We went #BehindTheScenes with India’s most in-tune a-cappella band, Voctronica, who have some pertinent tips if you want to perform at a music festival.
On January 6, a day that marks the birth of Indian maestro A R Rahman, Voctronica, the country’s most exciting, harmonically-sound cohort, dropped a luscious video celebrating Rahman’s music, by cleverly fusing together his smartest compositions. And with that, they made their way to permanent internet virality. Truly, in just two years since their inception, the no-instrument all-vocals collective has garnered a passionate following, revitalising the a-cappella phenomenon in the country’s independent music scene.
Comprising two beatboxers, a vocal bassist who doubles as a vocalist with two others, the band’s members expand the possibilities of what makes a vocal range, and use just their voices to create percussions, bass, synth, beats and just anything you might deem impossible without the use of an instrument. In the past few years, the band has managed to perform at some of the country’s most effective music festivals such as the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Emerge Music & Arts Festival where they opened for British rocktronic act Alt-J, the New Wave Asia Music Fest, The Lost Party, among several others.
With Voctronica exploring their possibilities as an act, The Sherp decided to trace their journey, from them having come together as a band to now being sought-after performers. Through their story, we have for you what will be some much-needed tips if you ever wish to perform at a music festival. Take it from the contemporaries!
1. A band today, is never what it once set out to be. People leave, priorities change, a visible shift in chemistry happens, a number of reasons can contribute to there being a change in the band’s structure. And that’s fine. A band formed by Sony Music and the British Council in 2012, Voctronica too went through cacophonic changes!
The first setup was dissolved, and in 2013, a few of the original members of the band, brought on the remaining members to restart what we know as Voctronica today. We got lucky with the amazing chemistry we shared from day one, serendipity, as we call it.
2. What is most important for a collective to succeed is the mutual respect and vibe that binds them together. This is pertinent to any kind of success you might be expecting later.
We find ourselves listening to varied genres of music, and interestingly, that’s the first thing we bonded over. More recently, we’ve strengthened that bond over the sounds that we create, and that has helped us become (metaphorically) a well oiled gear box.
3. A manager is an essential addition to the band. An invisible, back-stage band member, the manager is the one who is capable of sorting out your business while you can concentrate on the music. Voctronica agrees –
As artists, we’re not the best people to go out and market ourselves. It’s extremely important to have a manager who is not only able to bring in business, but understands the pulse of the band and the space they’re working in and shares the same vision with the band. What they’re comfortable with and what not. Behind every successful artist, you’ll generally find a skilled core team thats equally responsible for their effort.
4. The pertinent question waiting to be answered is – why play at a music festival at all? For a younger act, a music festival can be a great opportunity to be introduced to a wide far-reaching audience in ways incomparable.
Music festivals are a great platform, not just as a medium to play to your fans but also a meeting room filled with other amazing musicians who you could learn from, and even collaborate with. There is also the prospect of meeting organizers from other festivals or private companies who could book you for their events. Most of all, it’s the best place to directly connect with your audiences, and that little personal time spent with them always goes a long way in taking you forward and learning more about yourself as an artist
5. So how does one go about securing themselves a music festival performance? It is essential to build the right contacts in the scene, know the right people. But the talent and hard work should stand in tandem with that.
You have to make yourself visible. Nobody can give you work if they don’t know who you are. Do gigs, put out good content, and the right people will find you.
6. Your first few music festival performances are incredibly essential to establish your skills. You might not have the same popularity as a headlining band, but doesn’t mean you cannot gain it!
The first performance was at New Wave Asia in Goa. Rishu Singh and company have always been pushing the circuit hard, and this fest was easily one of the most enjoyable memories that we have as a band. Our slated time was around 2:30 pm. At soundcheck, Rishu came to us and conveyed that he reckoned we should be moved to a 4 pm slot, much to our surprise.
We were only more than happy to oblige. When we did take stage, it was absolutely brilliant. People were leaving their shade and other stages to come dance to our music. This was also one of the first times we performed our version of ‘Fitzpleasure’ live, and people discovered how big the band can sound. Our engineer was to leave immediately after our performance, and as he was moving out with his suitcase, he had no choice but to rush back to the console for a crowd that demanded an encore. Given the fest had a balance of musicians, colleagues and new audiences, its safe to say our day was made.
7. Do bear in mind – you need to make the most of these opportunities. They don’t come easy, and every amount of effort you put gives you the best kind of returns!
Our performance at the Weekender gave both, the organisers and the crowd, a colourful assortment of what we can do. It worked well as we went on to play a fair bunch of festivals later. We were playing at the redbull tour bus stage; a caravan with a great sound and light rig on its roof. It was the second set on day 3, and quite frankly we didn’t expect a lot of people to show up, courtesy the hot afternoon sun. But as we climbed up onto the stage, we could see a fair number of people who were clearly there to watch us play. All the heat and sweat aside, a gig that all of us remember to this day.
8. Even as a young band, you should know your roots and stick to your spirit. Knowing yourself will let you pick and choose festivals that match your idea of who you are, and only through that will you find your target audience. Don’t sell yourself short!
It is important that the sound of the band fits right in with the theme and vibe of a festival that is looking to book us. This is a critical parameter. Aside from these, every artist definitely takes into account remuneration for their performance.
Even when you’re not performing a music festival, always try to regularly put out music, whether that be a cover or an original composition. Staying active on social media, and garnering a dedicated base of listeners is a great way to stay relevant. Always establish your management and manager details, so you’re easily reachable. And do not be shy to reach out to music festival organisers yourself. The talent will pull you through.