On their upcoming full length: "We've Overcome A Lot of Obstacles and That's the Sound We're Into "
Janaka Selektah and Shridevi of Gods Robots just finished playing seven shows in India over the past three months, and they noticed something different on this third annual tour.
“We’ve seen such an incredible ramp up in the number of festivals [in India]. At the MAD festival, for the first time I’ve ever seen, it had an incredibly diverse roster, like thrash metal bands in India. And now rock music is so huge, with super-tight bands,” said Janaka, speaking over the phone from Sri Lanka last week.
At the crest of the next wave of electronic pop, Gods Robots’ mix of dance, electronic, and classic Indian instrumentation and vocals, has been getting a warmer reception on the sub-continent too. This year, they played at both branches of the Blue Frog, India’s premier venue for rock and electronic music, and several festivals, including MAD, and the Jaipur Literature Festival.
As of April, Janaka and Shri are holed up in Janaka’s makeshift studio in Colombo, completing their first full-length album. It’s the first time that the duo has spent so much time in the same city, let alone the same building — they worked on their first two EPs on different continents, transferring files between San Francisco, where Janaka was a promoter and DJ, and Mumbai, where Shri quit her job as a music reporter to be a singer and pursue studies in Carnatic vocals at the University of Mumbai. Hooked up via the internet for a project with BBC1 DJ Bobby Friction, they met face-to-face at a club in Bangalore, six months after their collaboration began.
This is not Janaka’s first exciting project. He had some success with an SF-based band the Mighty Dub Killaz, and prior to that, he threw a regular party with dance beats and live Indian instruments during the dot-com boom: “It was 1,600 people in the biggest venue in San Francisco, 1015 Folsom, with five rooms of music, I was flying people in from the UK and India a lot.”
If Janaka is the party expert, it’s clear that Shri is the authority on classical Indian music. While trying to define carnatic vocals, Janaka ventured over speakerphone, “It comes from a style where somebody’s playing tabla drums…,” when Shri cut him off: “No, not tablas, you never use tablas in carnatic music!”
Shri’s throaty vocals are mainly in English, but with the trademark vocal trills, or allaps, of southern Indian religious music, her songwriting fuses radically different musical traditions, all of which come together like a post-Millenial Portishead album.
With the positive reception of their last EP and the single, “Stay,” they’re very excited about the prospects of the upcoming full-length and their future touring plans. Of course, touring comes with its problems: most recently, they had to cancel a July date at California’s Symbiosis Festival because of difficulties with Shri’s visa. But come November, with more time to plan, they’ll hopefully be playing Symbiosis’ next festival, in Australia.