Shreyans Jha (February 2010)
From Chennai based Null Friction, to NYC’s Amadeus, Shreyans Jha has taken his music to a whole new level. In this exclusive interview with Headbangers India, he talks to us about his experiences, his upcoming releases and more. Read on…
HB: Hi Shreyans, thank you for finding the time to talk to us. What’s up with you now?
SJ: Hey Madhav, thank you for your time! Not much is going right now, just heading towards the end of the semester, busy with school work and such. Just got back from Canada on Monday. Played a couple of shows with Null Friction in Toronto and Ottawa.
Have a gig with Amadeus coming up next week. Really excited. It’s in the Bronx, one of our favorite parts of New York City. Hoping to have a great time there.
HB: Tell us more about yourself, and the other members of your new project Amadeus.
SJ: Well, I have been playing the guitar for around 6 years now. I probably understood the meaning of being a performer when my Indian band Null Friction started gigging around India, and this understanding remains in me even today. The best part is that it’s a constantly developing understanding.
I moved to New York City in 2005 and bumped in Cody Thomas. We’d met each other in India a few years ago, and it was a pleasure running into him again. We’d joked about jamming together in New York someday when we’d met in India. We fulfilled this promise in October, 2005.
Cody then introduced me to his childhood buddy Francis and we started writing songs. I was totally blown away by the drum and bass coordination between Francis and Cody. They were so solid yet ambiguously loose at times. In early 2006, we knew we had a solid sound and all we needed was a singer.
Justin Lebowski was introduced to us at a local Lacrosse tournament. His tattoos and plugs were enough for us to grant him an audition. He didn’t disappoint. Ha-ha, plus he had a car and Francis had a broken foot at the time so we needed someone to drive him around. Good deal.
HB: Why the name Amadeus? I assume that’s the last name anyone would expect out of an American post-modern metal band.
SJ: One day Cody introduced me to one of his high school buddies, AJ. Short for Amadeus Javier. There was a snowstorm that night and the three of us had to end up having to sleep in AJ’s car which was stuck in the snow storm. As you can imagine, it was really uncomfortable. I woke up in the middle of the night with AJ’s leg (and he’s a big guy) on my stomach and it was bleeding. Cody’s face was stuffed between AJ’s leg and the car seat. AJ was dreaming. And in his dream he kept yelling, “oh fuck me Amadeus! Fuck me Amadeus!” Two minutes into this yelling, Cody looks at me and goes, “Dude, I think we’ve found ourselves a band name.” And it stuck.
HB: Null Friction was and still is a pretty popular hard rock band in Chennai. Does Amadeus receive a similar response in NYC?
SJ: Nah. The chicks are much better in India.
But on a serious note, it’s like having to start up something fresh, and start from basics. It is really frustrating at times cause in Null Friction was something we really worked on day and night for a good 4 years. It took us four solid years to be able to make the crowd sing our songs during our shows and tours. Null Friction’s last tour didn’t have a single show with an attendance of lower than 500 people!
So it’s like having to start over again. It’s good in a way, because it reminds me about the organic nature of being in a band. Every simple effort matters. And it is so easy to get lost in the noise.
To answer your question though, we’ve had an amazing reception so far. New York is a crazy place and it is always fun to play shows here.
HB: Here in India, in Chennai at least, live shows are hard to come by, even less so for metal bands. People believe that everything’s better in America. Is there any truth in that belief? How often does Amadeus get to play live gigs?
SJ: Ha-ha. Definitely not. What Chennai has is a small, but EXTREMELY DEDICATED AND PASSIONATE underground. The 15 year old kids who you find at the metal gigs in Chennai have to go through shit to be there. Missing tuition, lathi charges, ignorant parents and what not.
Amadeus is a metal band in New York City. New York City doesn’t like metal. New York City loves nothing but indie music and hip-hop. It feels good to be part of an underground. We’ve only played two shows in New York this year, the rest of them have been in Connecticut and other states. To be honest, I think it is much easier being a starting band in Chennai than it is in New York. Yes, there are thousands of more venues but there is crazy competition and you have to be on top of your game 24/7.
HB: How different was it, adapting to new musicians in a new atmosphere after spending most of your life shuttling between India and Oman?
SJ: It wasn’t that bad to be honest. The only difficult part was scheduling practice. None of us live at home. We’re all in college. We all have jobs to pay for our rent and food. And then there’s school work. I feel like musicians always understand. And the language of music requires no translator – no subtitles.
HB: Amadeus has also recently released their 4 track EP ‘The Absent,’ right. Tell us about the song writing and the recording process?
SJ: Most of the songs on the EP were written by Cody and I. We used to live in the same building and would find ourselves jamming out tunes at 4 in the morning every day. Francis then came in and complicate everything (in a good way of course) in terms of rhythm and time signatures. Justin put down some great lyrics and we just started playing them and people seemed to like them. We decided to go into the studio and see what we really sound like.
The whole EP was recorded in a week-long recording schedule at studio. We would go in at like 12am and stay in till like 6am every morning and then head to school or work or whatever.
One of my friends Eric Machel, who is also a metal vocalist, produced and engineered the whole session. He was super in the studio. Straight up no bakwaas kind of guy but solid at what he did. Countless cups of coffee, Red Bull, Monster and other substances were utilized.
HB: From my experience, students from India who go abroad for education don’t really find the time to play and record music with a proper band. You however, seem to be able to do it with ease. Is there anything behind the scenes that go on, that actually allow you to do this?
SJ: Yes. I don’t sleep. I take tablets cause I don’t have time to eat. I never shower, no time. I pee only once a week.
But seriously man. If you really want to do something, then you will do. I work two jobs, an intense course load but I make sure I have time for Amadeus. You know? You just do what you go to do. Baki aur bakwaas dude.
HB: As compared to the scene in NYC, where do you think we in India lack, or need to improve, so that we can raise our standards in music?
SJ: I wish I could be half as good as some of the musicians I’ve seen play in India. We have some of the best musicians. Let’s just stop imitating and let’s start creating. Fuck covers. Stay true.
Don’t listen to the Shiv Sena. Listen to Rahman.
HB: How can our readers get hold of your new EP ‘The Absent’
SJ: www.reverbnation.com/amadeusofficial or www.myspace.com/amadeusofficial
HB: This is your space. Say anything here.
SJ: I would like to thank Headbangers India on behalf of Amadeus. Francis got so excited when I told him about this that he got me a bloody TV! Tell all your aunties and uncles and annas and akkas and bhaiyas and chacha and everyone about us. Listen to our music. And let us know if you have any suggestions and comments.
And yes, if you get a chance, shoot a middle finger out at the Ram Sena for me. Hug your freedom for me. And the next time you see a band playing something totally original and insane in your local pub or venue pat them on the back and get their autograph they are probably the best band you will ever see. Stay true.
Inqualab Zindabad! (Long Live the Revolution)