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Sifar, And Counting...

features Jul 17, 02:10pm

Mumbai based alternative Hindi rock band Sifar, have worked tirelessly over the last six years to break out of their 'routine lives' and perfect their sound - which can now only be described as the work of seasoned veterans. We spoke to the band's vocalist, guitarist,and producer, Amit Yadav, about his experience writing, playing, and producing some of the best Hindi rock music the country has witnessed. 
 Photo Courtesy: Gaurav Dayal

Guitarist, songwriter, and producer, Amit Yadav, was part of the software company workers’ regime back around 2006, when he first started writing music for games and such, along with songwriter and friend, Anshul Bansal. But, a band wasn’t really a part of the picture the two friends originally had; it was just about writing music. “Anshul and I had been playing music together for a long time,” Amit tells us, “But we took it more seriously around 2007-08. Initially we never thought that we would become a band or anything, we just wanted to release those songs. We contacted a few artists and singers, and we pitched our songs to them, so that they could perhaps make their own version of it or something. But that didn’t really work out, so Sifar was born out of that frustration basically.” Amit and Anshul spent most of their energies into finding an outlet for their music - which seemed to be too far from their grasp – when the duo finally decided to take matter into their own hands and approach this idea more proactively. “We were like, screw this,” Amit says, “We’re going to make the music ourselves, and we’re going to sing ourselves, and we’re going to do everything ourselves. We did that in 2008, and ever since then we’ve been releasing songs off and on.” All it took was the first step, and Sifar were on their way to etch their names in stone. “We released some demos,” Amit says, “Then in 2011, we got signed to BeatFactory Music and released an album. Then we got signed to Universal and released our second album.”

Primarily focusing on Hindi alternative rock music, Sifar began working on a full plate of music in 2008, and started writing what was soon going to be their self titled debut EP. “We’ve had some influences from some Indian and Pakistani music as well,” Amit says, “Junoon is one of them, as far as song writing is concerned. But, when it comes to the music we have a lot of international influences including, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, maybe Nirvana to a degree; these three serve as our main influences.” As tempting as it would be for a relatively new band to release multiple singles in the hopes that maybe a high frequency of music releases saves one from being forgotten, Sifar are not short of critically scrutinizing their music, and meticulously building a song. “There have been instances where we’ve written something within like ten minutes,” Amit says, “The whole song, i.e. the songwriting, and we would be happy and content with it. Then, there have been times where a song has taken a long time to sort of form itself.” The ‘long time’ that Amit is referring to could easily stretch from anything between a couple of weeks, to a couple of years. But, Amit tells us that Sifar’s music is more about justifying the music as best one can, working on pieces of music to articulate them elaborately. “There were some ideas that we wrote back in 2008, but they didn’t really finish until four or five years later. So yeah, we are a little critical about the songs, but we don’t really throw away any ideas either. We always tend to go back to it at some time. Like, maybe go back to it after two or three months, see if there is any way we could get a new perspective on looking at the song, and we try to write it again. Of course if we still don’t like it, we kind of put it in the corner and maybe revisit it after another few months. For some songs it takes a long time, for some songs it doesn’t.”

Photo Courtesy Chandan Bhatia

In 2011, Sifar released their debut full length album, 1 – a compilation of ten songs, written over a span of five years - after being signed by BeatFactory Music, giving Amit’s ambitions toward music production a huge push forward. “This [production] was something I was extremely interested in,” Amit says, “So I wanted to do the entire production myself, and that’s exactly what we did. All the production and recording aspects were handled by me, and that was something I was really excited about, in addition to song writing.” At this time Amit enrolled himself into the music production course study with BeatFactory studios, essentially perfecting his skills behind the scenes also. “Even if this is an investment of about six months or maybe up to one year of training, I think it is an investment that every musician should take up at some point. It gives you immense knowledge, as far as the whole process is concerned.  Even if you’re not a producer, even as an artist, you should know that. Because if you know what you want, then you can even tell the producer exactly what you want, instead of relying on guess work.”

Sifar were signed by Universal Records in 2013, after the more than grand success of the band’s debut album. By December 2013, the band recorded and released their second album, 2, recorded at BeatFactory studios. “With the second one, the only difference is that we incorporated more live elements in the album. Basically, do all the arrangements in a live rock band style. We started doing that, we did that for about four songs, and then I just had an electro-rock kind of an idea. I thought this is not going in the direction that we wanted this album to go, but I said, ‘screw it, this sounds so cool, I wann try it.’” And just like that, Sifar’s music ventured into the domains of electronic rock for the first time. “So the whole album sounds like a live rock alternative album, but then you have this one song that just sticks out like an electronic rock song. Which is weird.” It had hardly been twenty four hours from the second album’s release, that it snatched up the #1 position on iTunes’ Indian rock charts. “The second album was a kind of weird combination of songs,” Amit Says, “Again, we wrote those songs over a span of two to two and a half years. After the first album was released, we almost immediately started work on the second album. The basic idea of the songwriting remained the same, that all of the songs we write have to have something to do with our own life experiences. There were songs about love, hatred, or whatever, which had something to do with our own lives, just like the first one. I think that’s kind of our way of working, and the way we write.”

It’s not hard to notice the chronological christening of the band’s albums and EP; but Amit claims that the names – just like the band’s music – have a story. “Well it might sound like it is such a lazy idea to name the albums 1 and 2, and not even be bothered to come up with song names. But the idea was that our band name, Sifar, in Arabic means zero. So we started with ‘zero’, then we did ‘one’, and then we did ‘two’.”

An EP and two full length albums down the line, Sifar had been on a break from their songwriting and creation process for the last six months. But, the band’s coming back from their hiatus, and planning bigger moves and changes. “One of our members [bassist Yapang] has gone back to Nagaland permanently,” Amit says, “That happened, and then two of us moved to Bombay, because this is where the music industry is, and we sort of want to take it to the next level now.” Sifar seems to be really psyched about working on their next album, and are perhaps going to try a different approach to releasing music alittle more often. “This time there is a real possibility that we will release a series of singles from the album,” Amit says, “So, maybe every three months we will release a new single.”


Visit the band's official website.

Stream 'Shaitan' from the album 2 by Sifar below:

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