Modern Mafia is having quite the moment: David is out in theaters this week and they put out a really cool animated video for Arnie last week. Varun Das, who fronts the band on vocals, took five from a punishing schedule filled with music, movie and video launches, gaming and teddy bear kidnappings (more on that later) to tell us about the band.
Varun, you guys have been in the news lately because of that punk shot you did for David (Bandhay). How did you guys get involved?
Varun: A few months back when we had just released our EP Random Sheep, a good friend played Arnie for [David director] Bejoy [Nambiar]. The next day I got a call from Bejoy asking me if he could use the track in his movie. It just worked out!
A little about that song - its a rework of an original called Arnie. What was the thought process behind the original and what kind of modifications did you make when you redid it for David?
Varun: Bandhay is really different from Arnie. Bandhay had to be adapted to fit the one of the [three] Davids [in the movie] - the musician character in the film [played by Vinay Virmani]. We had to drastically change the lyrics and make it fit the theme. I would say Bandhay and Arnie are just two totally different songs.
I think you guys should sing in Hindi more! I loved how you used "tuntunay" and "batteesee". What punchy words that aren't normally found in Hindi songs! Really, why haven't you done Hindi songs before?
Varun: All the praise goes to Ankur Tewari. He wrote the Hindi lyrics for us. We barely made any adjustments to the original work. We always found Bollywood intimidating and we were not keen on getting into it. The only reason we did a track in Hindi and Tamil was because Bejoy asked us to do it. I'm not sure we would have done it for anyone else.
Time to ask you a little bit about your fellow musicians. Care to introduce us to who all are part of the band?
Varun: Well, Ishaan [Krishna] is the tall awkward guy with the long hair on lead guitars. He is a walking tornado and destroys everything around him but he's one amazing musician. Krehl [Gonsalves] is the serious looking guy on Bass. He's broken almost every bone in his body and once came really close to breaking his head just before walking up on stage. He still kicked ass that day! Karun [Kannampilly] is the hippie who sits on the drums. He's lives like a hippie but he knows his drums. I'm sure he dreams about drums all night long.
We are too poor at the moment to have any official roadies but we have some amazing friends who are at every gig and join us on stage for our crazy stage acts.
This is a really beaten question, but I always get such good insight from the answers that I'll ask you anyway. Tell us how Modern Mafia got started.
Varun: It's as simple as four friends looking to win a GRAMMY, steal a private jet and basically do something awesome that we actually get paid to do!
So what's with the name? And it sounds really cool by the way!
Varun: There are so many versions to this story but I'll try and give you the most accurate one. We love this band called Athlete from the UK. They have a song called Modern Mafia and we really love that track. Also, we do kidnap teddy bears and hold them for ransom so it just made sense,
The Indian music scene is so dominated by film music! Do you guys feel under-appreciated? How do you handle it and stay focused?
Varun: At the end of the day we are Indian. Filim music works here. Like us there are many people out there trying to stand out but we have to accept that we are part of the Bollywood culture in some way. Its always been hard to be accepted. We had no Godfather or anyone to push us. A lot of good people help out over the years and thanks to them we have achieved something. We make music we love listening to. We are really good friends and spend a lot of time together so its less of a job and more of doing something you love with people you don't want to kill.
What were some of the most memorable venues or events you've played at?
Varun: NH7 Weekender [December, 2012 in Bangalore] was where we played our best gig till date. Our first gig at The Hard Rock Cafe was featured on national TV. It was a small pub gig where a fan licked my drummer's face! Also The High Spirits in Pune at our EP launch and most recently at the audio launch for David.
Your EP was released last year and has four songs on it. We'll talk about those songs right after I ask you this: it's called Random Sheep and has gangster sheep on it! Do you guys just love farm animals or are you making a larger social comment on how we humans are all sheep?
Varun: That's one way of looking at it. Punk is all about fighting the power and other rebellious stuff. Well for us it's more like we are a bunch of Random Sheep that come together to do something crazy. The only thing cooler than farm animals are a bunch of gangster sheep beating up a teddy bear because of all his gambling debts!
Ok, let's talk about the songs on your EP. We talked earlier about Arnie the song so we'll keep it to Arnie the man here. Which Arnold Schwarzenegger is your favorite Arnie?
Conan Arnie - Not big fans of this Arnie. Too old skool!
Terminator Arnie - This has to be the most awesome one to date!
Dr. Freeze Arnie - Batman had nipples, Arnie had a freeze ray gun. Does explain most of the movie...
Kindergarten Cop Arnie - We could feel his pain. Kudos to Arnie for not killing all those kids with his bare hands.
On Whokay! you all sound happy and philosophical about being dumped a lot.
Varun: It's the first song we wrote as a band. At that time we were in college and getting dumped was a very usual affair. We tried looking on the brighter side and then we got distracted by the next cute girl.
You did a music video for Daylight. Tell us more about that song.
Varun: Its one of those sweet songs you sing to your girlfriend when all those flowers and chocolates don't work because you have eaten them all waiting for her to get ready. It was our first music video and somewhat of a debut so I think it's a little special in a small way.
FX or Nothing is the longest song on the EP. It's an instrumental and I'll have you know its my favorite Modern Mafia song.
Varun: Wow that's really nice of you to say. Its our favorite song as well. Its a journey from calm to chaos and back. Our most intimate song and our individual personalities really come out.
You have a new video out (for Arnie). I've seen promo pictures of sheep holding bazookas! What should we expect?
Varun: We always wanted to be animated and kill an army of sheep so we did both. Yes there is a deeper meaning but at the end of the day: its freaking cool and we love anything freaking cool! It's something that has never been done in India before and I hope it starts a new trend.
More to explore:
- Modern Mafia perform Bandhay at the David music launch
- Listen to their EP Random Sheep online
- The song that gave them their name
- The music video for their song Daylight
- Facebook page for David The Movie
- The new, hilarious, music video for their song Arnie: