Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' 

13th Mar 2019

Someone's peace is another's war. Someone's a slave and another's a star.

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh

My association with Rainburn, dates back to 2013 where I met Praveen (ex-drummer & founder) and Vats Iyengar (lead vocalist & guitarist, chief composer and founder) at multiple shows that I played with my college band '3/4th Gravity' back in the day. Their distinct music, punctuated by soaring vocals, set to intricate lyrics and rather-impossible-to-headbang-to-grooves caught my attention. I befriended them and even got Vats to fill in on guitars for a pub show with 3/4th Gravity (Yup, that happened).

Then, I auditioned to be their rhythm guitarist in early 2015 and didn't make the cut (mostly because I hadn't played in 3 years and sucked). But in August 2016, Praveen called and asked me whether I'd like to fill in on guitars for their India tour alongside Coshish for Progworks on Wheels. It was an all-expense-paid opportunity to travel across the country and play music I liked to a crowd of prog-rock lovers. I agreed, and embarked on a life-changing experience which made me realise that I never want to not have music in my life again. Then I began attending more concerts, and at one such concert (Steven Wilson at NH7 Weekender, Pune) I met Sudharsan Krishnakumar standing next to me in the crowd and I then went on to join what is known today as 'Flaw & Order', an instrumental progressive rock band making waves in India's indie scene.

Fast forward to November 2018 when Rainburn released their sophomore full-length album 'Insignify' - I absolutely fell in love with the album and it moved me to no end. I hadn't been an active part of Rainburn for over a year and a half, but the music from the album spoke to me. Over a boozy album listening session with Vats, I expressed my desire to play the music and be a part of their as yet unplanned India tour. The next day, Vats asked me if I was serious about doing it or whether it was just drunken rambling. I then realised that I'd been caught up in the heat of the moment and having already gone on one tour with them, I realised how much work and time it was going to take and I was in two minds. I asked for a few days to think it through and then made up my mind to decline the offer. I met up with Vats to tell him in person and I said "So, I thought about it, and I want to do it....." as I waited for him to finish sipping his tea. But as soon as he did, he said "Brilliant! Welcome aboard. Let's do this!". Moments passed and I realised that to say "No" now, would be a total dick move. As acceptance washed over me, I said to myself "Fuck it, let's do this!".

Day Zero - 13th March 2019

Over two months of bi-weekly practice sessions and over 40 hours of full-band rehearsals later, it was finally time for our first stop on the tour, Bangalore, our hometown. The band (Vats on guitars and vocals, Praveen on drums, Ravi Nair on bass and vocals and me on guitars and vocals) and crew (sound engineer Thejus Nair and videographer Prabaldeep Das) met up post rehearsal for a quick huddle the night before our first show. We were scheduled to play the next day at Fandom at Gilly's Redefined (Possibly India's finest indoor venue for live music) and we were beyond excited. We had the incredible Project Mishram opening for us and we expected quite a few people to turn up.

The gang (L to R): Vats, Prabal, Praveen, Me (Paraj), Ravi & Thejus

Photo of Bangalore, Karnataka, India by Paraj Singh
Day 1

Day One - 14th March 2019

Contrary to popular (non-musician) belief, gig days are incredibly long. You don't just get to show up an hour before your show, plug in, play/sing/lip-sync for 60 minutes and go back to your fancy hotel room at the 4 Seasons. Unless of course, you're Katy Perry or Justin Bieber. There's something called soundcheck which requires you to come and plug in all your instruments, test sounds, check to see if you're able to hear everything on stage and that the mix on the PAs sounds the way it should.

The day began around 2PM, sound-checking on a hot, incredibly bright and non air-conditioned stage (That's only for the evenings when the temperature is considerably lower) and we showed up with all our gear, suitcases packed and all, because we had a red-eye flight to Delhi to catch after the show(Cost-effective gais!). Our videographer was putting up cameras here and there for a tour-documentary that's yet to be made, 8 months after the tour (He did manage to take a couple of nice pictures though).

"No soundcheck in the history of live music has ever sounded anything less than massive" - Vats. But we, in fact, sounded properly massive that night, thanks to Thejus Nair on the console.

