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“We’ve evolved from competing to writing to performing extensively” – In Conversation with Project Mishram

A Progressive Carnatic fusion band from Bangalore, Project Mishram uses a sharp blend of western genres ranging from Modern Progressive Metal, Djent, all the way to Funk, Jazz and Electronic infusions, all centered around the intricacies of Ragas, syncopation and math-oriented grooves in Indian classical music.

With their debut United Kingdom Tour from 1st – 15th July 2019 centered around performances and masterclasses at the world-famous UK Tech Fest 2019 that took place in Nottinghamshire, they have shared the stage with some of the biggest bands in Progressive Metal like Leprous, Vildhjarta and Monuments.

The band has performed at prominent live music venues across India and the prestigious Music Mojo at Kappa TV-Season 5, as well as being adjudged the winners of Maruti Suzuki Colors of Youth Season 7 (2018). Many other corporate entities have also organized concerts, sponsored tours, and have supported the band including TEDx, Air India, Maruti Suzuki NEXA, Monster Energy and FabIndia.

The band is playing at Louder than Life 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA this September along with an insane lineup featuring Slipknot, Slayer, Anthrax, Judas Priest, Korn, Breaking Benjamin, Motley Crue, Evanescence and many more. This makes them the second Indian band to perform at the festival, following Bloodywood. In a conversation with us, they talk to us about their journey so far.

1. Tell us a bit about your project. How did you begin your journey? How did you all meet?

Project Mishram was founded in 2016 in RV College of Engineering, where most of us met in the music club. We all had a common background and interest in carnatic music (at various levels of prowess) and were fascinated with the idea of fusing carnatic music with all our favorite genres of music. We competed in the college music competition circuit extensively and even met our current violinist Pranav, in one such event. It’s been a fun ride since, we’ve evolved from competing to writing to performing extensively, but what we still enjoy doing the most is hanging out as friends and goofing around for no reason.

2. What are some of your artist influences?

This list is as diverse as the interests within the band – ergo in no particular direction. We love Tesseract, Snarky Puppy, Monuments, Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Vildhjarta, Skrillex, Shakti, Jacob Collier, MF Doom, TM Krishna, GN Balasubramaniam, Dream Theater, Thaikkudam Bridge, Linkin Park, Karnivool, Steven Wilson, Shankar Mahadevan, Anirudh Ravichander and Trichur Brothers.

3. You are the 2nd Indian band to perform at Louder than Life. How does it feel to be performing at this popular festival?

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We’re honestly thrilled. It’s an absolute honor which we’re still in the process of digesting. This was also a logical next step in our journey after playing UK Tech Fest in Nottinghamshire ‘19 and ‘22 to over 2000 people, ArcTangent in Bristol ‘23 with a footfall of over 10,000, and now Louder than Life with a 150,000 capacity. Big ups to Bloodywood who played LTL in 2022!

4. Talk us through the process of getting selected to perform at the festival.

We got this opportunity via Berklee College of Music’s Popular Music Institute (BPMI) which is an organization that selects musicians/bands from Berklee into various festivals across USA like Lollapooza, LTL, Inkcarceration, Governor’s Ball etc. Our vocalist Shivaraj is currently a student at Berklee. They got in touch after we expressed interest and it snowballed into the opportunity that we have today. For bands that aren’t signed to a label that works with these festivals, the only other way is to throw a shot in the dark at Twitch streams by DW Presents, which is used to discover unsigned bands from a massive pool of bands that apply.

5. Any favourites from the European tours you’ve done so far?

 It’s hard to pick a favorite, every one of them has been rewarding in more ways than one. But purely from a “smooth experience” (relatively speaking) standpoint, our favorite tour was the second tour of the UK in 2022. We had learnt a lot from our first UK tour in 2019, especially with planning and logistics. Massive shout out to Simon Garrod, the curator of UK Tech Fest, who we’ve grown very close to over the years. He helped us curate this tour with his network of booking agents and artists in the UK.

6. What is your music-making and recording process like?

This has changed over the years since 2016 with our changing life situations. It started off with us being in the same place, Bangalore, where we would jam every week and come up with ideas together. Spoonshift1, Tamasat and Cynic Machine were written this way.

During the pandemic, when we wrote our debut album, this process went hybrid where we met on Zoom to complete the tiny ideas we had come up with when jamming earlier. Eventually with our moves abroad in 2021, we went fully remote, with the goal of touring once at least every year so we could meet physically, along with composing online. Thejus Nair of Eleven Gauge Recordings has always been our go-to person for all things audio – recording, mixing, mastering. He’s a stellar studio and live mix engineer and he produced our album Meso as well. At this point, Thejus is pretty much part of the band, and a very close friend of ours. Recording at his studio with him is a process on its own that we look forward to, which is mostly us creating new meme legacies that we’ll laugh about forever. More importantly, the goosebumps that we feel after every session when more of the song comes together is priceless, and hardly felt remote. Guitars and Bass are normally tracked at home and then post-produced by Thejus.

7. Why Carnatic fusion? How do you think you’re different as a band?

Almost all of us have grown up learning Carnatic music. Pranav (violin and vocals), Shivaraj (vocals), Sanath (Mridangam) and Anirudh (flute) have had training for 15-20 years. Sumant and Srishankar, the guitarists had lessons when they were kids, and Ram, our bassist learnt the Tabla for about 5 years. These formative experiences shaped our goal to center our fusion around Carnatic music, the one genre we all enjoy.

What makes us unique is that we bring our influences from a diverse set of genres to Carnatic music – ranging across progressive metal, reggae, EDM, jazz fusion and neo-soul.

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8. Which Indian bands or artists do you admire? And why?

We love Pineapple Express for their ever-excellent music and incredible production. We are fans of Thaikkudam Bridge, Blackstratblues, Bryden and Parth because they write intentional and mature music that still tugs at an emotional string. In the film industry, we love Anirudh Ravichander for his top-notch production skills, Shankar Mahadevan for maintaining prowess in his classical element while still gaining success in mainstream Indian music, Charan Raj (from our own Karnataka!) for kick-ass writing and Sanjith Hegde for all-round stellar performance. We also love Sid Sriram, Sonu Nigam, Vijay Prakash, Raghu Dixit, Shreya Ghoshal, Manjunath BC and Varijashree as brilliant musicians we enjoy listening to. There’s too many more to name and these are just some that come to mind.

9. What’s your take on the independent music scene in India?

The indie music scene in India is constantly evolving as more and more talented artists make their mark, both independently and within mainstream circles. Take Dhruv Vishwanath, Charan Raj, Sushin Shyam, and Govind Vasantha for example; they started off doing their own thing and now they’re hitting the big time in the mainstream music scene. We’ve got platforms like Bhoomi 2020 and 2021 giving indie musicians a chance to shine. Merchant Records is an example we love, stepping up to support and shine a much-deserved light on indie talent. Coke Studio Bharat deserves a special mention too. It’s been a driving force behind promoting indie music in India, showcasing a wide range of artists and bringing fresh sounds from all corners of the country to listeners’ ears.

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