An eclectic bunch of talent, Fox In The Garden, the indie rock/dream pop act from Mumbai is suddenly the talk of the town. Why do you ask? A brief listening of their delightful EP, ‘Sunny Boy’ should give you perspective. Comprising of band members, Soutrik Chakraborty (Zico) on Vocals/Guitar, Utkarsh Jaiswal on Guitars, Ishan Lal on Keys, Shalom Benjamin on Bass, Avinash Chordia and Dhruv Sarkar on Drums, the sound of the band is fresh, peppy yet contemplative.
I spoke to frontman Zico about the young band’s formation, its innovative sounds and their plans, post the lockdown period.
For those who do not know, why Fox in the Garden?
Zico: I borrow the name ‘Fox in the garden’ from a song by a band called Paper Rival. When I initially moved to Mumbai from Kolkata I felt alienated to the pace of this city and its people , it’s a stark difference between moving from a now 2nd tier city to Mumbai. Akin to a fish out of water, I was a fox in the garden and while I was writing the material to start off the project, my thoughts and feelings just affirmed that I would call the act ‘Fox in the Garden’. The songs and themes that I was writing about deal with identity crisis, dreams, desires and casualty in an urban millennial young adult life.
The band members include talents from The Supersonics, The Lightyears Explode, Pacifist and Honey’s Dead. How did you all come together?
Zico: Well Avinash and I know each other from the Kolkata Music Circuit. We used to play in different bands , but I pretty much grew up watching the Supersonics. My first gig ever when I was 17 or 18 was a Supersonics gig. We’ve worked on a couple of projects together where I was there as an engineer, So initially when I was writing the songs on my laptop I had shared it with Avinash and an opportunity arose from Kolkata’s online showcase on Youtube called ‘Friday Night Originals’ which we took , and recorded a live version of the song ‘Heavens Got Your Soul’. Luckily a few months later, Avinash moved to Mumbai in mid 2017. Its an honour to have done this with him before he left for Australia. Shalom and I have known each other from the indie music scene. I’m a big Lightyears Explode fan. We kept meeting on and off during their tour adventures in the East and we connected once the band came to Mumbai. Utkarsh who is a part of both Pacifist and Honey’s Dead was the first person I approached since we shared a work space in an online music store company, where we used to exchange music and peek into our YouTube screens and send music to each other. I had just made the first two demos of Fox in the Garden and had shared it with him. Ishan Lal happened to us by chance. Its only two degrees of separation as opposed to six for people from Calcutta. I met him though a common friend and asked him to come jam with us and there’s been no looking back.
We also have our new drummer Dhruv Sarker join us just before the lockdown started. Dhruv is an old friend and has been with me in my previous bands Turfe and Write in Stereo. We practically started our music journey together.
Sunny Boy is such a happy respite in these troubled times. Almost like a virtual getaway. What was the mindspace at the time of conceiving this EP?
Zico: This EP wasn’t written in one go. I had written the song ‘Japan’ first. ‘Japan’ and ‘Forever Beautiful’ are some of the older songs that we wrote. ‘Forever Beautiful’ was actually sketched out in Gray Spark Studio in Pune at a demo recording session, two years ago.
‘Daydream’, ‘Goa’ and ‘Getting By’ happened within a few months with the band, post that session. I had understood the central theme of these set of songs while I was writing the lyrics and charts for these songs. We sort of knew that these five would be a family of a sound that Fox created.
At that time I was writing mostly about the life I was leading and I wanted to get away from the dredge of my night job, so every afternoon before I left I made sure I had some work done on these demos. It used to get me by through the night and we had really early morning jams with the band. So at work I just used to think about taking the song with the boys the next day. So yes, it was my respite then and I’m glad it is someone’s respite now.
The EP has an overarching theme of dreaming and nostalgia. It became exactly that after we were done producing it with Miti Adhikari adding some extra magic to it.
The songwriting across the EP reflects upon wanderlust, optimism, romance and taking second chances. Do you believe travel inspires perspective towards one’s work?
Zico: Yes it does. Infact all experiences that you can take a lesson from will inspire you to feel something that you can reflect on your work. I haven’t traveled to the places I write about (apart from Goa which I’m sure you know the story of) but the idea of experiencing something new and fresh should make your synapses spark with neon glazed fireworks. We live and die for experiences. it’s like we’re collecting an ammunition of experiences for when we grow old. Jokes apart, I feel it’s essential to not tire yourself out, kick back, relax, pop open a beverage of your choice and look at where you are, zoom out and see the bigger picture.
In a recent interview, you said that a few more songs were supposed to be a part of the EP
Zico: Yeah there are a lot of songs which we’ve written. Arguably we had enough for an album length’s first release but we didn’t. It seemed that those tracks had a different vibe and we are planning another release soon which will be leaning more towards psychedelic. The vision is to keep writing along with performing. It’s important to have your listeners to have more to listen to while you tour your previous stuff. Writing also helps the band grow in sound. I wouldn’t want us to get bored with writing the same kind of songs all the time. It’s always nice to throw different genre aspects in the cauldron once in a while to keep things fresh and interesting.
How’s the quarantine period treating you and what is the first thing you’re looking forward to once the lockdown is over?
Zico: We’re all looking forward to get the rehearsal pad and playing shows. We had a few shows cancelled, they were a precursor to our release but we will bring ‘Sunny Boy ‘and our other unreleased songs to people live, once this is over.
Even though I’ve been engaging in live streams for various Instagram channels nothing beats a real live show. We’re also looking forward to stepping out and going back to certain activities that we all were used to like football groups, evening hangouts, meeting up at a live gig to watch our friends play.
This virtual socializing is bound to be limiting, I don’t think a zoom call can ever replace the long table at your favorite hangout. Even though right now, that seems like a distant thing.
Utkarsh’s home town is in Dehradun and he wants to go back to spend some family time and quality time there as well. I wouldn’t mind that too but I don’t know about the travel restrictions we’re gonna face.
Dhruv and Ishan are currently locked down in Kolkata and they must be enjoying home as much as they can. Though they have rent and bills to pay here in Bombay.
Avinash is in Australia locked down at his house.
It’s sort of a double edged sword , here we have all the time in the world , but for some of us work seems uncertain , I’m enjoying the lockdown, making future demos and working on music production . I can safely say most of us are working on our craft right now.
Lastly, what is everyone currently watching/listening to?
Listening to: Big Thief, Riz Ahmed, Yuck, Tears for Fears
Watching: Midnight Diner, The Inbetweeners
Listening to: The Sea and Cake, Fireghost, Aporia by Sufjan Stevens, Japanese City Pop Playlists
Watching: People Just Do Nothing
Listening to: The Partially Examined Life - a podcast about philosophy and Graceland - an album by Paul Simon
Watching: All the Studio Ghibli stuff they've put out on Netflix
Listening to: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, Doja Cat, STRFKR
Watching: A lot of Anime like Demon Slayer, Vinland, Kabukichou Sherlock etc
Listening to: Ezra Furman, Dicks Picks (Gateful Dead bootlegs) and Bollywood Bhangra hits playlists on Spotify
Listening to: Tatsuro Yamashita, Real Estate, The Strokes and Studio Ghibli Soundtracks
Watching: Crashing, Big Little Lies, Rick and Morty
'Sunny Boy' is now streaming on Radio City Freedom and across all music streaming platforms