Photo of Fandom at Gilly's Redefined, KHB Block Koramangala, Koramangala 4-B Block, 5th Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India by Paraj Singh

Evening was soon upon us and Project Mishram absolutely 'rekt' it with their set. With their unique blend of Carnatic influenced vocals and 'Djent' inspired rhythms, it really doesn't take a genius to see that they're headed for big things. We took the stage, shortly after them as 'The Wait', Insignify's album opener played. Nearly deafened by the almost 2oo people who turned up, we began our set with arguably the moodiest and least 'prog' track on the album 'Mirrors' and we ended with an encore of 'Suicide Note', possibly the most popular Rainburn song to date and also the most complex. It was an incredibly well-received show and Bangalore, true to its name as the best city for live music in India, spoiled us for the rest of the tour by showering us with so much love. Take a look!

Friends, family, fans, lovers, and practically everyone we knew turned up and cheered us on! Man, what a night!

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh
Day 2

Day Two - 15th March 2019

Bangalore Airport, easily among the best airports in the world, is always buzzing and there's always something new to do here, every single time I pass through.

Photo of Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru (BLR), KIAL Road, Devanahalli, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India by Paraj Singh

Because we had really late flight (3-ish AM, I think), it made sense for us to head directly to the airport after our Bangalore show and that's exactly what we did. Exhausted, elated, still high on the energy from just a few hours ago, we boarded our flight to Mumbai and got there just as the sun was rising.

Sunrises have this almost-magical way of vaporising your tiredness and lack of sleep, don't they?

Photo of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

Vats judging Ravi and I for being millennials, just before we had authentic filter coffee at INR 99 a cup!

Photo of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

After checking into our accommodation and getting some rest, we headed to our next venue 'The Finch' for soundcheck. This place is more fine-dining than live music and we were quite skeptical about how a heavy progressive rock band would fit into their programming. While setting up, we also found out that we were to be the heaviest band that's ever played at their establishment. This, should be interesting.

Literally a stage bang in the middle of a room surrounded by curtains on all sides.

Photo of The Finch, Saki Vihar Road, Ganesh Nagar, Marol, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

What'd I tell ya? Fancy or nah?

Photo of The Finch, Saki Vihar Road, Ganesh Nagar, Marol, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

We were preceded by Mumbai-based rock n' rollers Left Hand Drive who laid down a cracker of a set. As it so happens, just on the brink of a gruelling tour schedule, one band member or the other has to fall sick. And this time, it happened to be none other than Vats, señor vocalist & guitarrista whose voice decided to give just before we took stage. So we ended up playing what would go down as the worst show of the entire tour to scant applause followed by a much better received Bollywood DJ.

Fresh outta B'lore, where we were greeted with such furore and fandom (pun absolutely intended) to playing in Mumbai where only a handful of people knew our songs, naturally took a toll on our morale. We knocked back some whiskeys, threw back some laughs and retired for the night in the forgiving warmth of our cosy beds. Tomorrow, was a new day.

We were staying at this really nice hostel called 'Ample Dorms' in Mumbai's Marol locality and paid just under INR 300 per person per night. The place is centrally located, has a bar/restaurant just downstairs and is pretty well-equipped with an open terrace that's 'plant' friendly.

Us, drinking 'coffee' on the terrace of Ample Dorms, before we set off.

Photo of Ample Dormitory, Gamdevi, Marol, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

But the best thing about it? It's right next to this magical place called 'Pawfect Life'. Picture a place where you can pay money to walk into and just spend an hour surrounded by the most magical creatures ever to set foot on God's green Earth. It looks like this:

This is what the entrance to heaven looks like, and I don't care who told you otherwise.

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh

Literally a room full of dogs, of every kind you can think of. Look at the floof!

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh

I rarely smile. Unless I'm around dogs. In which case, I never not smile. See example above.

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh

There you go. This is among the cutest, nicest, most adorable and satisfying places I've ever been to and it's an absolute MUST-visit for anyone who's in the area. All your lack of sleep, tiredness and crankiness after a bad show absolutely disappear when you're at a place like this. If I lived close by, I'd totally spend all my money here. We bade goodbye to these floofballs, and also the folks at Ample Dorms and we set off across town to catch a train. Next stop, Pune.

