You might know them as the 11-piece band of Bollywood-loving Aussies, or even better as the winners of iTunes’ “Breakthrough World Music Album for 2012”. The Melbourne-based band isn’t just in a league of their own: they created it. With an exotic mix of English, Bengali, and Hindi lyrics—sung by both Shourov Bhattacharya and Parvyn Kaur Singh—The Bombay Royale takes listeners to another planet. I recently interviewed Shourov Bhattacharya (The Tiger) of The Bombay Royale about the band’s recent success, origins, and future plans.
How did you come up with the name The Bombay Royale?
Well, funny story actually. We’d been up all night playing poker, smoking cigars, and drinking cocktails when the Skipper [saxophonist Andy Williamson] somehow ended up with a hand of 11 jokers. He christened it a “Bombay Royale” and we all had a good laugh. And then the name stuck. The real story is far less interesting, so let’s go with that one !
What is the inspiration behind your music?
We’re inspired by the vintage era [’60s and ’70s] Bollywood movies and their soundtracks. The music from that era had a kind of madcap, mash-up quality to it, while still being very much its own genre and very innovative. Not to mention danceable! And the movies had all kinds of wacky and memorable characters. We like the pure joyfulness and innocence of that era—a nice antidote to the cynical world we live in.
What would you say to someone who wanted to pursue a career in music?
Oh we’d say, “Do it your own way!” Yes, you need training, theory, technique etc. But after all that, follow your own path. True creativity is always going to be running against the grain. And take risks! The Bombay Royale wouldn’t exist if the Skipper and the rest of us had listened to the voice of reason.
Are you planning any big projects for 2013, tours, another album, etc.?
For sure. We’re always writing new songs and a second album is already in the pipeline, probably for 2014. We’ve got a bunch of collaborations going with filmmakers and other bands that we’ll be announcing as they develop. There will be video releases and new singles. As for touring, nothing official yet, but any Bombay Royale fans in UK or Europe will probably get some good news shortly!
How did all of you meet?
Well, it was all the Skipper’s fault. After cajoling and tricking the 11 of us into a rehearsal room, he locked the doors and forced us to bang through covers of old Bollywood tunes that he had arranged. We resisted at first, but it wasn’t long before everyone was converted. Nothing would have happened without the Skipper’s crazy vision. Everything began with an idea in his head, followed by lots of hard work on his part to find the right musicians.
You Me Bullets Love was named “Breakthrough World Music Album for 2012” by iTunes. How are you planning to top that in 2013?
Well, we’re excited about our next album now! We’ve got a whole bunch of new tunes coming through this year, some of which really explore new directions for the band. The debut album was a lot of fun, but we’re growing and developing as a band so there are plenty more surprises in store.
What are the difficulties posed by not singing songs in English when most of your audience is English-speaking? Is it more or less difficult to connect with your audience?
There’s definitely a challenge there. We can’t rely on lyrics as a hook so the focus really is on melody, arrangement, and musicality. At the same time, it’s great to be able to convey meaning and emotion through the music and voice. We always knew it would be difficult to get audiences involved if they can’t understand the words, but it’s also really satisfying to introduce people to something new. Sometimes we do demand a little more from our audience, but we give back as well.
Your band is composed of some pretty interesting “characters”. How did everyone come up with their respective personas?
Everyone’s been given a free hand. It’s like dress-ups when we were all kids, except we get to do it on stage and ham it up as part of a band! We were inspired by the old Bollywood movies and their characters—cabaret and disco dancers, sailors and policemen, villains and their one-armed henchmen etc. And now we really inhabit the characters we’ve made for ourselves. When those masks go on, we’re all in the Bombay Royale movie together!
To be completely honest, I have no idea what they are saying either! However, the music is absolutely incredible and has the power to transport you to a colorful and bright world of retro Bollywood glamour! Be sure to check out The Bombay Royale, they’re definitely here to stay !