Vocalist Sujay Harthi and bassist Praveen Biligiri of Bhoomi rope in guitarist Tony Das and drummer Willy Demoz to form the alt rock band
For those who’ve followed Bengaluru’s metal scene closely, members of alternative rock band Peepal Tree are familiar faces. Vocalist Sujay Harthi and bassist Praveen Biligiri were the founding members of heavy metal act Bhoomi, who broke out in 2002 and quickly graduated from participating in college competitions to headlining those very gigs three years later. Guitarist Tony Das, who you’d recognise from his stint with rock bands Thermal and Quarter and Moksha, and drummer Willy Demoz, who until recently played with The Raghu Dixit Project, also played on Bhoomi during the band’s active years, make up the four-member Peepal Tree.
A project that’s been in the works for a while now isn’t, as the band members mention, Bhoomi 2.0, but more alt rock with Hindustani classical-influenced vocals. Said Tony Das, “The idea for this project came about two years ago, when Sujay and Praveen came in with two ideas for songs. But somewhere along the way, everyone got busy with life and some babies were born, so that was put on hold indefinitely.” In December last year, the members revisited the ideas that Harthi and Biligiri had been working on and created rough mixes. As a result, two tracks, “Chetana” and “Tangi” were released on their SoundCloud page.
With lyrics in Kannada, the songs exhibit the varied influences that the band’s members have picked up over the years. Harthi brings in the Hindustani Classical training from his early years to his vocals, with melodies that compliment Das’ guitars and synth samples, all held together by tightly-written rhythm section grooves. “A lot of it is based on our background as being straight up rock guys,” Das explains, “And electronic stuff comes from the stuff we’ve listened to over the years – we’ve always liked psychedelic music. I’ve also had the luxury of working with [music director] Sandeep Chowta, whose background scores are legendary. I’ve learnt a lot of stuff about plugins and software and that’s really informed what we’re doing now.”
The band also has on board Abhijit Mahesh, who writes lyrics. Harthi insists that while they aren’t trying to write particularly “heavy lyrical material”, their songs reflect the general philosophy of life, some of it inspired by the works of 17th century Kannada poet Shishunala Sharif. Says Harthi, “Tangi is about making grand plans in life and more often than not, they don’t go accordingly. ‘Chetana’ is a more upbeat track about letting your spirit free, and was inspired by poem by [Kannada poet] Kuvempu of the same name.”
The band is aware that there will be a narrow subset of metal fans who will still expect this project to be a revival of the old Bhoomi, even though it’s been two and a half years now since they last played a gig in that avatar. “There will be a few of usual suspects, who’ll say things like ‘they sold out’, but they’re idiots, they don’t matter,” Das says, with laugh. “Those who matter are our friends from the metal scene who’ve been very encouraging all along.”