Normally, floods invoke fear. For the crew of Kochi-based band 'When Chai Met Toast', Kerala's August deluge last year was their muse. The floods inspired them to pen their first Malayalam song four years after their launch. Despite being a band from Kerala, Chai Met Toast had so far dabbled only with English songs interspersed with Hindi and Tamil.
A year after the floods ravaged Kerala, the band is coming up with an ode to the engrossing camaraderie that helped steer the state out of hardship during the floods. Titled 'Nee Aara', the band's debut Malayalam song will be released on August 8.
“The song is about coming through hardship and breaking through it. The whole of the state was confused at that time and everybody from different parts of the world came through and put together an effort to make a new beginning,” says vocalist Ashwin Gopakumar.
The message of the song resonates with all the band members - Ashwin, Achyuth, Palee, and drummer Sailesh G Pai. “We wanted to give something back to the land we hail from. This is a song about all those who stood together during floods,” says Achyuth Jaigopal, the guitarist.
What is brewing
Chai Met Toast rose to stardom after their Extended Play records and singles became a rage among music buffs. But it has taken the band four years to come up with a Malayalam song.
Ashwin admits that it was not an easy task to pen a Malayalam song.
“We always tell people that it is supremely hard to write a good Malayalam song. We have tried many times, but not everything worked the way we wanted. There was a song which Palee Francis composed a long time ago. We thought this was the right time to release it, something that we could give back to our people,” says Ashwin.
Palee Francis, who is the keyboardist and music programmer of the band, along with Ashwin took the help of lyricist Engandiyoor Chandrasekharan to pen 'Nee Aara'.
The brief was simple. A song with a folk touch that can embrace elements of western instruments.
“People always ask themselves who they actually are, no matter where they reach. This song is also a way of questioning our identity as the title suggests,” says Palee.
'When Chai Met Toast' has Ashwin Gopakumar (vocals), Sailesh G Pai (drums), Achyuth Jaigopal (guitar and banjo) and Palee Francis (keyboard).
The floods had also played spoilsport to the band's scheduled gig in Jaipur on August 15, 2018 when the waters began to rise as a warning sign of the impending fury of nature and the Cochin International airport had to be shut.
The organisers of the Jaipur show tried to ferry them from Bengaluru.
Only one member of the band, Ashwin, was in Bengaluru.
With rising fury of nature making it impossible for the others to venture out, the gig had to be cancelled.
“We had to cancel our show and had to be with our family and friends. Also, it was our responsibility to help in whatever way we could,” says Pai.
How 'Chai Met Toast'
'When Chai Met Toast' was initially a two-member project with Ashwin as a vocalist and Achyuth as a guitarist and banjo player.
“When Chai Met Toast happened in 2015, it was an accident. The meeting of two people later grew up into a band of four. I met Achyuth in 2015 and all four of us met in 2016,” says Ashwin.
Palee has a different take.
He remembers meeting Ashwin and Pai in college days during a competition when they were part of three different music bands.
All of them then drifted towards playing music full time. And that made them stay together for so long as a band.
The name 'When Chai Met Toast' went from being a mere food item to a good old independent music with their hits like 'Beautiful World', 'Firefly', 'Khoj', and 'The Joy of Little Things'. Since their songs were a mix of Indian and western song, they named it 'When Chai Met Toast' symbolising 'Chai' with India and 'Toast' with western.
The band's initial work flourished on WhatsApp. As Ashwin was from Trivandrum and the rest from Kochi, it was not always possible to travel back and forth.
“The initial process starts with me sending Achyuth and Palee a WhatsApp. They then work on a solid pattern and Pai gives a skeleton with his drum pattern. This is just a model we follow,” says Ashwin.
“At times we develop from an idea on stage and keep a rough recording of that track. Later on, we develop a whole new song in the studio,” says Pai.
As Ashwin is planning to shift to Kochi, the band is looking forward to enthral their fans by making more new songs.
From 'Beautiful World' to 'Forever', 'When Chai Met Toast' has so far relished their volume of work.
“Nothing much has changed among us, but the number of people listening to us has changed. Some of the venues have gotten bigger. In terms of musical taste, I think we have evolved. As a band we are more on the same page now,” says Achyuth.
“The biggest project right now is to release this Malayalam song. Our first full-length album is on the cards. We are expecting to release it in 2020,” says Achyuth.
The band members are also eyeing stints in Mollywood. Palee recently worked with composer Rex Vijayan for the 'Thamasha' while Ashwin completed a Telugu song.
Given the penchant for experiments, Mollywood's toast for the band is a distinct possibility.