Skyharbor released a single ‘Out of Time’ last month after lineup changes (Eric Emery and Aditya Ashok have replaced Dan Tompkins and Anup Sastry on vocals and drums respectively.) I spoke to Keshav Dhar about their new single, the new lineup and their upcoming tour of North America.
Your new single ‘Out of Time’ sounds awesome. Tell us a bit about it.
Keshav Dhar: It was interesting because we wanted the first song that we released with our new lineup to be a fully collaborative effort between everyone. We had a lot of material written before Out of Time, but this song was born out of a vocal melody that Eric had written previously, so I wrote the skeleton of the song around that and then everyone came in and changed up a whole lot of things. I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, especially because it’s been a fully collaborative effort, so this means we’ve got a good thing going.
The single features your new line up Eric Emery on vocals and Aditya Ashok on drums. How did they become part of the line up?
Keshav Dhar: Basically, as of 2014, Dan and Anup were the only two members of the band for whom Skyharbor was only one of numerous other projects. We were getting a lot of attention with the Download/Graspop festival run, the pledge campaign for what eventually became Guiding Lights, and just stuff that was going on in general. We were also getting a lot of touring opportunities around the world that we had to turn down because either Dan or Anup were unavailable at any given point of time. It was unfortunate because we loved each other like brothers and had an absolutely fantastic musical chemistry and vision for what we wanted Skyharbor to sound like. But eventually as all the projects kept growing bigger and bigger, there came a point when they had to prioritize, and unfortunately Skyharbor was not in a position to sustain them as a full time career band. So they decided to move on and focus exclusively on their other projects, and at the same time free us up to pursue our ambitions freely.
Aditya has been a great friend of ours for many years now, and we definitely wanted to get someone from our home country of India to play drums so that the main rhythm section of the band could have more opportunities to jam together, as we want to move towards a more ‘live’ and natural sound. We asked him if he wanted to join, and he stepped up to the plate wonderfully.
With Eric, we were a bit worried when Dan left because it’s very hard to find a good singer who’s willing to live this lifestyle of touring and album cycles and generally go through a hard time for the first few years of solidifying a band, especially with a new frontman things can really be hard because the sound changes drastically when you change the voice, and it’s almost like the industry and even fans will expect you to prove yourselves all over again and that can take years. Our good friend Forrester Savell (who mixed Guiding Lights) suggested we check out Eric, I looked up his Youtube channel and sent him a message asking if he’d like to audition. He sent in his audition in record time, and the rest was history. Possibly the smoothest lineup transition we could ever have hoped for.
How different was the song writing process with the new members on board?
Keshav Dhar: It’s interesting. Anup and Dan had incredible ideas, but their approach was more like, since they were both so busy all the time we’d usually write the bulk of the music between Devesh, Krishna and myself and present it to them, and then they’d present finished drum or vocal ideas back, and that was usually what we just went with. It was great because it was a very painless exercise, as they’re both outstanding at what they do, but it wasn’t quite as collaborative a process as maybe we wanted it to be. And sometimes they’d have their parts literally sent in at the last minute, by which time we didn’t even feel like discussing any potential changes or trying anything else out even if we did have ideas, because there simply wasn’t any time. But now we literally go over everything, consider trying different things out for every vocal, drum, guitar and bass part of every song, really milk the process and throw billions of ideas back and forth in the quest to make the songs the best they possibly can be.
On ‘Guiding Lights’ you’ll experiment with their sound. There were heavy songs like ‘Evolution’, a ballad like ‘Patience’ and everything in between. Was it a conscious decision by the band? Tell us about it.
Keshav Dhar: We’ve always had heavy moments and peaceful moments, from the very start, and that’s really what we’re all about, light and shade, ebb and flow, peaks and valleys. It can be like having 10 movements in the same song, or you can have 10 songs that are a movement each. There will always be a bit of everything in what we do.
Looking back at the album now, would you like to change anything about it?
Keshav Dhar: Honestly, no. I don’t believe in that stuff. We said what we wanted to say with the album, and I feel it expressed us perfectly as people and musicians at the time. Sure there are things that we know now that we didn’t know back then, but then that’s what life is all about, growing and discovering.
Renowned producer Forrester Savell mixed and mastered ‘Out of Time’ as well as ‘Guiding Lights’. How was it working with him?
Keshav Dhar: He’s almost like a member of the band by now, he understands us perfectly and absolutely nails the vision we have for the music. All of us in the band absolutely love Sound Awake, it’s one of if not the greatest produced rock record of all time, and to be working with him is a real privilege.
This November, you embark on your first tour of North America with Tesseract, The Contortionist and Erra. What can fans expect from your set?
Keshav Dhar: Well we’re opening, which means we’ll only have a half hour set, so we won’t really be able to do the sprawling 8+ minute songs haha but it’ll still be a fun, short and snappy set.
In the short period, you have emerged as the most successful band from India. Do you have any tips for metal bands that are just starting out?
Keshav Dhar: Really, just do your thing and focus on the music and not on facebook likes or album sales or even live shows, until your material is of the highest possible standard it can be. Everything else is secondary, and in any case none of us have any control over whether someone will like what we put out next or not, because we all write music for ourselves, so just keep doing that without hope of reward, and if you do become successful that’s a bonus. I personally consider us extremely fortunate and lucky to be in the position that we are in today, and although we have worked very hard I won’t say that the limited success we’ve had is entirely down to hard work alone, because there are plenty of bands that work very hard and have nothing to show for it. Just treat it as a passion and if you happen to get lucky and thousands of people connect with it and put money behind it, then you can start treating it like a business.
Have you started working on your third album? What can fans expect from it?
Keshav Dhar: Yes, it’ll probably take a lot of people by surprise just like Guiding Lights did to those who got into the band with Blinding, as we’re exploring a completely new direction for us, but it will always sound like Skyharbor. We’re super stoked with how it’s shaping up.
You are also currently booking a tour of India in February next year. Do you have other plans do you have in the New Year?
Keshav Dhar: We’re looking at hitting Australia at some point early next year, releasing the new album at some point in the first half of the year as well, and then of course touring it, so the same as any album cycle really. Excited to get back out on the road again!
Listen to “Out of Time” below