When Achyuth first told me about their Kochi based project, “When Chai Met Toast”, in one of the FNO Season II sessions, the instant image that the name projected in my head was that of ‘happiness’, of ‘brighter times’ and of ‘positive energy’. Their debut E.P., The Joy of Little Things, which is available for free download on bandcamp.com, did not disappoint me, even a bit. I clicked on the second track “Firefly”, possibly because the name appealed to me most, and I thought that bandcamp.com had mixed up their links and mistakenly linked it to an unreleased Mumford and Sons’ song. But as I progressed through the track and through the other songs on the E.P., I grasped the uniqueness of “When Chai Met Toast”. I started appreciating the enormous positive energy that the songs projected and I was left, all in smiles, alone in my room. After all, we all need songs and art to remind us of the ‘brighter times’, at a time when the world is tearing itself apart on grounds of race, of colour, of religion, of language and of power.
According to their description, “When Chai Met Toast” is all about, “A simple breakfast. A simple melody.” and a musical project that “takes inspiration from the lighter side of life to create music that is heart-warming, happy and smile worthy.” The band is “The newest band from the land of coconuts, with a special acoustic setup and a unique brand of infectious happy music, which transcends age, genre and even language.”
Released on January 26, 2017, on online music platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Saavn, Amazon Music and Bandcamp, Joy of Little Things is “a proper flushed out record bringing out a neo-folk sound and a lot of happy storytelling”. The three song E.P. features what they believe is their best early material, the title track ‘Joy of Little Things’, ‘Beautiful World’ and a remastered version of their official single ‘Firefly’. The E.P. talks about finding happiness in the small nuances of home, family, the world outside, relationships and travel.
Over the course of the next 6 months, they plan to release four new songs, in the form of live or music videos, as singles.
To talk about the band, Achyuth Jaigopal and Ashwin Gopakumar started the project having similar tastes towards genres like country, neo-folk and acoustic music and they do most of the songwriting. Palee Francis, the keyboard player of the band, is also a producer, so he adds a lot to the arrangements and tonal qualities. Pai Sailesh, the drummer, is probably the only standing drummer in the country and is very versatile. It might be hard to believe considering the music that they play, but three of their four members have backgrounds in the metal scene, and have been or are still part of front-running metal bands in Kerala! So, though everyone in the band has different tastes in music, they have adapted to the sound and added their own unique component to WCMT.
The band is deeply influenced by international acts like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Bear’s Den, The Alabama Shakes and Coldplay. When asked the importance of lyrics in a song or a musical production, Achyuth replied, “You can look at this both ways I feel. A great melody can touch people even when they can’t understand the language of the lyrics, whereas an average melody can possibly touch people with lyrics that are cleaver or the ones which can be related to. And both great lyrics and great melody contribute to a great song. For us, in most cases, lyrics have been written after the melody and depending on the mood that the melody creates. Or in other cases, there are certain words that come up spontaneously while humming a melody, and then the words are written around it.”
Considering Kochi to be a home-base for the band, they’ve always had great support from the people, who turned up in numbers for their shows in the city. However, Kochi doesn’t have enough venues to host artists regularly. Especially independent artists. But there are a lot of people actively following the independent music circles, though most of it is through social media platforms and YouTube channels. There has been considerable effort from production companies like The Muse Room, artist-management companies like Aum-I-Artists, and venues like Cafe Papaya in promoting independent music, in a land where lot of great original music has come out.
They stated that, “[The] Indie-scene in the country considers itself below the line sometimes. Traditional methods need better thinking. As the McDonald brothers say, “You need to find something new and creative than inducing from the existing“. We have reached a threshold where we thrive to think new and figure out a way to bring it up and reach out to a larger mass, than what it is now. There are new openings like licensing and sync and new copyright laws which also acts as a trigger to this. We are all in the right route, but to cook something perfect, it needs a slow process. Surely it is far better than what it was before.”