Before releasing their debut song, Bachna Deu Malai, in October 2016, The Midnight Riders (TMR), a Nepali rock band, performed an array of cover songs at pubs, music festivals and weekend events. Originally formed by Deep Shamsher Rana, the band currently has bassist Sunny Mahat, drummer Sanjeet Tuladhar, guitarist and vocalist Sanjeev BK, and lead vocalist, harpist, and acoustic guitarist Jigme Lepcha as its members. The band, that just recently celebrated their ninth anniversary, is not tied to any record labels and produces and releases their music independently.
There is a sub group amidst TMR called TMR Trio, consisting of Mahat, Tuladhar and BK, that plays blues as their primary genre. TMR Trio actually formed around BK who also goes by the alias of Jimi Blues. As Tuladhar and Mahat handle the rhythm section and BK is adept at singing blues, the three of them working as a trio turned out well. “We didn’t intend to form this trio. It just kind of happened. We used to mess around during the live performances of TMR by candidly jamming to blues songs. People actually started liking these random jam sessions so we thought we should pursue this in a proper way,” says BK.
While TMR is currently in its ninth year of performing as a group, TMR Trio has barely reached its fifth year. Kahali, the Trio’s first single, which was released earlier this year, is their only original release till date. Tuladhar mentions that they are currently working on completing their first album as a trio and, shortly after that, they will also release TMR’s second full-fledged album. The lyrics and overall theme for the songs they are working on right now are mostly reality and society based.
“Jimi falls in love with someone new every single month and that transcribes into a lot of content for us,” jokes Mahat adding that these songs don’t really get released and that the band is not into producing love songs, although they have a few unreleased tragedy tracks.
When asked if they enjoy performing covers or original tracks, Mahat, Tuladhar and BK are unanimous in their answers. They say they can’t pick one because each has its own allure. The reason they perform a lot more covers than original work is because they have released very few original tracks. Additionally, the audience also really enjoys listening to their covers because, unlike most musicians who just cover the trending tracks, TMR Trio performs covers of songs that most people grew up listening to but aren’t popular among cover artists. And rather than modifying and altering the notes and rhythms of the songs they are covering, TMR Trio puts in a lot of effort into meticulously delivering these songs to sound as good as the original.
However, they think releasing and performing originals is also very important because that is where a musician or a musical act defines and establishes its identity. Right now, a song TMR released early February this year titled Mann is doing really good at different Nepali music charts. It’s also what they get asked to play very often during their live performances alongside their rendition of Nima Rumba’s Block Heel Shoes. And they are also popular for their sublime tributes to AC/DC.
Throughout the years, TMR has experimented with a lot of different sound, styles, and even members to become what they are today. During their starting phase, they introduced themselves as a band that played everything from 70s rock to 90s and 2000s bubblegum pop. They also recruited temporary members who played instruments like keyboard and saxophone and also had a female vocalist at one point. They claim that they are finally sure of their niche and are currently targeting the optimal reach of the music they are focusing on.
The good thing is that Mahat, Tuladhar, and BK are all very happy with how the Nepali music scene is evolving. “The music industry is expanding in all forms. The songs that are getting released these days cover a lot of different genres. That was definitely not the case a few decades back. These songs are reaching a wider audience too. Artists are also getting a lot of chances to perform at international venues. There are a lot of independent artists these days and you don’t really have to be under a record label to release music which is good,” explains Mahat.
But the one thing they think might lower the quality of music getting produced is the dependence of today’s upcoming artists on digital gadgets. Tuladhar is of the mindset that producing songs just for views and likes on social media isn’t going to do any artist any good. “I see a lot of people spending hours recording a cover of a popular song, editing the sound, and recording a music video for it as well to post it online. Social media alone isn’t going to help you grow as an artist. You need to be able to perform live. That is what’s going to help you better your music and performance,” he concludes.