Sometimes you have to go back to take that next step forward. Blending old and new wins Indian band a new fan base.
Indian band Motherjane strike a chord
Sometimes you have to go back to take that next step forward.
That was the idea underpinning the Indian rockers Motherjane when returning to the studio in 2008 to record their second album Maktoub.
At that stage, courtesy of their solid debut Insane Biography (2002), the Kerala five-piece had built a steady following around the Indian college circuit with their blend of melodic hard rock.
However, a decision to further explore their Indian musical roots, first glimpsed in Insane Biography tracks Maya and Soul Corporation, was the masterstroke elevating them to their status as one of India's leading rock groups.
Speaking ahead of their Friday performance at The Music Room in Dubai, drummer John Thomas explains that the move to incorporate Indian musical elements in Maktoub largely owes to the group's decision to shake up their tried and tested sound.
"It seemed like the natural thing to do," Thomas says. "But you know, we found it was not that hard. I mean, we are talking about music that we learnt from our childhood."
Maktoub's use of traditional instruments such as the chenda - a percussion instrument from Kerala - and Carnatic rhythms not only gave them a new-found audience, but also gave the green light for fellow rockers shy of mixing their heritage with a foreign genre.
The result was hailed album of the year by Rolling Stone India, and Motherjane were declared 2010's Rock Band of the Decade by Rock Street Journal.
The band have also supported the likes of the metal legends Megadeth and Machine Head.
"What we found is that we became more accepted at home because they have something to relate to," Thomas recalls.
"Now I think we got to the stage where the Indian crowd will accept anything. Rock before had a very niche audience but when we started mixing all this Indian stuff with it, people who didn't listen to rock now began to."
The group also underwent a major shake up in personnel. Today, the respected Indian rock personality Vivek Thomas is the band's new frontman and is spearheading the group's new direction by also producing their third album, due in September.
"He also produced many metal bands in India and I think he will add a new perspective and know-how to the new album," Thomas reveals.
"Vivek comes from a post-rock influence so there will be a lot of that in our new sound but we will still keep the same Indian elements. I am really looking forward to it coming out."
Dubai fans will not have to wait until then to sample some of the new tunes.
Thomas says Motherjane's Dubai show will find them road-testing "three or four new songs".
With the group last performing in Dubai in 2008, before Maktoub reached its peak in popularity, Thomas expects a more varied crowd this time around.
"The last time we played to a lot of expat Indian crowd and we weren't exposed to the other crowds in the UAE," he recalls.
"I think this time we are expecting a bigger crowd. It will be interesting to see who comes."