The new Thermal and A Quarter album is darker, grimmer and more political, and a callback to the band’s grunge roots. Drummer Rajeev Rajagopal tells us more...
Thermal and A Quarter’s latest album, aptly and topically titled A World Gone Mad, has been a long time in the making. “We started writing this album four years ago. It’s been a very difficult album to get through. At one point, we thought it might become irrelevant by the time we released it. But here we are in a totally crazy world right now. Never expected this,” drummer Rajeev Rajagopal shares.
This is the Bengaluru-based band’s eighth studio album, and is described as the band members’ personal journeys of being and living in this world that’s gone mad.The band has a 23-year-career behind it and is fronted by vocalist Bruce Lee Mani. With Leslie Charles on bass, Tony Das on guitar and drummer Rajeev, the four-member band makes rock music that’s quintessentially Bengalurian in spirit. Its previous albums include Jupiter Cafe (2002), Plan B (2005) and The Scene (2015), but its latest is a lot more reflective.
“As an album, it’s quite different from our past work. More serious, even grim in many parts. Like the title track A World Gone Mad has the lyrics, ‘In this world gone mad, Choose the lies you want, Choose the hate that’s closest to your heart’. Or the song Believe It All, that’s a simple thought experiment — what if we believed everything, in a world where ‘free’ information is increasingly polluted? The lyrics go ‘Is it Left or Right?, Those wings, so true, Give me both, They’ll break, My fall,” Rajeev explains, adding, “We wouldn’t be artistes if we were turning a blind eye to all that is happening in our country and the world. Over the last few years, our world’s politics, ideologies and culture have increasingly moved towards extremism, hate, isolationism and worse.” He says the state of the world has left him, like all of us, troubled, thoughtful and desiring change, but quite powerless to alter the broad sweep of events.
“The album is, in essence, a personal journey of trying to deal with feelings of loneliness, belonging, anger and confusion. Clinging to endless entertainment, loved ones and support systems for succour. But also understanding that in some cosmic sense all of this is insignificant and we need to rely on our essential humanity, strength, hope and humour to pull ourselves through,” he opines.
The lyrics of the songs have been written by Bruce. He wrote all the lyrics in one go, Rajeev tells us, and the band put the music together. He reveals, “Some songs started with Leslie and Rajeev working on a groove, while others had Bruce come up with a guitar riff. Sometimes, Tony and Bruce would try and complement each other on the guitar and synth.”
Rajeev divulges that the challenge in making an album, as opposed to just a song, is to have that connected thread running through it and for the members to stay in that zone while making the music. “It was very difficult to keep drawing everyone back into the angsty dark vibe of the album while composing. It’s very easy to slip into our comfort zones. Keeping the big picture together while working on each minute of the song was very difficult. Some songs came together quickly, but a few others took very long and had many, many iterations before we all settled in with the songs,” he shares. The album art is designed by Sonali Zohra at DangerCat Studios. It depicts two people listening to music, while the world around them goes up in flames.
On the circuit
TAAQ has been in the industry for so long, and has seen the evolution of the Bengaluru music circuit. Rajeev feels that now there is a lot more acceptance and respect for local and original music, compared to when they started out. He lists up-and-coming bands, Kyojin Music and Another Kind of Green, as ones that show a lot of promise. Their own music has also obviously matured over the years and this album is testament to that. “This album is very different from typical TAAQ material. We’re usually fond of tongue-in-cheek observations, agile grooves and arrangements. A World Gone Mad has much more ambience, texture and mood. It is soft and reflective, but also coldly furious. Bands such as Radiohead and King Crimson are perhaps sonically related; there is also a sense of ‘grunginess’ with many of the arrangements,” Rajeev adds.
The new album was to be accompanied with a pan-India tour, but that is now called off due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “We would like to try out some streaming concerts maybe. Let’s see how that pans out. A few lyric videos should be coming out soon,” Rajeev sums up.
A World Gone Mad is available on all streaming platforms
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