What have been your musical epiphany moments?
When I was 6, my sister (who was 17) had a job and would regularly spend her paycheck on CDs. Mostly on what was popular at the time, like the “Now” series, but sometimes she would try something different. So one day she brought home Guns N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction. Luckily for me she didn’t care much for it and it just sat by her bed. So I took it and put it on. The minute I heard Slash’s opening riff to Welcome To The Jungle and Axl’s raspy growl I was hooked. I remember thinking “what is this?” and I immediately fell in love with rock and roll. That was one of my first musical epiphany moments.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Since we work long distance, with a 12-hour time difference between us, our writing process works within those constraints. For this album, we collected a bunch of ideas onto a google drive. It could be a small riff or sometimes the whole Song roughly structured out. Then we’d start picking the ones we liked best and worked on them. We did this using Splice. An amazing tool that lets musicians collaborate from anywhere in the world. Splice really made this whole process manageable. So for example, I would record something in Logic and save it on Splice. Ruz would then be able to download it, see what I did and add to it. And layer by layer we kept developing the songs. This process worked very well for us because we got to work in our own space and use our strengths. Ruz and I compliment each other well. We have different strengths and a tremendous amount of trust in each others musical instinct. The 12 hour time difference worked to our advantage too. I would work when he was asleep and vice versa. The lyrics and vocals were written last, once the whole song was in place. We did that because we wanted it to be about the music first.
Who has influenced you the most?
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of music played around my house all through my childhood. My parents are music fans, from 50’s music to Indian Classical, Bollywood, and of course all the rock that my sister would accidentally buy. It’s almost impossible to pinpoint one Band. 90’s grunge and all the Seattle bands have been a big influence. And Dave Matthews Band was a huge influence. The way Dave plays his guitar and his choice of chords definitely helped improve my guitar playing.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Without trying to sound too cheesy, we’re artists at heart and we like to translate our deepest thoughts, fears and fantasies into our songs. As for a lot of musicians, our songs are an outlet. So inspiration comes in from all aspects of our lives whether it’s celebrating love, apologizing to a friend, feeling inadequate or insecure, getting through rough patches in a relationship or simply wanting to share a story. Also, just listening to a lot of music inspires us.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
The band’s hometown is split between New York, USA and Perth, Australia. But we grew up together in India, listening to the same bands and having many similar influences, and that background helps with our shared understanding of music and how we think a song should flow. Currently, I’m based out of New York and Ruz is based out of Perth. The two different time zones and seasons provides for some interesting dynamics in our songwriting. Perhaps that’s why a cold dark verse is sometimes met with a warm welcoming chorus like in our song Soak.
Where'd the band name come from?
We were on the hunt for a name for a long time. We had over 100 names written down but nothing
really stood out. It’s true when bands say finding a name is one of the hardest things to do. We knew we wanted something short, a one word name but almost all of those were taken. Then one day my wife and I were out having dinner, we were sitting at our table when all of a sudden she yelled out Scratch. Even though there was no context I knew what she meant. I liked it immediately. So I did a quick search to see if there was any other bands with that name. Nothing major showed up. That was good enough for me. So I told Ruz and he immediately liked it too. It was short, strong and mostly not already taken.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Almost Famous 2.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Sia’s Chandelier. Because of her story: She’s been playing music all her life, was in a couple of bands, then put out 5 albums under her solo name prior to getting any sort of international success or recognition. She moved from her home town in Adelaide, Australia to make it in music. She’s a female pop star in her 40’s and doesn’t base her music off her appealing image but instead hides her face. And most importantly, she never gave up. In fact I don’t think giving up was a choice. Music is just what she did.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
During our set at Rockwood Music Hall, we had this great plan to change the mood for a few songs to a more intimate, acoustic setting. I borrowed my friends acoustic guitar, except, I didn’t realize that the volume knob on it was set to full, so there was this horrible feedback. Turning down the volume on the amp didn’t fix it either. With all the nerves of playing and the horrible ongoing feedback, we couldn’t work out what was wrong. We even had our friend shout out “turn the volume on the guitar down” but I ignored that of course. So I decided to kill the acoustic set and switch back to my electric. So much for a quiet, intimate moment. It was the exact opposite.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
It’s been a bit of a learning curve. We love playing live but it took a little bit of work of work. And we’re constantly improving. We wrote this album in our bedrooms so bringing it to the stage posed many challenges. How do we play three guitar parts with only two guitar players? How do we end songs that fadeout? And how do we get the right tones using pedals instead of software instruments? But we’ve managed to figure it all out and we’re happy with our set. We played the whole album at Rockwood Music Hall in New York last month, a one hour set but also our best. The crowd seemed to love it. We had people come up to us after and compliment the music. And we had a blast playing too.
What makes a great song?
I think it’s all about the melody. No matter what genre, speed or instrumentation. The melody has to be interesting.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
I Don’t Mind was the first song we ever wrote and recorded as Scratch. We made this decision to start a band across continents but didn’t really think of the ‘how we going to do this?’ part.
I Don’t Mind answered a lot of questions for us and it confirmed that we could do this.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
There’s a bridge in our song ‘Soak’ that goes on a bit of a journey. We spent a couple of months working out that bridge. There were many variations and mental roadblocks But we didn’t give in. We didn’t scrap the idea and go with a shortened watered down bridge instead. And we love what we have now.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Jack White. His solo’s are screaming! He can put a song together with such simple parts, yet it doesn’t feel recycled or boring. And his guitar tones are amazing!
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Vinyl is really my format of choice. I’ve heard songs on vinyl that I grew up listening to on CD and just love the warmth and fullness from the vinyl versions. The only downside is having to get up to change sides after 4-5 songs.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Ruz - Beer. No fear.
Avi - Whiskey. Feelin’ frisky.