Avial is one of the few bands from Kerala that has broken language barriers by not only winning plenty of fans from all over India, but in other nations as well. To date the band has won six awards at the Jack Daniel’s Annual Rock Awards.
Gibson India recently spoke with Avial guitarist Rex Vijayan about guitars, his favorite players and his band’s new album.
How did you zone-in on the name Avial for your band?
The name just came to my mind one fine day and I suggested this to the guys. There wasn’t much thinking involved. When the people in our friend circle heard the name, they had a good laugh but we finally we went ahead with it. And, here we are.
How’d you come up with the concept of fusing folk music and alternative rock?
It actually came pretty naturally. All of us have grown up listening to folk music and later in our teens we went on to become rock musicians. So, now, when we started Avial, we thought we’ll fuse them together and see what it sounds like.
Your lyrics are in Malayalam – were you ever uncertain how the response would be?
We always wanted to do it in Malayalam. We were clear about that.
You’ve definitely overcome language barriers, which is awesome.
And we’d like to thank all our listeners and fans for that.
What have been some of your favorite gigs so far?
There are actually quite a lot of them. We recently played in a medical college in Pondicherry. That was quite a good show. Some of the other ones are MCC College [Chennai], Blue Frog [Mumbai] and there was a World Muisc Festival called Sakifo festival [Mauritius and French Reunion Islands]. These are a few I can remember as of now.
You’ve won numerous awards such as at the Jack Daniel’s Annual Rock Awards and have even been praised by A.R. Rahman.
Oh yes. We are glad he liked our music.
Tell us about the difference in composing for your own albums versus Malayalam films.
Actually there isn’t a lot, or any difference. We are approached by filmmakers who specifically want Avial to do the music and they want the kind of music that we make.
Tell us more about the guitars you play.
I play Gibson Les Paul Classic and a Gibson SG Raw Power. What do I say about them? They are so beautiful. The guitar you use should always give you the feeling that it was just made for you, in terms of everything – sound, feel, comfort level and so on... The Les Paul’s sound blends in really well with Avial’s music.
What advice do you have for aspiring guitarists and bassists?
My advice would be to play with your full heart and passion. It’s only when you love your instrument, you start to excel in that later.
Who inspired you to pick up the guitar?
There are a lot of guitar players I have grown up listening to. There is Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Paige, Paco De Lucia, Angus Young. Among the new age guys, I like Johnny Buckland (Coldplay), Mike Einziger (Incubus) and Greg Hill (Mute Math).
Could you tell us a bit about each of the band members and any additional careers they juggle along with being a part of the band?
Well it’s the four of us. Tony [John], Binny [Isaac], Mithun [Puthanveetil] and me. Tony is the singer while Mithun plays the drums. We are fortunate enough to be doing only Avial, which keeps us busy full time. So it’s pretty much that except for some other projects that we take up individually. I have also been doing music and background score for Malayalam films lately.
Tell us about your jam sessions, approach to composing, and any tidbits about the composing process, such as for “Karukara.”
We it’s pretty much like all the other bands. Tony has a studio in his house and that is where we all meet and jam. And there is no particular format we have for composing. It’s all very natural and something that comes out when we all play together.
“Karukara” is an old folk song about welcoming the monsoons. We thought we should do our own version of the same. It’s a very famous song across Kerala. So we did a folk/rock version of that with some heavy duty guitar riffs and bass lines. We had Aparnashree singing the female part in the song.
Tell us about your upcoming album. I remember reading somewhere the album is about fraud swamis.
Well the album is not on fraud swamis. It’s just the song “Aana Kallan” that is about the fraud swamis and big liars. This song was featured in the Malayalam film Salt N Pepper.
How many compositions will there be on the album? How will it be different from your first album?
Well, we haven’t zeroed down on the number of tracks. But it will surely be different from the first album. We are gonna be using a lot more new sounds and instruments for this album, like I have played the Mandolin in the song “Ayyo.” There’s going to be a lot of acoustic guitars happening as well.
How important and prominent is use of the guitar and bass guitar in the album?
It’s like asking how important are the wheels in a car [smiles]. Well, each of us has a song driven approach with our individual instruments. It’s not like our songs are guitar driven or bass driven or vocal driven. It’s the beauty of all that makes your music so awesome.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We are really happy to be associated with Gibson Guitars and we thank you for having us over here.