The project of singer-songwriter Kamal Singh Laisram (who you may know from Lounge Piranha), 3Sevens will play The Other Stage at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bangalore.
Kamal Singh Laisram used to play guitar for Bangalore post-rock group Lounge Piranha. The band was one of Bangalore’s most critically acclaimed acts and won the Toto Funds The Arts award in 2007 (more here). The impact that Lounge Piranha had on the scene in Bangalore still resonates, with many fans still ruing the fact that the band have not played a single gig in two years. Singh was an integral part of the band, writing the ‘Gun Song’, one of their most well-known songs, remembered for it’s constant refrain of “I wish I had a gun” and a dark, understated, menacing tone that dripped with anger. Singh wrote the song for his solo project 3Sevens or 777 (we sort of wrote about that) a long time ago.
The music of 3Sevens is difficult to define. The lyrics are somber and hopeful. The songs don’t possess lush instrumentation, but they do possess a certain simplicity that makes the music accessible, while strangely alienating the listener with the melancholic themes that populate the songs.
“I grew up in the North-East. I was about one when we moved to this place in Manipur called Churchandpur. It was a small village town and people there would play music all the time. I mean, once the sun started going down, you’d find people on every corner playing guitars and singing. It was that sort of a place. So that sort of got me into music,” Singh tells me. The people who would play there though were not professionally trained and Singh learnt most of his initial music playing by ear. The initial years taught him a lot, but didn’t teach him anything about writing or structures or even chords. “It was when I started going to school in Ooty that I really got into it. There used to be guitar classes and I went for a few but I didn’t have a guitar so they threw me out. After some time, I borrowed a guitar from someone and started attending regularly. That gave me the opportunity to understand chords and chord structures and scales. It wasn’t formal training, but it was enough to give me more than a fair understanding of music.”
Check out ‘For The Moment’ by 3Sevens from a 2005-2006 demo.
The explorations Singh had with music led him into ‘worship music’, though Singh’s idea of worship music is different from that which is widely recognized. “I liked worship music that accompanied meditation, the kind that has the power to take you somewhere beyond normal boundaries.” This interest in transcendental religious music and spirituality led him to study theology in Bangalore. It was in Bangalore that he really got into music.
“I used to run a coffee shop in Kormangala in 1999 and 2000. The shop was popular with college students from Christ College and the other colleges in the area. People would come and hang out there and it was here that I made a lot of friends who were in the music scene (whatever there was of it) in Bangalore. They invited me to this thing called the Sunday Jam. The jam was held on the first Sunday of every month and anyone could come and play, so I started going there and playing my guitar. It was good because I actually started writing songs. I met some guys, made friends and started a band called Snotball. We’d do a lot of grunge, punk and alt-rock type stuff. And after Snotball, Lounge Piranha happened.”
Listen to ‘Destiny’ by 3Sevens.
Piranha turned into a widely respected band in India and their carefully constructed soundscapes and arresting visuals made them intriguing, if nothing else. Singh, in the meantime continued to explore 3Sevens as a project. “I’ve always felt more comfortable playing on my own. When you play with a band, you’re thinking about the structure and the way the song is going to go. There are too many factors, like the bass and the drums and everything else that you have to account for and sometimes I can’t deal with that. With 3Sevens, I can change the setup according to my mood or the kind of material that I am writing.”
Check out ‘Going Nowhere’ and ‘Ebb’ by Lounge Piranha from their album Going Nowhere below.
When I ask him why his songs have such melancholic themes, he says, “I’m not a happy person. I can’t write happy songs. I’m doing music, I don’t earn a lot and now I have a family to support. I can’t do anything about it because I can’t take up normal jobs. I’ve tried a lot of the time and it just never works out. I’ve quit a fuck ton of jobs and I guess that sadness or whatever reflects in the music.”
Listen to ‘Rotting Lilies’ by 3Sevens.
We talk about songs (just songs, not songs by Singh) and how they can be beautiful when they are stripped-down. Songs that can have an impact without the trappings of their genre can express an emotion or a message that is beyond the what the song meant when it was written. The set at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender will be a solo set, he tells me. “I’m working on an album. It might not have tabla, but I’m trying to do something with Manipuri drums. I don’t want to restrict myself or the music I make.” Kamal Singh has lived an interesting life and he’s still living it. What is remarkable is that he’s taken a lot from it while still doing it on his own terms. 3Sevens might not be the most amazing act you will see in your life, the songs might not be the most beautiful things that you hear, but the inherent humanity that the artist embodies allows it to transcend the boundaries of pop music and move beyond that. In Singh’s case, it’s almost like life has mimicked art.
Check out ‘Leiback Harouba’, a more recent 3Sevens song Singh is currently working on.
3Sevens will open The Other Stage at 3.30pm on Day 2 (Sunday, December 16) of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bangalore. Check out the entire lineup of the festival here. Tickets are still available and you can buy them online here, or offline at these locations.