Day 3

Day Three - 16th March 2019

As a child, I always loved trains and I particularly enjoyed Indian train journeys. In fact, whenever people would ask me what I dreamed of being when I grew up, I'd usually say 'train driver', much to their obvious disgust. I still gush every time I take the train (once in 3 years or so) and this picturesque train journey to Pune was no different.

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The smoulder. Who did it best?

Photo of Pune, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

After a beautiful train journey to Pune, we headed to our room at Bombay Backpackers, another reasonably priced and adequately equipped hostel. We spent some time exploring the city's busy Saturday nightlife and got to bed reasonably early as tomorrow looked to be another long, tiring day.

Day 4

Day Four - 17th March 2019

In Pune, we were playing at The High Spirits Sunday Cookout, the only daytime gig of the tour set to begin around noon. Since the stage was outdoors, we were a little worried about it being too hot as it was indeed Summer. Thankfully, there were water-mist-like things and a partial stage cover, which kept the sun somewhat at bay. We had an absolute ball of a time and got to meet some old friends and also make some new ones.

Follow Rainburn for some incredible original music, stories, videos and more.

Yup, it turned out to be a pretty packed scene and loads of fun was had that day.

Photo of Pune, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

Loic Plessis, their in-house photographer took some pretty nice pictures!

Photo of Pune, Maharashtra, India by Paraj Singh

Pune has always been really welcoming, and the only reason I'd ever come here was either to perform or to watch some of my favourite bands. The end of the show marked the halfway point of our tour and the gang parted ways. Vats and Thejus decided to be a little touristy headed to Agra via Delhi. Praveen, Ravi and I boarded a flight back to Bangalore as we had some things to take care of. I, in particular, had a show with a progressive rock band I play with called 'Flaw & Order', which (thankfully) was not on the next immediate day. Formed in 2017, Flaw & Order has gone on to play some really big shows opening for international bands and even released an album earlier this year called 'Evaporated People'. You can check it out below.

Evaporated People aims to bring about awareness about mental health disorders. It's available on all platforms for streaming and purchase. Check it out now!

"Malayalee?" Bass player Adi with his doppelganger/sound engineer.

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh
Day 7

Day Seven - 19th March 2019

We're probably the only instrumental progressive rock band in the world to have done a corporate show to demo some absolutely incredible new speakers being launched. But anyway, that was fun and was a much needed breather from all the travel. I now had a day to chill before heading back on the road with Rainburn for the last two shows of the tour.

Even though this wasn't an incredibly hectic tour, it made me realise that touring musicians are an insanely hardworking bunch. Imagine being on the road for 30, 40, 50 days straight going from city to city, country to country, playing and singing your heart out every night. They'd sleep wherever they could, most times for just a few hours or on the road to their next destination. They'd fall sick but have to power through and perform because people come out to see them and the show must go on. All of this, just to chase that ephemeral, fleeting feeling of being on stage and having people sing your own songs back to you. If you've ever been on stage and felt that feeling, you'd know that there are very few things that compare to it. For in that elusive moment, all the hours of work you put in, week after week, year after year, failure after failure, become worth it. This is what drives us, pushes us to be better and never stop, no matter how infeasible or difficult it gets. If you're reading this and you're a musician/writer/artist/or anyone who's doing what they love, remember to take a breather and appreciate the gift that you've been given. But never, ever, stop.

Day Nine - 21st March 2019

I met up with Praveen and Ravi and we headed to the airport together to catch a super early morning flight to Delhi, a city with its fair share of problems and very few venues for its incredibly talented musicians to perform. We got there a day early so that we could rehearse a couple of times before we hit the stage. We were staying at a hostel in Greater Kailash called The Mystic Soul, located bang in the middle of a very green part of Delhi. The weather in Delhi at the time was the best among all the cities we'd been to on tour and we were really thankful. But all the traveling and weather changes had finally caught up to me and it was my turn to fall sick now. I had to work ultra-hard to keep the infection at bay and Betadine gargle turned out to be my knight in whining armour.

Cute baby on the plane pondering whether or not to start investing in SIPs.

Photo of Bangalore, Karnataka, India by Paraj Singh

Maano ya na maano, Dilli ki chai best hai yaaron!

