Arjun & The Teenage Men release their debut EP ‘Shenanigans’
Acoustic/electric pop rock band Arjun & The Teenage Men (ATM) has released their debut EP ‘Shenanigans,’ days after the release of their entertaining music video for Words of Wisdom. Although the band members are all veterans in the music scene, this is the first time they’re drifting away from metal and doing something that most people would consider anti-metal: pop. We had a chat with frontman Arjun about the band’s new EP and being an indie musician, among other things.
A little background about Arjun & The Teenage Men (ATM)
Once upon a time, four Furtados employees decided to come together and make money playing shows as a cover band – Arjun Dhanraj on vocals and guitars, Roop Thomas on bass, Vignesh Venkatraman on guitars, and Mayank Sharma on drums. But of course, playing covers can never give the same sort of satisfaction as playing original music does. Arjun, who plays for a prog metal band called NerveRek from Chennai, decided to explore his other musical interests.
“I used to have 3 and 4 chord pop song ideas,” Arjun says. “I’d just record them on my phone and keep them. I thought maybe I could make music for ads, or something like that. Eventually, I went through these songs and I said, ‘Hey, these are really nice songs for the kind of vibe that we’re representing.'”
When asked about the abbreviation of their band name, Arjun says, “Considering we’re independent musicians, the joke is that the band’s called ATM. We thought maybe if we use it as a short form, we’ll make some more money. But no, we thought of the band name before the short form.”
The ‘Shenanigans’ EP took almost 2 years to be released
When the band first decided to release original music under ATM, Arjun penned She, a powerful song accompanied by dark riffs that stands against rape culture. “Rape happens everywhere, not just in India,” Arjun says. “But in India itself – we have the second largest population in the world – we don’t do anything about this.”
In a facebook post, he further writes, “For a species that defined a word like ‘humanity’ on itself, we’re quite ironically the least humane of all. Worse yet, of all the inhuman things we’ve come up with, rape seems to not only be a common practise, but one that’s slowly becoming a way of life to some. […] This isn’t a song about creating awareness, because if you aren’t aware about the rape situation in the world today, you’re as ignorant as it gets. Its time we wake up and do something about it ourselves, and together! Our ‘leaders’ and our ‘protectors’ seem to have fallen prey to this filthy act, so they’re not helping. WE MUST!”
The band really liked She, and decided to keep writing songs. But they wanted all of their songs to sound different, even if they all fell within the umbrella of pop. It was then that their more upbeat songs like Words of Wisdom and You T’yoo were born. But even though they wrote and recorded everything before the end of January 2016, the EP took almost 2 years to be released, although they’ve been playing gigs in the meantime. Here, Arjun explains that as an indie band, they work in a very different vehicle from artists signed to labels. They’ve to take care of all the coordination and management on their own. But he’s happy that they’ve finally released the EP – and so are their fans, especially those who’ve been teasing Arjun that NerveRek still hasn’t released an album (after 15 years).
On them being up to shenanigans on their Words of Wisdom MV
The music video shows the band having a meeting with their PR team, who come up with ridiculous ideas on what they should wear and how they should market themselves. It’s fun, it’s funny, and a little ironic, which seems to be the theme they were going for. Shooting a music video for the EP was something that the band had had in mind for a while, but the concept for the video was a spontaneous one. They wanted the music video to sort of launch the EP, so showing them being up to shenanigans was the perfect idea. The only challenge the band faced was that since there was no one to make them focus on deadlines, they had to make their own and push themselves to meet them.
“Anyone from you to your mother can enjoy Arjun & The Teenage Men’s music”
Perhaps the best thing about the EP is how easy it is to listen to and how familiar it is. It’s very commercial, unlike most of the music that comes out of the indie scene. And Arjun makes a good point when he says, “If original music doesn’t sound familiar, people don’t like it in concerts. NerveRek’s music could only be enjoyed by a niche audience. We’re [ATM] lucky that we’re pop. Anyone from you to your mother can enjoy ATM’S music. Your mom would probably hate NerveRek.”
Still, as commercial as their music is, the band would never make music that they don’t actually like. “At the end of the day, when we write our own music, we want it to be our message. And if you don’t like what I’m singing or what I’m playing, then that’s your choice. I can’t force it down your throat. Bollywood, unfortunately, has been forced down everybody’s throat.”
Being an indie musician is not a full-time job
To be an indie musician in India, you almost definitely have to have a day job to not only pay your bills, but also to have money to invest into your passion. Arjun says that even his friends who do indie music full-time are either involved in the Bollywood industry as well, or earn revenue through multiple art forms. But of course, this constant need to swim against the current with a brick tied to their feet hasn’t deterred a lot of musicians who make the Indian independent scene what it is. In fact, for some of them, it even drives them. And Arjun is one of them. “We pay our bills, we do our other work, and then we end up putting money into our art form. That’s how we do what we do. It’s interesting, it’s fun, and we love it.”