And They’ll Always Be ‘One Girl Shy’: An Interview

We present to you One Girl Shy, a band based out of Bangalore, India. Just a month old, they are an absolute treat for any alternative-folk, rock music fan. Brought together by the lead vocalist, Akhilesh Kumar, the band consists of 5 other members, all hailing from varying regional and musical backgrounds.

Akhilesh, a crowd entertainer, is a self-taught artist for whom music is the way of life. He is the singer as well as the guitarist for One Girl Shy. Shravan Sridhar, a classical violinist, gives the band its Indian touch with an additional Celtic twist. Kevin Vineeth Kumar, the (very cool) bassist, brings a jazz vibe to their music. But don’t let his laid back attitude fool you, he can be a devious little fox when you’re not looking. Kerrie Smith, the powerhouse drummer, will drum up a storm both, on and off drums. She contributes to the band’s music with her international roots, coming all the way from Kent, Britain. Archana Iyer, a trained vocalist in classical music, brings the group together with her huggable affection and  motherly attitude. Lastly, Megha Shankar is the young blood of the band. She uses her amazing ability to control her vocal chords to add a powerful force to the songs. Her infectious bubbly personality will definitely bring a smile to your face.

Ever since the band’s conception, One Girl Shy have done a lot. From performing at various major gigs to releasing their singles, they have received a great deal of appreciation throughout. Here is Sukanya Agrawal in conversation with these very diverse, talented and joyful people talking about their struggles, their dreams and their views on the current scenario of the music industry.

It hasn’t been long since all of you came together to form One Girl Shy. So tell us your story. How did it all start?

Akhilesh Kumar: It started as an experiment with microphone placement. After I moved away from my previous band, I was a session artist playing with many acts and I also took up song writing more seriously and played a few gigs as a solo artist. At one of my solo singer, song-writer shows I met my producer who came up to me after my set and gave me feedback on my songs. A couple of days later he gave me a call and said he had some ideas and wanted to experiment with microphone placements and I showed up at his studio. We began working with hopscotch man and after we tracked a few guitar layers and the vocals, Santhosh (producer) and I sat back and he said “this would sound great with a violin…” And I said “yea I can get that sorted”… And we started sourcing people we needed and that’s how we started.

Shravan Sridhar: I had known Akhilesh through another friend and we had initially jammed close to a year back. But we weren’t able to come up with something concrete then. Couple of months back he called me again, said he had this project in mind and this amazing song called “hopscotch man” over which he wanted some violins. Within a day or two I tracked violins over it and sent it to him and the rest just fell into place!

Kevin Vineeth Kumar: I play quite regularly at church and it happened to be one of those days where Akhilesh and his friend had come to church. He seemed to have liked my bass playing and asked if I was part of a band, I said, “No!” He asked if I’d like to be a part of his band I said, “Yes! Why not?” That’s how I was pulled in to the band.

Kerrie Smith: Once upon a time, a man called Akhilesh and his faithful guitar were making sweet sweet…music. And a man called Santosh witnessed the sweet sweet…music and told unto Akhilesh, “Thou should starteth a band”. From here he set out on his mission to to collect musicians from across the country and globe to form a group of epic proportions who could take over the world. And so…the saga begins…

Archana Iyer: The beginning was recording Hopscotch Man! I happened to meet Akhilesh at our producer Santhosh’s studio and we worked out a few parts for the song and somehow hit it off!

Megha Shankar: It was one person’s conceptualisation at the start. Akhilesh found each one of us by chance. And luckily, each member in the band seemed to blend in so effortlessly, bringing elements of their own musical influences to create a unique sound.

The band members hail from different regions of the country. It must have been difficult getting the band organized and to work together. How do you manage?

One Girl Shy: It still is difficult due to conflicting schedules. Though I think we all have a drive in us because we recognise the potential we all have with OGS and our need to make music. Also, we have a setup routine that helps a lot. The one who faces the most trouble would be Shravan, who has to travel all the way from Chennai each time. But to quote his own words “ANYTHING for the love of music.”.

It’s always a challenge when you’re starting a band to get people together for jams and practice sessions, learn up new songs, try different grooves etc.., leave a alone trying to manage someone from a different city to be a part of the band, but since the musicians are very skilled and pick up their parts quickly it reduces that pressure on the band and helps us cope up. 4 gigs now and we’ve already crossed certain milestones, trounce critics and achieved quite a good feedback for a month old band. That’s great news already.

You must be getting this question a lot, not going to stop me from asking though. Where does the band get its name from?

One Girl Shy: It’s a simple story of how a band once had a very shy singer, who would actually try to slip off stage while singing. Everyone told her that she was one shy girl (sadly, due to her prior commitments she could not continue with the band). That was our inspiration for the name. But it wasn’t until Archana, Kerrie and Megha came in, and brought in a new life to the music, that everyone realised that we could never have enough girls in the band, and we would always be “ONE GIRL SHY”. Hence, the name.