Photo of Bangalore, Karnataka, India by Paraj Singh
Day 9

Because our last show was a few days ago, we decided to jam before the show just to warm up. We chose this place called Music Gets Me High, a jam-room in an industrial estate somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was surprisingly well-equipped, even though getting a cab back from there was close to impossible and it took us nearly an hour to finally convince some dude to drive 15 minutes to pick us up from there at an unearthly hour.

Place has loads of character.

Photo of MGMH Sound Station, Pocket D, Okhla Phase I, Okhla Industrial Area, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Paraj Singh

Most Delhi cabs are CNG-run Wagon Rs and have cylinders fitted in their trunks. This means that there's little to no space available for you to stow your gear. For a band that's on tour and carrying instruments (also practically an entire drum-kit), that means that we had to keep all our gear inside with us. Delhi cabs also have this rule that passengers are supposed to step out of the vehicle each time CNG has to be filled. It so happened that almost every ride we took, the cab drivers had to refill and that meant that we had to get out of the cabs with all our gear and then squeeze back in again. Not a pleasant experience, I must add. But anyway, since we were excited for the show, we didn't mind as much.

Day 10

Day Ten - 22nd March 2019

The next morning, my sickness had all but vanished but my throat's soreness remained and no matter what, it refused to go away. And since I was singing backing vocals on a few songs and lead vocals on one, I had no choice but to sing. But our worries were about to get far bigger.

We got to the venue for soundcheck and realised that the crew (basically one guy) had not even taken a look at our tech-rider which had been shared months in advance. They were one mic and mic stand short and since 3 of us in the band sang, we needed the third. To make matters worse, the sound system couldn't handle our tones and Thejus had a hard time making us sound palatable. And the cherry on top of a not-so-good cake was that almost 3/4th of the stage was taken up by a DJ console, which the venue insisted couldn't be moved. Needless to say, it was hard to fit a 7-piece drum-kit, and 3 guitarists with their equipment and 3 mics on stage.

The place didn't even have guitar stands. So we had to leave our axes leaning against the DJ booth that took up 75% of stage space. Symbolism, my friends, symbolism.

Photo of Cafe TC - Cafe Turquoise Cottage, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Block A, Green Park Extension, Green Park, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Paraj Singh

A pretty venue, though not as pretty as my main man Ravi's bass.

Photo of Cafe TC - Cafe Turquoise Cottage, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Block A, Green Park Extension, Green Park, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Paraj Singh

Delhi-based instrumental prog band Ioish opened for us and put on a cracker of a set! Such a joy to finally catch these guys absolutely killing it live. We took stage right after them and only 50 odd people turned up for the gig, one where we ended up playing the tightest show on the tour. It be like that sometimes, men. But our woes were far from over.

We took a cab back to our hostel, where the cabbie decided to refuel (again) and we all had to step out with all our gear (again). But imagine our surprise when we got to Greater Kailash and realised that practically all the roads into the locality were barricaded! Apparently, this is done to prevent crime/theft particularly in Delhi's upmarket areas. There was another way in, but our cab driver flat out refused to take us by that route and left us stranded on the road at 1 AM with all our gear. We ended up having to walk the last kilometre or so to our hostel, lugging over 200 kgs of equipment. Once there, we had to pack our bags and trace a labyrinthian path out of GK-1 to the airport for our flight to Hyderabad, the last stop on the Insignify India tour. To say that we were exhausted is the grandmother of all understatements.

"Ran out of will to try, needed to sleepify some more. All I can say is I'm tired. How couldn't I sleepify?" Deep Sleprivation is real, my friends.

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh

I remember thinking 'Sunrisers Hyderabad! Damn, so that's where they got the name from!'

Photo of Chasing the Musician's Dream - Touring India with Prominent Prog Rockers 'Rainburn' by Paraj Singh
Day 11

Day Eleven - 23rd March 2019

Day broke over the familiar city of Hyderabad, one I'd been to countless times. My father was from Hyderabad and a large part of his side of the family continues to stay there. The city has always been a second home to me and this time was no different. My cousins absolutely refused to let me stay away from them with my bandmates and practically forced me to shack up with them. I agreed and made the long cab ride from the airport to their place, while the rest of the gang made their way to a hotel closer to the venue. Staying with family is always better than staying at a hotel. It's no secret that Hyderabad is home to some of the best food in the world. If you think the restaurants serve great food, you should try eating at someone's house. After all, home is where you get homemade Hyderabadi Haleem for breakfast during March. Or at least I did! Needless to say, I was out like a light after such a hearty meal. I woke up around late afternoon and spent the day connecting with people I hadn't seen in years and unwinding. It was a pretty special way to prep for the next day - the last show of the tour.

