Avial-fame Anandraj Benjamin Paul is back in the indie rock scene with two new singles
The comments section of Avial’s debut single Nada Nada is still active in 2019—over one and a half decades since its release. Youngsters from around the globe (Don’t believe us, follow up on YouTube) discovering the music through all these years and getting baptised as ‘Avialheads’ is proof enough for music that has stood the test of time.
Parallel to this, the internet has always buzzed with the question, ‘Where is Anandraj Benjamin Paul?’—now thought of as a legend and almost a myth because of his long absence from the independent music scene.
After a silence of over a decade, Avial’s original vocalist is hitting a few high notes in multiple collaborations with two bands including the popular outfit Thaikkudam Bridge and a nascent project called Miles Apart. We seek him out in between his hectic work schedule in the US—where he moved three months prior to the release of Avial’s self-titled debut.
“Over the past 11 years, my focus has been on raising my family including three children. My oldest child (who moved to the US with her American mother) was already two by the time my green card was approved! So, there was no question of delaying my reunification with my family after a long separation. Life happened!” says Anandraj.
Moulding the alternative
One can’t just delve into new projects when there are so many questions about a seminal release which triggered waves in the indie music industry across India.
“I never imagined that Avial’s debut album would achieve the iconic status it enjoys now. The whole process was a humbling experience for me and it brought out the artist in me rather than the singer,” states the forty-something-year-old.
It’d be difficult for most people who have heard this vocalist’s assertive and emotive delivery in tracks like Nada Nada and Chekele to believe when he says that singing in Malayalam didn’t come naturally to him.
“I was very privileged to be raised in Kuwait till I was 18 and being in an English-speaking environment, my language of comfort and preference is English. My very first attempt to sing Nada Nada took me five hours to sing eight lines,”
Back in touch
Despite being in a distant land, Anand did tune back into Kerala’s independent industry frequency, at some point. In between his regular playlist consisting of King Crimson and Queen to Tool and ’80s pop, he’s been lending his ears to local artistes such as Job Kurian, Masala Coffee, Agam, and Gowry Lakshmi.
He also credits people active in the scene to his return to singing. “I was approached by people I respect in the industry to collaborate with them. The timing of these releases wasn’t really my choice, it was the decision of the musicians I worked with,” shares the Michigan resident.
Anandraj’s latest appearance is in a self-titled video song by a project called Miles Apart. Recorded in Michigan, Philadelphia and Bengaluru, the early notes of the song reveal that the singer is still in the game despite a prolonged hiatus.
“I have never achieved satisfaction in composing music without showing up in person. The chemistry that works out between band members is mysterious and intangible. However, with Miles Apart, we were able to achieve our main objectives through constant communication,” he informs.
How much ever I try to resist, I can’t stop myself from asking the million dollar question, which you can be sure he gets asked a lot. Will fans get to hear more of Avial with him on vocals?
“We are still good friends and keep in touch. But, on the topic of singing for them, I think it's still up in the air. I can promise you this, if time and circumstance permit, I will grab the opportunity to work with them,” he says, leaving a sliver of hope for fans of Avial’s early output.
Bridging the gap
Thaikkudam Bridge’s Namah has reportedly been in the making for two years. The ten song EP is said to feature American drummer Chris Adler and guitarist Guthrie Govan, alongside Anandraj-sung track, Kanne.
“I felt a little apprehensive about taking up the offer at first but got into it when I learned the concept of the song. It’s about a father who vowed not to raise his daughter with hatred and vengeance in her heart. It took me the best part of a month to make sure I got the pronunciation of each word right,” says the singer.