Who does all the writing and composition in the band?

One Girl Shy: The songs are all written by Akhilesh but every member of the band adds their own flavour to the songs as their personal style effects the way in which they write and perform their parts.

You recently released the demo version of your single ‘Hopscotch Man’. It clearly has varying elements that blend together to give a beautiful harmony. What are your musical influences?

Akhilesh Kumar: Oh wow, that’s a huge list but mostly I think I love writing music that I feel. And the parts and elements added are the elements I feel add to the song and make complete sense. Each artist has complete creative liberties but if I feel a particular part clashes or can be played differently I make a request for change.

Shravan Sridhar: Polar opposite extremes. Progressive metal to hardcore classical and everything in between. From the likes of Skyharbor, Animals as Leaders and Meshuggah to L Shankar, L Subramaniam and Vivaldi. A lot of electronica artists have also influenced my music. When it comes to OGS its artists like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Boyd Tinsley etc

Kevin Vineeth Kumar: For me, it’s been all over the place. I’ve been recently influenced a lot by Christian contemporary music and artists such as Israel Houghton, Planetshakers who largely have had an impact on my playing off late (over the last 3 years) but all along the way it’s been the legend Victor Wooten who’s my all-time favourite. Abraham Laboriel, Flea and some others included.

Kerrie Smith: I think our musical influences come from all over the place. The songs are very varied and as you have mentioned different styles intermingle within the songs themselves. I think that good honest rock music is the central influence to the music but with every member of the band having pretty eclectic musical tastes, other styles creep in to hopefully create something exciting and new.

Archana Iyer: My musical beginnings are Indian classical music. But, over the years I have had my share of opportunities to experiment with popular music.

What are your views on the current music scenario of Bollywood, and mainstream music in general? Any artists in particular that you might like?

Akhilesh Kumar: Honestly, I’m quite old school in my tastes, more of a fan of the 1960’s all the way to the late 80’s. But I do follow the Dave Mathews Band, Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 etc. However, my playlist is still filled with Queen, Bon Jovi, GNR, Stevie Ray Vaughan and such…

Shravan Sridhar: Film music and mainstream music in general is meant to please the mass crowds who are very satisfied with repetitive cheesy degrading lyrics. People have this misconceived notion that shitty Bollywood music=shitty Bollywood musicians which is furthest from true. Guys like Amit Trivedi, Vishal Dadlani have totally different avatars when it comes to their independent ventures like Coke Studio and Pentagram respectively.

Kevin Vineeth Kumar: To be honest, I don’t really listen to Bollywood, not because it doesn’t sound good or I don’t like it, but because I’m not very motivated to listen to the bass lines. You’re right! I always listen to the bass lines when a song is being played. I have find that more often than not, I enjoy English songs more than Hindi ones. I do know some amazing musicians in the Bollywood scenario but it’s very limited.

Kerrie Smith: In my opinion, mainstream music has mostly become about what you can market rather than the music itself. If you take a band like One Direction, they are a product more than they are artists. They are something that the record company can produce cheaply and sell to the masses easily. I don’t think you find great music in the mainstream any more. You find it around your local venues or you randomly stumble across it through the internet, and sometimes, that can be a lot more exciting.

Archana Iyer: I feel we are in, or heading towards, a revolution where there is a big push for independent music. Unfortunately, Bollywood is what is considered as Indian music world wide, when independent musicians are creating sounds that are both unique and have the ability to create an identity. The struggle with independent music is being popular with a larger audience and its acceptance. Its interesting to see that Indian film music is being influenced by independent artists and bands.

Megha Shankar: I’m not very well acquainted with the Bollywood music scene, so I don’t think I could comment on it. However, a few current mainstream artists I enjoy listening to are Coldplay, Bastille, Ed Sheeran, Dave Matthews Band.

Currently, what is your biggest struggle as a band?

One Girl Shy: Scheduling is our biggest struggle. Trying to make sure we all jam before gigs is immensely challenging. But we make it work.

As a band, what is One Girl Shy’s ultimate dream?

One Girl Shy: Playing stages all over the world with back to back sold out shows and the crowd singing along to every song we play!

Where do you see the band in the next 5 years?

Akhilesh Kumar: Living our dreams….

Shravan Sridhar: Playing at India’s biggest music festivals and possibly a few international shows as well.

Kevin Vineeth Kumar: Ask me that in 2019. It’s more than just putting a 5 year plan. With a new band it’s extremely important to take it a step at a time. It’s like asking a new born infant who’s one month old, “where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?” You can imagine what the answer is going to be.

Kerrie Smith: Performing and recording great music.

Archana Iyer: Hopefully everywhere!

Megha Shankar: Touring the world, and making new friends everywhere we go. We would have progressed as a band. We would be really tight, and would know our sound really well.

Listen to One Girl Shy’s music here.

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