Rainburn are a Progressive Rock band from Bangalore, India. In November last year, they released an Ep titled “Resignify” consisting of five reworked tracks from their album “Insignify”. I spoke to front man Vats Iyengar about the EP, their approach towards it, Progressive Rock and much more.
This interview was conducted before the EP release, but is now finally online because of Life and everything that comes with it. Here it is.
Hi Vats, how are you doing? I know you guys are getting ready for the release of your new EP.
It’s good man. “Resignify” is a companion EP to “Insignify“. It’s not new material, the sound of the reworked versions are very different from the original.
“Resignify” consists of live cuts and stripped-down and re-dressed versions of songs from “Insignify”. Why did you decide to take this approach towards your music?
Initially, we planned on doing an acoustic version of “Elusive Light” but it happened by accident. We had a show in July and I thought of shooting a few live videos as we don’t have any officially released videos, just cell phone videos on YouTube. So instead of having these separate releases, I just thought of doing an EP. I really wanted to do a different version of “Suicide note” with the piano. So we just packaged everything up in one release instead of putting it out as separate things.
Over the years people have talked to me about doing house gigs and I always said that our material doesn’t lend itself well to that format, singer songwriter style. I would say that if we ever do an acoustic version of our songs, it has to be something that is really difficult to do. I didn’t want to do an acoustic version of “Merchant of dreams” or “Within” because they will actually not change that much.
“Insignify” was an album about looking for purpose within and beyond the realms of insecurity and narcissism; “Resignify” is about assigning new meanings to those themes. How did the idea for “Resignify” come about? Was it something planned with the release of “Insignify?”
“Insignify” was very autobiographical, it shows the existential angst I was experiencing at the time. When I wrote the last song “Schools of Atlantis“, I thought that I actually found some peace and it was the only way to end the story. A few days later you have some other twist to life and your place, there is probably no definitive answer.
We went on tour and played the songs from “Insignify“, all of these songs acquired new meanings because we just had new experiences as people. The EP is essentially these songs coming together in an organic way.
“The protagonist of ‘Insignify’ is a year older and wiser but now, more than ever, realizes the circular and never-ending nature of the quest to find himself.” How autobiographical are the concepts behind your music?
You know, Peter, first of all, thanks for saying that it sounds autobiographical, I’m glad that it comes across to you and a few other people who said that it does seem sincere. One thing that I hate about music is when it’s really pretentious, when bands pretend that they’re talking about some high minded stuff. I don’t mind cheesy lyrics, sometimes they are fun to listen but not every song has to be about life. I wouldn’t want to listen to ACDC for lyrics about life.
The songs acquired new meanings through touring as I mentioned earlier and basically going through life. “Suicide note” and even “Elusive light” is about musicians and artists uneasy relationship with their art. In the chorus of “Elusive Light“, the person in the story is talking to the art form itself saying “In your elusive light I feel unbroken and free, yet so much more vulnerable than I wish to be.”
I don’t think that the basic nature of my relationship with my art or whatever I create has changed but it has taken on a new form. Revisiting these songs doesn’t feel like going back to the same feelings I had when I wrote them, it just feels a little different now.
You’ve fused Prog and Indian classical instruments. Do you have any training in Indian classical music?
I have learned for a very short amount of time around nine or ten months considering how complex it is and how much time it takes to really be good at that. Fusion itself is a really difficult thing or must be a really difficult thing to pull because you have to be really good at two different things. I don’t mean to sound like a dick but a lot of it I don’t like. This is just my opinion as a listener, only a handful of people in history have fused Indian music well with Western music, Shakti and Prasanna.
The Indian elements in the “Elusive light” version are particularly obvious. There’s no intent to do that, it just happens to be there because we’re all Indians and probably grew up listening to all this music, it’s kind of part of your heritage. We play Rock music broadly speaking, but it’s filtered through the lens of our upbringing and the things that we’ve experienced, a lot of that is obviously Indian music also. The same way that Sepultura for example, when they did all those Latin rhythms in Thrash Metal, it’s just their filter. I like that stuff from them and I would like to think that they didn’t try to say, let’s do this to sound really different. They must have listened to a lot of Thrash Metal bands growing up and expressed it this way because of their personalities, cultures and heritage.
What does Progressive Rock mean to you?
I have a very different definition of Progressive. Radiohead is really Progressive to me. I know nobody really thinks they’re Progressive, I just think they do different things on each album. They don’t find the formula and stick to it, that is in my opinion the perfect definition of Progressive music.
I don’t think it’s cool to be a Progressive Rock musician ever, never was in the 70’s heyday. Bands like Yes and others, the critics would be brutal about them “What the hell are these guys doing? I mean, who do they think they are?” So when the Punk Rock movement destroyed all those Proggers, I think everyone was happy.
A lot of the Djent bands are also classified as Progressive. The thing is that Djent and a lot of even Prog Metal just sounds like a formula. Meshuggah comes up with a sound, which is very original and it was of course creative but then if you do the same thing, you’re not actually Progressive, it goes against the English definition of the word. So I think for Progressive in general, there is a formula to it sometimes which is true of any genre actually whether it’s Rock or you know, Jazz or Funk music or whatever, there will be bands who will be doing really innovative things and there’ll be a lot of other bands who jump on the bandwagon.
So to me any band that does anything that sounds new or helps music evolve or both, in a perfect world that’s the definition of Progressive. It could necessarily have odd time signatures or whatever things that people or critics used to define Progressive Rock. I mean, if a Punk band says we’re going to do Punk music melded with all these electronic influences that could be the next Progressive thing to me at least. I don’t think anyone would think the Punk rockers will really be pissed off if they’re called Progressive musicians.
There have been quite a few Progressive Rock bands from Bangalore, what do you think is the reason behind it?
We had bands like Slain and more recently Project MishraM. To me a lot of Bombay bands are making really exciting music like Dirge. The circus from Delhi, I know they’re a little older but I discovered them about two or three years ago. Lo peninsula from Imphal I think their music is exciting, also Ioish from Delhi.
What’s next for the band? Do you plan on taking the new sounds on the road?
No, someday I would like to really do an acoustic concert and maybe record it and release it as an album. There’s nothing like that planned for now. These things like the reworked version are a novelty, just a way to explore new musical territory. The next thing I really want to release is a full length album as we are signed to label Unherd but a lot of that depends on the financial logistics of it. Making an album costs a lot of money, so in an ideal world, I would love to release an album towards the end of next year, maybe October but practically it may end up being the first half of 2021.
I finished demoing one song that we used to play right at the early days of the band and had shelved it. With full length albums, I have an idea for an album and then I break it down into songs before writing the individual songs. At the moment we are at that stage where we are breaking down the album into ten songs or so. Once you know what you’re going to write about, it just happens very fast.
Any final words?
Check out “Resignify” on Bandcamp. One of the things we’re also doing is we’re going through a lineup change and looking for a new guitar player. In the course of that I started writing guitar tabs to some of the parts for auditions, just to make it easier for those who were interested to play. Then a lot of people messaged me that they would love to have guitar tabs to some of our songs, not to audition, but just generally to have fun with it. So I ended up transcribing five songs, all the guitar parts, which is something that we are giving away on Bandcamp if you buy the EP. (Something I don’t recall any Indian bands doing – Trendcrusher) I don’t blame them because transcribing is really really painful work and people who are into Rock music are not naturally good readers of sheet music, so it takes forever to get it right.
Many thanks for your time Vats, very much appreciated. The rest of you can check them out via the links below.