| 20 Apr 2024
The Effort That Triggered The F16s Sound

MUMBAI: Apathy exists towards the music scene even today, especially regarding the quality of sound. That despicable contagious emotion, more often than not, creates hurdles for the evolution of any initiative. While honest efforts have been invested in ensuring grand album tours and live initiatives, the ‘basics’ behind the success of any music has failed to return to its glory – the sound.

Rohan Ramanna, a music school graduate and the drummer for Electronica act ‘Nicholson’, met Chennai-based rock band ‘The F16s’ at the Ziro Festival, the annual music festival set in Arunachal Pradesh. The two parties hadn’t heard enough about each other, although a brief interaction resulted in an association that could possibly lead to a series of events, hopefully erasing the anti-progressive apathy from the scene.

“I had heard only a few tracks from their previous EPs,” informed the young multi-instrumentalist Ramanna, who worked with The F16s’ latest masterpiece ‘Triggerpunkte’. “We did not have an ideal ending to the entire process. A bunch of hard drives crashed when we were close to the deadline. We had to remove and re-arrange a lot of stuff. Eventually, considering the deadline and other aspects, we released whatever we had rendered. We were hoping for the ‘international’ sound, and hopefully we have managed that. I could have sat and re-done months of production work, but that would have further delayed the release.” The F16s, before handing the mixing responsibilities to Rohan Ramanna, found themselves in an uncomfortable position with the direction that the sound was heading to. The F16s belongs to the age and space of musicians that would not settle for anything mediocre and after releasing the last EP ‘Nobody’s Gonna Wait’ - mastered and mixed in Brooklyn’s Converse Studio - the expectations were understandably higher.

A much wider cast of characters constructively creates the ultimate product for an album, and more often than not, these equally vital characters miss out on their share of recognition. For Triggerpunkte, the sound production – from the opening track to the conclusion – acted as the sixth member of the band. (Now imagine The F16s’ sound boosted with the presence of another equally dedicated and compatible element.) The album acts as the new template for up-and-comers musicians as well as engineers and experts behind the sound too. The band’s keyboardist, Harshan Radhakrishnan’s recent home studio set-up learnings provided Ramanna a helpful hand for the production duties. “He could actually produce the next album/EP himself,” said the producer.

“Initially, we (The F16s) used to agree with everything the sound engineer used to suggest,” said the keyboardist, who usually accompanies the vocalist Josh Fernandez in the studio. Diving into the album, no two tracks sound remotely similar sonically. Off the entire soundtrack, ‘Digital Dead’ and ‘Cannibal Life II’ caught every fan off-guard and Ramanna echoed the sentiment. “These songs come from a totally different space,” agreed the young producer, also the guest drummer for Cannibal Life II. The sample-heavy sounds in ‘Digital Dead’ and ‘Caddilak’, the hip-hop sensibilities projected through ‘Cannibal Life II’ (more than ever before), and the intricate keyboard involvement throughout the album define only the tip of the massive iceberg i.e. Triggerpunkte.

Radhakrishnan recollects the tiring-yet-fun two long years involved into the inception of ‘Triggerpunkte’.
“A lot of back-and-forth was involved during the mixing of the album. The studio is based in Mumbai, and when our manager or friends weren’t available, we stayed with Imaad Shah (Madboy).” The band started recording Triggerpunkte in May 2015 and the effort comprises compositions written two years ago, and on the other hand, one particular song that was written at the eleventh hour. And surprisingly, the same track has garnered a lot of deserved accolades for the band. “Cannibal Life II (the fourth track in the album) steered our sound from original direction. Every member of the band loves hip-hop, and if I remember right, that was the phase when we were digging Kendrick Lamar’s new compositions.”

In the course of two years, it’s only obvious that musical influences change. So, how does a producer cope-up with further ensuring the compatibility continues with the musicians? “Most of the time went behind understanding them and their sonic demands. Once that was established, the following processes became easier. However, a lot of re-recording and mixing occurred whilst the production of the album.”

Ramanna emphasised that working on any band’s debut album does create an added pressure. “It did create a certain amount of stress. It’s the band’s defining moment. Unlike EP, an album is where the band intends to announce a statement. And, in this age of ‘singles’ - where listeners have a short attention span - working on an album does act as a heavy task.” Adding to that, the “impeccable and solid sound in their last EP”, raised the fans’ expectations and the team had to justify the hype. Moreover, the fact that Triggerpunkte was mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Christian Wright who boasts the resume of working with Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, and several other relevant existing acts.

In the band’s defense, the approach – with the hype and the delayed release - worked at the end of the day. Triggerpunkte possesses the potential to shake the music scene’s infrastructure and the musicians’ approach towards every project he/she wishes to execute henceforth. ‘Wild City’ rightly described the band as “messiahs of quality and consistency in an apathetic and entitled scene”, but the release and the inevitable success of this album would only further motivate many artists to try and pull ‘a Triggerpunkte’.