Early in July last year, The Indian Music Diaries posted an article encouraging our readers to help crowdfund Nowhere Station’s debut album. The Delhi based progressive rock band had offered early signs of their brilliance as early as 2017 but were yet to materialise their sound into a fully-fledged project. After a year of perfecting the project, “Nowhere Station One” has finally arrived, and how.
The quartet – each an architect or urban planner by trade – had initially planned to release each of the seven tracks from the project with performances in different cities. The pandemic may have thwarted this plan, but it gave these artists, already heavily engaged with spatial visualisation, an opportunity to experiment.
Enlisting the help of a group of visual artists and graphic designers, Nowhere Station elevated the listening experience of their album through a video that seeks to capture the spacey loop of their 30-minute long debut. As the credits in the description highlight, the video is a “Visual Trip” in every sense of the word. The 360-degree shots capture the band playing in the backseat of a pickup truck as it drives down relatively empty New Delhi roads. Seamlessly edited, the entire sequence makes the viewer believe they’re watching a single shot.
The actual video, that which has been captured by the camera, is entirely monochrome. But in the background, as you tilt your phone or move your arrow keys up, the sky begins to illuminate with a resplendent assortment of colours in kaleidoscopic patterns, visual imaginations of galaxies, and ominous brown cloud-like shapes. As the chorus in “Fire” hits, as do transcendent blue fireworks that illuminate the otherwise black and white journey. Right from its outset, the video lets the viewer know what they’re in store of – a nearly full-body experience that urges complete aural and visual fixation, and interaction, with the subject matter.
Anant Mittal, drummer of the band, had a few hilarious anecdotes of the entire filming process. “Our initial idea was to use the pick-up truck to carry our equipment around, but then to stop at some chosen locations, set up our instruments and then play through our songs. So it was actually supposed to be a static 360 degree video. The first night of the shoot, we tried this at a couple of locations. We learnt two things – that the Isuzu D-Max is a massive car, and that the Delhi police does not take kindly to a bunch of musicians blocking car lanes in the middle of the night. We got varied responses from different policemen that night, from people telling us it was okay, but to be careful, to others telling us to pack up and leave or else they’d impound all our equipment! “The car had to move at a steady pace of 30-40kmph, but even at that speed the seating was precarious enough to almost cause a mishap. Anant also recounts being spied and photographed by Abhinandan Sekhri, the founder of Newslaundry. He later posted an image and a video of the group while they were recording.
And as much as I can gush over the visual masterpiece that Nowhere Station One’s album video brings, it would be all for nothing if the songs didn’t match the quality. Projects as experimental and aesthetically ambitious as this often sound inaccessible, focusing on the grandiosity of the art rather than the immediate sensibilities of their sound. But Nowhere Station is far from this. The tracks are as intricate as they are downright catchy.
The project jumps from the introduction to a soothing ballad in “Oceans Beyond”. While it begins with more serene, almost melancholy vibes, the album jumps straight into the action with “You’ve Got Me”. The bouncy, infectiously catchy track is one of the shorter listings on the album. Incessantly repeating the title line through its chorus, its reminiscent of an early 2000s alternative rock bop. The real showstopper tracks are the ones that follow – “Fire” and “Upside Down” clock in at around 12 minutes total but are the album’s highest, and most recognisable points.
When asked about the confluence of their profession with their art, Anant noted that the visual element plays almost as big a role as the music itself. The group frequently collaborates with visual artists, with Prabhash Dhama and Pratik Patil being responsible for the video. He says, “Being architects and urban planners, we attempt to use our understanding of space, urbanity and design to engage with different contexts. As such, the reclamation of public space for performance and interaction has always been one of our interests.” The group has been actively busking across the country for many years and have even been involved in public campaigns such as Park(ing) Day with CitySabha, an organisation that raises awareness about placemaking and public space in Delhi.
The pandemic had put a halt to their initial plans, but the group found an outlet that few, if any, artists have explored. For all those missing the intimacy of music, and the liveliness of Indian streets, this is one road trip you can’t miss.