We think good food, good beer and good music make for a great combination, and that’s what the Sunday Simmer Down at Toit is.
As a part of this initiative, we feature bands from around the world, and each of them have a great musical story to tell.
Last Sunday we had the very bluesy, the very melancholic, feels-filled Mahesh and the Mix, for our Simmer Down series.
For the uninitiated, the five member band consists of frontman Mahesh Raghunandan on vocals, Anish Nadh on guitars, Ravi Nair on bass, and Ashwin Shekhar on drums, with Johanson Prabhu handling sound.
Their sound is a refreshing one, with elements of Blues and Acoustic Rock, majorly deriving its signature style from Mahesh’s singer-songwriter work . We spoke to them about their ‘cheerful’ songs, melancholy and general notions about mixing drinks up…erm…things up.
Has it always been the five of you?
Mahesh: It started off with Anish and me. This was Anish’s idea of me doing something bigger, than what I was doing as a singer-songwriter. He suggested we bring in session musicians and play the songs with them. We started jamming, and it felt good.
Ravi and Ashwin came in, and it felt good as a band, as a whole. So we thought we’d just go ahead with that.
This was Anish’s idea of me doing something bigger…
Anish: Johnson (his real name is pronounced Johanson, like Scarlet’s) came in a little late, and it was probably the best decision we made. We’ve tried working with the sound guys at the venue and they usually don’t get us. A permanent sound engineer is something we wanted, and he makes us sound good always.
Mahesh: He’s like the mentor, because he’s very, very, very, very old. He’s also like the manager.
So what’s the inspiration for your melancholic songs?
Anish: Mahesh used to write really cheesy love songs and I hated it. After he met me, and heard about all my ex-girlfriends, he got depressed. That’s why he writes songs like this now.
Mahesh: * laughs* Well, I can relate more to sad songs because it comes more naturally to me. I’ve dealt with bad times, and I still do. So I guess I can relate to the melancholic emotions in sad songs. I just want to be honest with the songs that I write.
The main thing for me, and the band, is emotion. We try really hard to make our songs as expressive as possible.
As a band, what is the most annoying question you get asked?
Mahesh: Why is it called Mahesh and the Mix?
Anish: Or, they ask us for our age. They want to know how old we are, because you know, Mahesh looks like he just got out of school.
So, why is it called Mahesh and the Mix?
* Interviewer thrills *
Anish: When it came to choosing the band’s name, we thought that Mahesh should take control and take the band in a direction he likes. He is the songwriter.
We try to meditate for a while before we get on stage.
How long has this line-up been around?
Anish: One year.
That’s a decent amount of time. Do you have any pre-gig rituals you’ve come up with over this year?
Ravi: We try to meditate for a while before we get on stage.
Anish: The main ritual is getting Ashwin (drummer) to the venue. Figuring out where he is—that’s the main ritual, because it happens every gig.
What’s the best gig you’ve played so far?
Mahesh: Recently, we had a gig of sorts in Coorg which was organised by an adventure tourism company. They called us, to join them, and said we could have a small performance at Coorg around a campfire.
It was completely DIY, we took our own gear, amps, mics, put some LED lights.
It was so beautiful, some 20-30 people sitting in front of us. I think that was one of the best gigs we’ve ever had.
Anish: And all of us drank a lot of beer and played that gig.
Do you guys drink beer?
Anish: All of us drink beer. * Apart from Mahesh, apparently. *
We’re big fans of beer.
According to you guys, what is the best and worst thing about the independent music scene in the country right now?
Anish: The best thing I’ve noticed, personally, are other musicians being there for you. Established musicians help us by answering our questions, and by helping us get our sound right.
The worst thing is probably that audiences nowadays are distracted. It’s never about the music alone. We used to have Sunday Jams and Freedom Jams, where it would be just about the music—no food, drinks, talking or any of that stuff.
We used to have Sunday Jams and Freedom Jams, where it would be just about the music
Mahesh: Being slightly diplomatic here, music is entertainment. It is! But the fact is that it is not just that. It’s an awesome thing that venues like this give us opportunities to perform, but at the same time, we need to make sure that people understand that it’s not just entertainment because we put our hearts and souls into it.
Ravi: Usually, things like payments are not done on time. And not just that—sometimes bands are taken for granted in terms of no provisions, and not being given enough time to set up, and that’s really bad.
I mean, we love what we do. But if the band is treated better, we will end up doing a better show.
Switching to less serious topics, if you had to make a Fantasy Band League, who would you guys pick?
Anish: For me this dream line-up already exists in the form of Dream Theatre. I hear perfection there, so I can’t go beyond that.
Ravi: Guthrie Govan, Kyle Gass and Jack Black. And me!
Johanson: Of course I come from the sound perspective, but also musically, I might not be mentioning very popular names but they are some of the best in the industry—Mark Guiliana on drums, Jason Rebello on keys, Panagiotis Andreou on bass and David Coverdale on vocals.
Ashwin: I would go with something with a fusion-world music feel, so I would love to have Robin Ford on guitars, same bass player Jo mentioned, Lalah Hathaway from Snarky Puppy on vocals, and I guess I want to play the drums.
Mahesh: I’d like Jeff Buckley on vocals, John Mayer on guitars, Paul McCartney on bass, and Steve Jordan on drums. That would be a kick-ass band, and I would love to be their backing vocalist!
On a more serious note though, I think our set list is quite balanced.
Going local, which band would you like to play with apart from MATM?
Anish: At one point Ravi, this guy called Shreyas, and I would write songs, and had a band called Lunatic Apes. That’s my dream band because it was fun learning and teaching each other.
Johanson: Nicholson. They’re good friends and I like their sound.
Ashwin: This band from Kolkatta called Beer Puppets.
Mahesh: Last Remaining Light, because the sound they have is so different and very, very nice.
Finally, this whole dark, melancholic, brooding vibe that you have going on—does it work with the ladies?
Anish: It’s worked for Ravi so far, I guess. But I think it’s his hair mainly.
Ashwin: On a more serious note though, I think our set list is quite balanced. We also have fun, jumpy numbers. It’s like life basically—you have sad, happy, neutral, confused moments, and it’s all a journey.