Metaphorically Holidaying With The F16s
A bit of melancholia, a pinch of cheek and a whole lot of twangy guitar riffs. That's The F16s for you. The Chennai-based four-piece band has been a prominent figure in the Indian indie music circuit for over a decade, and members Abhinav Krishnaswamy, Sashank Manohar, Joshua Fernandez and Harshan Radhakrishnan have undeniably developed their own unique brand of danceable alt-pop.
Their upcoming EP Is It Time To Eat The Rich Yet? will be out on 22nd October via House Arrest, and is an extension of their catchy, freewheeling sonic quality combined with witty lyricism.
Our first peek into the EP was through the lead single 'I’m On Holiday', which came out on 11th August. This bittersweet ballad of yearning is informed by an acute awareness of our current realities. The F16s seem to have mastered a sort of buoyant funk and lush instrumentation, and 'I’m On Holiday' seems like the perfect showcase for that.
The track is timely because it delves into the more complicated emotions brought on by extended periods of isolation. This is encapsulated perfectly in the accompanying music video, which has a fuzzy, dreamlike quality that will stay with you all day.
Speaking about the single, the band said, ”…of all the factors on earth that could separate romance and lovers from each other, no one expected it to be a lockdown/quarantine. A song written in the hope to muster up the courage and perseverance to see each other again and the desperation of holding on to a relationship crumbling from detachment and an intangible lover. So, jumping on board the lockdown anthems that every artist decided to serenade about seemed apt. Ours is just a little rosier and with a prophecy that the lockdown will never be lifted thus on holiday, forever.”
The F16s open up to us about all the difficult feelings that this experience has brought on for them, as well as the takeaways.
How did the disquiet and turbulence of the pandemic and multiple lockdowns impact your creative process? What are some challenges that you faced as a band?
The initial reaction to the pandemic was justified - we were going stir-crazy trying to come to terms with what was happening, as was the rest of the world. If anything, it made us rethink how we worked, forcing us to fit things into a timeline and then eventually readjusting when another lockdown was thrown upon us. We moved in with each other along with our gear and tried keeping everything in-house.
The title 'Is It Time To Eat The Rich Yet?' draws on a popular anti-capitalist sentiment. It is fueled by the economic uncertainty of the past year, and the growing income inequality that becomes more and more apparent each passing day. How do you balance such heavy themes against your witty songwriting?
The last year and a half made us acutely aware of these inequalities. Endless scrolling numbed us to so many things, yet it felt like our eyes were being gently forced open, like Clockwork Orange. Less violently, sure. We are not a political band by any stretch, we'd rather leave the heavy lifting to groups that have styled themselves as such. But with this release, it felt necessary to at least nudge listeners in our own way.
Do you think indie/alt musical acts have a responsibility to speak truth to power and voice opinions that otherwise won't sit well with the interests of commercial record labels?
Any artform comes with the added responsibility. There are gradients, obviously - every artistic reaction need not be a militant one. It needs to be well-informed, at least. Do we expect LMFAO or Pit Bull to have a deep cut about sweatshops in South Asia? No, that would be weird and upsetting. Do we expect movie stars to have an opinion about everything? No, and yet they go and cover John Lennon's Imagine in fifty different keys. Yes, there is a responsibility to speak truth to power, but not at the risk of sounding boneheaded.
Lovers and relationships were separated by time and distance as we all became reclusive hermits over this past year. What have been some of your takeaways about the nature of romance?
For a couple of us, it solidified our relationships with our respective partners. Periods of isolation are spent better when shared. Romance is a skewed subject - everyone trying to figure out the best way to get off, essentially. Dating apps are a dime-a-dozen now, so if nothing works out for you, it really is just you.
Was it cathartic to give in and pen a lockdown anthem? Take us through the thoughts behind the prophecy that the lockdown will never be lifted thus on holiday, forever.
Josh - "'I'm On Holiday' is a song written in the hope to muster up the courage and perseverance to see each other again and the desperation of holding on to a relationship crumbling from detachment and an intangible lover."
It's funny, the song was half-finished prior to the lockdown, with a few different sections. Yet the "I'm On Holiday" refrain remained from early on. It seemed geared up to be linked symbolically with this state of lockdown and quarantine and felt like kismet.
It was a delight to take in the surreal world of the 'I'm On Holiday' music video. Can you elaborate on your approach to storytelling and how you utilise visual media to build The F16s brand?
Keeping things DIY became second nature to us in this period. Right from recording to mixing. So we thought, why not do the same for a video. The time felt right to elaborate upon a visual language that we were starting to cultivate. Sashank has been responsible for a fair few visual decisions in the past, and he took the reins immediately. We started spitballing, and the idea took its own shape with our inputs. We'd like our audience to find their own motivations within our music while also having visual cues to pick up on that can unify them.
What are you most excited about with regards to your upcoming EP?
Very little excites us anymore. However, with this EP, we're hoping as always to delicately indoctrinate more flock to our fold. Okay, that might be too cultish.
This may be our first EP rollout that has been fully fleshed out, all thanks to our label House Arrest and our management in Pagal Haina. Our previous releases, while well-received, were a little stuttered in hindsight, and our child brains wouldn't factor in the added bits that needed to be done for a successful rollout. So we're excited to see how this is received. Hope it does for you what it did for us.