Review: The Family Cheese

(Click image for source)

Bacon, sausages, fried eggs, toast, butter, marmalade…masala dosa? If in an alternate universe, this band’s music were a breakfast spread, the aforementioned description would most adequately describe it. To quote from a catchphrase they repeatedly use during their live shows, this band “loves their breakfast”, and it is evident that they love their music even more.

THE FAMILY CHEESE is a bunch of three guys from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Hyderabad who met at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM), located on the outskirts of Chennai. Yohan Marshall, the band’s drummer and vocalist (an unusually interesting combination) is influenced by Gospel and Punk Rock. Homi Rustumji, the bassist is a Classic rock fan and the guitar work of Apurv Frank Vendantam Isaac (anticlimactically known as “Lala”) oozes the Blues. Given the diversity of their influences, it comes as no surprise that their music is an eclectic mix of genres including blues, rock, jazz, metal, and Carnatic, among others. Their sound is characterized by unconventional song structures, constantly shifting rhythms and time-signatures, never-ending guitar solos, emphatic choruses popping out from nowhere and crazy tapped bass lines. To cut out the jargonistic b.s. and to avoid the unnecessary urge to classify them under a single genre, they pretty much do as they please when they’re on stage, and unapologetically so.

The band’s forte is their improvisational ability, which is one of things that make them a treat to watch live. “We basically have no idea what we’re doing onstage, but it’s seemed to have worked out so far,” says Lala, with an air of nonchalance that defines their approach to playing music. The band has managed to steer clear from taking themselves too seriously and has a single purpose – to entertain and have fun while doing it. Another feature of their live shows is their wicked sense of humour. You don’t come across a rock band that can do Gujarati rap every day, do you? It is rather astonishing as to why The Family Cheese (or any other Indian band that tries to do something different) hasn’t got as much recognition as they should have…or perhaps not so astonishing if I paint a picture of a typical audience in India: There’s a guy scratching his head as if every law in his self-authored book on how to make music has been flouted going, “Yeh kya bakwaas hai? Music should not be complicated.” There’s the customary loudmouth whose right to a musical opinion should, for the progress of society, be smothered to death and buried, never to be exhumed for all eternity, screaming, “Play some Linkin Park, bro!” Then there’s the guy complaining about the lack of “feel”(one of the most mind-boggling words in the Hinglish vocabulary), feeling cheated that his emotional udders weren’t given an adequate squeeze. And finally, there’s the metal head wearing the black tee with some macabre print on it saying, “These guys aren’t heavy enough, what a bunch of pussies.” Basically no one’s willing to give something fresh a chance. I know everyone has a right to listen to what they want and all, but pretty soon you’re going to get sick of listening to the same recycled chord progression with the familiar(cough…blatantly fudged…cough) chorus that sounds like that song from years ago that you listened to and really liked. Just saying.

Stories of the Places You’ve Never Been
(Album cover credits to Acid Toad. Click image for source)

< p>With all the ranting out of the way, let’s come back to the Family Cheese. Their debut EP titled “Stories of the Places You’ve Never Been” was released in August 2013 and has four songs. The title track resembles a nu-metal song with discordant riffs and a melodic chorus. The second song, appropriately called ‘Lala’, is a tribute to their flamboyant guitarist. It has a Mahavishnu-esque feel to it and the guitar riffs are heavily Carnatic influenced. The next song, a ballad called ‘UNIR’, gives you the urge to pull out your lighter and wave it in the air once Yohan’s vocals hit their high point. The last song, one of the first they wrote, called ‘The Cheese’, is an instrumental with an effects-ridden interlude playing over tribal drums and other weird sounds. Go ahead, give it a listen: There are many who believe that the Family Cheese is a band that sounds better live than in the studio. Which is great, because you can catch them live at NLU Delhi’s maiden cultural fest, Kairos on the 2nd of March! Be there!

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