The last couple of years has seen an acceleration in international touring bands passing through Phnom Penh – to our benefit! – as part of a South East Asian tour circuit concentrating on Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Bangkok, but also including shows as far afield as Singapore, Hong Kong and even Japan. On the 30th of November, Chennai-based band The F16s will be playing Oscar’s on the Corner as part of their first tour outside India.
Since forming in 2012, the band has toured extensively throughout India, crafting a richly textured and sonically full sound – they call it dance/punk with a penchant for the weird. They deliver an acoustic/electronic melange: drums, bass, keyboards and guitars teased into slick grooves and then thrown into a reverb machine and occasionally poked with a stick to see if it will get angry.
Leng Pleng had some questions for the band as they were making final preparations for heading off for two shows at The Esplanade, Singapore, the first stop of the tour.
You formed in 2012, recorded your first album in 2016, and now embarking on your first international tour – quite a ride. How did the band come together?
We knew each other during college. All of us played for different bands in the city and would meet each other at gigs. The current lineup is the way it is after much trial and error, with people joining and leaving the band all the time.
A flip through your album Triggerpunkte reveals a range of styles from the dreamy to the screamy – can you select three tracks to best illustrate the F16s sound and feel?
Dreamy to screamy is a great phrase, please allow us to use that!
[Note: Moon Child achieved over a million hits on Spotify, appearing on the US Viral 50 list in 2017.]
Avalanche – This song was on our first EP Kaleidoscope. Light Bulbs is another song off that EP that we’d recommend.
Plastik Like Skin – I guess this would be at the “screamy” end of the spectrum. We decided to crank that distortion for this one.
What sorts of influences do the individual members band bring to the overall sound?
Who’s the boss – or is it a democracy?
It’s a benevolent dictatorship, with Josh (singer/guitarist Joshua Fernandez) writing most of the outlines of the songs. Then we meet at rehearsal and flesh these ideas out together.
Forgive our ignorance, but despite the size and population of the country, reference points for Indian music outside India would tend to be mostly Ravi Shankar and Bollywood – what is the independent scene like?
India is currently riding an EDM and hip-hop wave, with its biggest artists being the likes of Nucleya, and DIVINE. There are a few good bands too: Madboy/Mink, Small Talk, Skrat, aswekeepsearching. The scene is quite scattered though; Bollywood still outshines everything else.
What have been the highlights of your live gigging in India?
A big highlight has been the evolution of music festivals in India. Five years ago there were probably four or five good ones, now there are four or five good ones nearly every month.
Our best shows tend to happen in smaller spaces. Everything is more up-close, the relationship with the audience is more intimate.
[Here’s some evidence of the live scene in India, the F16s closing the last show of their 2016 tour at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune:]
What can a Phnom Penh audience expect from the upcoming F16s show?
A group of nice friendly boys putting on a crazy show, while still being friendly.
… sounds like Phnom Penh to me. We look forward to welcoming Joshua and his crew: Abhinav Krishnaswamy (guitars), Harshan Radhakrishnan (keyboards) and Sashank Manohar (bass) in the Kingdom of Wonder very soon.
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Slobzc0HiQEFvk67UXViw