may not be my favourites while listening. For playing live it is ‘Aadu Paambe’ and for listening my favourite is ‘Ettam Pattu’, the last song on the album.


Tony: Rex did the first part in that song (laughs).


Rex: (laughs) I used my falsetto and by tweaking it a bit, it sounds like the way it does.


Tony: I sang that song, and the last bit is by Anand.


WTS: What do you have to say about the current music scene in India?


Rex: It can be better.


Tony: We would love to see more of regional languages than people singing in English. I’m sorry to say that the media is not helping us.


Rex: The only thing that has to be done is people should shift focus from movies and be more open to independent music and not just music from movies.


WTS: Jithu, tell us from your perspective, how has Avial’s journey been so far?


Jithu: We have gone through a lot of bad patches more than good ones but we survived. That’s the whole funda and I loved it. The most difficult thing was shortage of musicians and there were a lot of hiccups. Anand left us in the middle of the release and it was a big blow because we had done all the recordings and everything was set. Tony had only been singing a couple of years ago and it was hard for him to come back. It was a really hard time. At the first show the band was really nervous.


Tony: The first show was screwed up, in the sense, everybody had heard Anand’s voice and when we started performing they were surprised to hear a new voice suddenly and they took time to adjust.


Jithu: The credit goes to Rex to have keep things together. It’s unbelievable!


Rex: We are very lucky to have Mithun, I was so comfortable playing, with him on the drums and we connect so well. He has been with us all along.


WTS: When can we expect the release of your next album? Have you experimented with anything different?


Tony: We have worked on 5-6 songs, there is some production work, six months from now you can expect the release. We haven’t decided on a name.


Rex: Even earlier we tried to think of a name, finally we called it Avial! (laughs)


WTS: If you guys were to describe Avial in simple words, what would you say?


Rex: Messed up…


Tony: …mixed up!



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Priyanka Shetty

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