Sounds of the IndieGround – The Skrat Pack
My first encounter with Skrat was on the terrace of Clementine Studios. After stumbling upon a video of three guys rocking out in a shed somewhere, I was curious about how this band – with a cheeky name derived from ancient folklore – would sound on our ‘artists unplugged’ series. They agreed to try it out, and the result was a stellar performance by the trio of two of their tracks – Tin Can Man and Samurai Badass – acoustic-fied, chilled out, mellow and melodic. “What nice boys” I remember thinking to myself.
My next encounter with Skrat was a little different.
Plugged in, electrified, loud, and in your face – this was Skrat live, the real Skrat. The three nice boys jamming on acoustic guitars and a cajon, leaves blowing in the wind and birds chirping in the distance, were replaced by a three member mosh pit entrenched in a sweaty sea of power chords, badass guitar licks, angst filled lyrics and lager. And it was Awesome.
As the first band to kick off the Purple Fest – a bi-monthly indie gig night that Chennai Live FM and IndiEarth are re-launching in Chennai – the guys promised to Bring Out the Big Guns with a few tracks from their latest album, launched in February, 2013. “Our first album was more of a compilation of songs we’d written. This album has a lot more direction to it” said Tapass Naresh, the band’s percussionist. Their tracks are undeniably catchy with irresistible hooks and choruses that threaten you with ‘can’t get this song out of my head’ syndrome. Not that I’m complaining.
At first glance (or listen) the music may appear simple – but behind the catchy melodic themes and simple choruses that are easy to sing along to lies a trio of highly skilled musicians, both in their technical prowess and song writing abilities. After playing together since 2006, the band (comprising TT Sriram on lead vocals/guitar, Satish Narayanan on bass, Tapass on percussion) soon stopped trying to “refine their sound” and chose instead to strip the music down to its bare essentials – which is perhaps precisely when they stumbled upon the sound that defines them today. In fact, the music’s simplicity doubles up as the band’s secret weapon – their big gun. Jack White (who they cite as one of their influences) once commented of his favourite song – legendary blues icon Son House’s hauntingly beautiful Grinnin’ In Your Face – “I didn’t know that you could do that, just singing and clapping. And it meant everything to me – everything about rock n’ roll, about expression, creativity, and art. It didn’t matter that he was clapping off time, or that there were no instruments being played – what mattered was the attitude of the song”. The same can be said of Skrat – the awesome factor of the music is in its simplicity, its angst, its lyrics, its attitude. That, combined with their raw musical talent and natural onstage charisma, makes for a killer combination.
The Skrat live show (a la Purple Fest) is an experience I would recommend to the uninitiated. Typifying the idea of a garage band, the experience is grungy, up close and personal – so close you’re likely to experience a cascading waterfall of musician sweat if in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time – depending on what floats your boat). You feel as involved in the experience as the band members themselves, and when Spare Blues starts with the verse “Love’s just like snooker, so colourful, but all balls” you’re compelled to yell back “I hear you bro! Screw love! Screw snooker!”
I didn’t though. Thought that’d be weird. Or maybe I hadn’t downed enough lager.
Though it’s common critique convention to say something negative about the band, or the music – I’m afraid I have nothing negative to report. I genuinely like this band, specifically because they’re not trying too hard to be anything other than themselves – and this unpretentiousness reflects in the music. One band to watch out for in the future of the Indian indie scene.
We filmed the track Spare Blues to kick-start the IndiEarth Out There – Live From The Purple Fest series – so in case you missed the gig, click below to relive the experience.
The next band in line – Blues Conscience – at the Purple Fest this Friday, May 31st