Look me in the eye and tell me that this isn't the most gorgeous thing you've seen.

Photo of Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh

Did you seriously expect to scroll past the Hyderabad part of the tour without a mention of the homemade biryani that disappeared 30 seconds after I took this picture? I think not!

Photo of Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh

Hyderabad sun so much brighter than my future.

Photo of Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh
Day 12

Day Twelve - 24th March 2019

We were scheduled to play at The Moonshine Project, a relatively new but really nice sounding venue that's fast becoming the epicentre of Hyderabad's hard rock and metal scene. The opening bands of the night were The Bird Experiment, who played a pretty fun rock & roll set that got people in the mood, and C6, a talented and upcoming instrumental metal act. Among the audience were a large group of my family members, most of whom had never been to a concert before, and all of whom had never watched me perform. All of that, coupled with the fact that it was the last show of the tour, made it an ultra emotional one for me and we ended up belting out song after song to an attentive and invested audience.

"Ran out of tears to cry, how can I simplify myself? All I can say is I tried.. How can I simplify this anymore?" - Lyrics from Suicide Note, my favourite Rainburn song.

Photo of The Moonshine Project, Road Number 82, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh

Join a band, they said. There will be parties, they said. You'll be popular with women, they said.

Photo of The Moonshine Project, Road Number 82, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh

Hyderabad bidding us goodbye as we prepared to make our way back home.

Photo of The Moonshine Project, Road Number 82, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Paraj Singh

As do all good things, the show came to an end and with it, the tour. It was great to have been able to spend the past couple of weeks, spreading the gift we'd been given to appreciative and supportive people across the country. The entire experience essays just how volatile and unpredictable a creative career in the arts is; you could be riding the crest of a wave one night and the next, you could go back to feeling insecure, inadequate and insignificant. The album 'Insignify' aims to portray just that: the countless ups and downs in the life of an artist and the tour embodied the music we played so aptly. The dream was done and reality rose with the next day's sun as we made our way back to Bangalore.

It takes a lot to be able to do this, consistently, and over and over again. The amount of physical, mental and emotional preparation needed to put this together is something I wouldn't be able to quantify. And then of course, there's the music. It's so layered and beautifully complex and reveals itself to you, little by little, as you comprehend its true intent and the purpose with which it was written.

I've always been passionate about music and it took me a while to understand that I don't have to be out there, playing a sold-out show every night to screaming crowds of thousands and making millions to be a successful musician. Success can be something as 'little' as performing your own music to the best of your ability to a handful of people who appreciate and feel it at a level that isn't superficial. It can also be the ability to write and enjoy music for yourself first and then give a select few the privilege of understanding it and resonating with it.

I'm no longer a part of Rainburn and my last project with them was this absolutely beautiful re-interpretation of a song from 'Insignify' called 'Elusive Light' on which I played tabla (yes, I can do that too) and also sang a little. It's part of a brand new EP just released called 'Resignify' and you can find it on all platforms soon enough. I think it's the perfect way to say goodbye to a band and people who took me under their wing and gave me so much to be thankful for.

I'm going to be spending some time working on my solo stuff that can best be described as singer-songwriter/indie with a touch of prog (Can't do without it) and I'll be releasing an album hopefully sometime early next year. I've spent a lot of time writing, and rewriting the songs and making sure they turn out just right. You can check out a couple of snippets from my IG page until then:

Well, if you've made it this far, you've probably realised that this is a lot more than a regular travelogue. I travel a lot, and I've got a big list of trips whose travelogues I need to write. I'll get to them as and when I can, but if you enjoyed my writing, music, sarcasm and attempts at humour, be sure to follow me on Instagram @parajsings and also my band @flaw.order. Maybe even come check us out at a gig or two. We've got one happening on 7th December in Bangalore, opening for a Swiss band called 'Hubris' and you can get tickets to that, here:

Until next time!

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