Interview • Madràs
Madràs is a place far away— a place that no longer exists on maps but the city’s name alone evokes strong memories (‘childhood innocence, railway stations, being in an auto rickshaw, wisdom from simple people’) for Jeevan and Mathew Antony. The two brothers were born Madràs, now known as Chennai, in southern India and much of their music under the name Madràs is a product of their nostalgia for the place. Last week they released their beautiful debut album thingscanchange, which you pick up at their bandcamp. I’ve spent the past few days entranced by the thirteen-track release. I was so impressed by the effort that got in touch with Jeevan to see if he’d answer a few questions about Madràs, the album and future of the project— he said yes. Check out his words below.
- Several of the tracks on the album deal with issues of time, its passage and a longing for a there and then (‘older,’ ‘thingscanchange,’ ‘will wait’)— could you describe not the time that you were writing about, but the time when you first started recording songs as Madràs? How did it all come about?
I had another band with my brother, and a friend, called Fou. We were busy recording Fou’s debut record, but I had these ideas that didnt feel Fou-ish. I had just graduated from university, and was still coming to terms with other personal changes in my life; it was a weird/difficult time for me- I guess I have trouble with letting go. I recorded “Older”, and showed it to my brother around May of last year. We’re usually hard to please when it comes to our own material, but he really connected with the song, and encouraged me to explore it further. With that, everything just came out very easy.
- So I know that things started as a solo project. With such personal music grounded in nostalgia, did another person’s input change things? How did your brother’s inclusion affect the recording process?
To be honest, writing music without my brother inevitably feels unnatural, and/or incomplete. We come from a very close-knit family; we all know each other inside out. I think having my brother help me write/finish songs made the whole process easier; he knew where I was coming from and what we were trying to express.
- What kind of moments or scenes do you think are most fitting for your music. Also, what sorts of images were you envisioning as you worked on the album?
Love, loss, water, rain, winter, fog, sincerity, humility, intimacy, passion, vulnerability, betrayal.
When working on the album I would often imagine walking through railway stations in India/travelling around India by train, or picture the backwaters of my father’s hometown.
- I’ve heard your music compared to a couple of different groups, but what acts do you think influenced your music the most?
Honestly more than music, it was just certain memories and this longing to connect with this idea of “home”, understanding love, and coming to terms with the complexity of human/personal choices; ultimately it was about seeing/feeling these strong scenes and trying to translate that to sounds and words. If i had to pick influences otherwise, Id say Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake and A.R. Rahman.
- I know that you reached out to Dexter Tortoriello (of Houses) while you were piecing together the album. I feel that there are quite a few similarities between your album and his— how did he help with the recording process?
Ah! that’s such a wonderful thing to hear. I met Dexter sometime last year, and really connected with what he and Megan were doing. We kept in touch, and I sent him some early Madràs demos. It warmed my heart that he’d take the time to tell me what he thought about it. I even got his advice on figuring out our live shows, and production.
- Are there any artists that you’d like to collaborate with in some form in the future?
Man I’ve got this list, haha. Jordan Ireland, Robin Pecknold, Justin Vernon, A.R. Rahman, Chris Martin, and Dexter. I’m also very intrigued by what I’ve heard from Sleep Party People. Is the list too long now? haha, I suppose it was the moment I made it a list. I think there’s a lot you can tell about a person when you listen to the music they write, as well as their approach; with some artists you think ah, that’s definitely what I would have done/said, and then you feel like you know them almost. It’s hard for me to work with musicians; unless we share some sort of connection personally, and respect each other. I really respect those guys, and though I don’t know them personally, I often feel like I really understand where they’re coming from.
- Alright, so what does the future hold for Madràs?
I’m leaving the country because my visa expires in August, so we’re trying to get a lot done before that. We are still yet to finish Fou’s debut. As far as live shows, we’re going to be on (hopefully just) a short break—till I figure out a way to return to North America. We do have 2 shows in July, and maybe 1 or 2 in August. We’re working on a second album with our new band member Benjamin Hance (lead songwriter of Secret Ghost Champion—incredible band btw). We’ve actually been playing shows with Ben since late last year, and he also features on 3 tracks on thingscanchange. I think our second album will have a more 60s folk/shoegaze feel to it with a touch of sitar, or too much sitar.
- Never too much sitar.