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Interview: The F16s

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An indie rock band from Chennai, India that had bigger plans than just being an indie rock band from Chennai, India—through hard work and vision the F16s have created a sound that transcends the borders that can sometimes confine us, either literally or figuratively. Peep our interview with them below for a discussion between me and Harshen Radhakrishnan about the past, present, and future of the band.

After listening to the new EP, it seems as if the band has decided to go in a more psychedelic and melodic direction with the music, even more so than your previous releases. What, if anything, propelled you to make that shift? Was it more of a natural shift, or something that you have been working towards for a while?

Harshan Radhakrishnan: A bit of both. The songs themselves have existed as they are for more than a year now. At the time we wrote them, we did try out different synth sounds, and turned delays and reverbs up a little more for some space. That’s just what sounded good to us at that time. So it felt like a fairly natural transition, nothing felt forced. It just took a while for these songs to see the light of day.

What was the time between the completion of the songs to the release like? Was there tinkering involved on your end, or was it something the band had always been confident in and it was more strictly a timing thing?

HR: The gap between completion and release was influenced equally by financial factors and delays in post-production. The tinkering lasted for some time, but we were quite clear how we wanted the songs to sound from an early stage.

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What has changed the most since the beginning of the band six years ago? How has the experience of touring and creating music and releasing it to the public over the past few years helped the band grow and navigate the industry?

HR: Personnel, mostly. We lost a couple of bandmates over the years, not to mention their replacements. Early days had us schlepping our gear on less-than-favourable commutes across the country, via trains and buses, which did a real number on us, physically. As a young band, college contests are a rite of passage, a way to be seen and heard for very little money… something we no longer have to do, which is great. I mean, the money isn’t really that much better, but people can splurge on flights now. The crowds have changed considerably: early shows would comprise of friends and a few others. Now there’s a newer generation of young people with disposable income who follow local bands and bless them with their patronage, which was UNHEARD of earlier. We had clumsily gone about handling our social media, something that we’ve learned from and fixed. Streaming services setting up shop in India the last few years have also been of great help.

Has your response here in America caught you off-guard? What is the response to your music in Chennai?

HR: It is indeed very, very heartening to see our music work in America, where there is already plenty of music from the same spectrum. In India, there is enough prime real estate being fought over by DJs and Bollywood that an independent band can only paint itself further and further into a corner. Chennai is a strange beast. The city has been a focal point for very promising indie bands over the years, but none that survived more than a year or two because no one really gave a shit.

Being from Bangladesh myself, I often struggle with the thought of self-identity. On one hand, I’m incredibly proud of where I come from and love my skin, but I have also reckoned with my identity in contrast with things I’ve learned and experienced stateside. It leads to a lot of self-reflection. So without going into any great detail, what does being Indian mean to you? In a more and more globalized world, what do your roots mean to you?

HR: It’s almost like two sides of the same coin: we feel alienated in our own country because of what people believe, the notions they choose to entertain, the hilarious double-standards that permeate the landscape, the lack of common sense, most of them in the name of some sect or group. We try our best not to subscribe to that, but rather look for our own meaning through the internet, consuming what we want to, not what is fed to us. Which in turn may be driving us further and further away from our roots.

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What were some of the inspirations, both Indian and otherwise, behind the making of the new project?

HR: During the making of this EP we were listening to a bunch of Benny Sings, Sunset Rollercoaster, Homeshake while hanging out, smoking a lot and writing about relationships with people, Indian or otherwise. There isn’t a lot to be found in what people consider INDIAN inspirations, but rather what being Indian in this age means, what it entails, and how it affects interpersonal connections.

What do you want the listener to take away from the new project? Is it a type of feeling you want them to have while listening to it, possibly a message you’re trying to convey… Maybe it’s a combination of both or something much more.

HR: WKND FRNDS is a labour of love, about love. It is open-ended enough to allow the listener to pour themselves into the experience in isolation, or to play in the back while taking a load off with friends. We’re hoping it leaves an impression; what that impression may be is up to the listener.

It sounds like you and the band are in a better place mentally as well as physically, especially in terms of being able to breathe and being able to feel stable. What would you like for the next move for the band to be now? What do you hope to have accomplished or at least solidified in your personal lives next time we chat?

HR: We have more material, skeletal versions of songs that we wrote during this process that we intend to flesh out and develop. Probably put something out sooner than expected. In reference to the latter half of your question, we hope to break out a little more internationally. Try and put together an exhaustive tour through Europe or North America, who knows.

Listen to F16s new EP WKND FRNDS over on Spotify.

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Mohammed Ashton Kader
Mohammed Ashton Kader is only here to talk about TWIN PEAKS and Detroit Pistons basketball.

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