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Interviews |  24 Feb 2011 13:41 |  By Poonam

SQS: No contest in India's done so much for a band!

Last year, SQS, a band of four talented guys from Mumbai, won the first season of Times Music Supastars, described as India's Biggest Pop Band Hunt. Poonam Ahuja caught up with SQS members Sanam Puri (lead vocals), Samar Puri (lead guitar, lyrics), Venky (bass guitar, vocals) and Quesh (drums, vocals), who spoke about how four pals came together to form a band, win a top contest and record its just-released album Supastars SQS – as story replete with nerve-wracking and glorious moments alike.

How did SQS start? How do you guys know each other?

Venky: Samar and I were classmates in Indian School Muscat, and with Sanam we started playing pop and rock music back in high school. Many years later, when Samar and Sanam, following their musical dreams,  moved to Mumbai from Delhi, I introduced them to Keshav, whom we had known and performed with in the past. Keshav had moved to work with Furtados in Mumbai as brand manager of Zildjian, Pearl and Evans. Together, Samar , Quesh (Keshav) and Sanam formed The SQS Project to make music for different assignments like jingles, background scores and composition.

Sanam: We started working on our own material with songs written by Samar, which we composed together. While we were taking part in the Times Music Supastars contest, Venky, who was based in Bangalore  joined in for the finals of the competition and we bagged the coveted title. And that's how SQS Supastars was finally formed.

What did you feel on winning the first season of Times Music Supastars?

Samar: Mixed set of feelings. Let me explain. We knew the competition was big as it involved the whopping Times Group. But we were confident of getting a recording deal. Before participating in the Times Music Supastars, we had been part of many big competitions. Frankly speaking, we wanted publicity, and where else could we hope to find better publicity than in India's biggest pop band hunt? Keeping all this in mind, we worked very hard, reached the finals, and ultimately won the title. SQS was a new concept with big dreams.

Was the competition at the Supastars contest tough?

Samar: To be honest, after the first round, we were pretty confident of winning the contest! There were many new bands in the contest which had never participated in the live music scene in India – that set us apart, as we had played in different bands earlier and had competed with the top bands in India, so it became easier for us to an extent. However, there were a few bands which gave us tough competition! Over all, it was an awesome experience, and we had a blast!

What was it like, working with a well known music label?

Quesh: When the results were announced, after the initial euphoria, we began to wonder: now that we have won the competition,  will the Company actually fulfill all its promises and make an album with us? But believe me, setting all our apprehensions at rest, the Times Music office put its best management team to work on us. What we thought would take at least two to three years happened in less than six months!

Samar: It being the first season of Supastars, everything was just a concept that was waiting to unfold. We were all figuring out things together and it was up to us to fulfill one another's dream, so I guess this discernment bought SQS closer to the Times Music team.

Sanam: Today things are moving pretty strongly and we are ecstatic to be here! I know for a fact that no competition in India has done so much for a band till date. Trust me, right now, we are happier than ever!

If not SQS, which other band did you think would have deserved to win the competition?

Quesh: We thought Machas With Attitude were fresh and really had some good stuff going. If not us, I would imagine them as the Supastars.

Tell us about your just-released Supastars SQS album.

Samar: It's an album with 8 melodious, soulful tracks produced by Times Music's exclusive production and songwriting partners in Sweden & Denmark, Starlabs & Hitworks Studios. The album is also complemented with musical and production efforts from the best talent in the Indian music industry.

Sanam: It is a pop music album, of course, with the special SQS touch. Recording the album has been a prodigious learning process for all of us 

The lead single is Hawa Hawa,  and it's already on air across media and in physical and digital retail. We did  Hawa Hawa  based on the story of the competition. It is a very emotional video for us as it depicts our journey through Times Supastars. The video beautifully portrays our progress through the phases and how we went through makeover sessions and ultimately, our final moment of triumph. It brings out the first impression of the band.

Quesh: Behka is another track, and it reflects the post-competition phase;  followed by Mufti which is after the production of the album. It was done during the process of shooting our videos, which we feel was the most exciting part of the whole Supastars experience.

Venky: They've got an awesome line of clothes and we really dig them - the striped patterns on shirts and the jeans have fit us perfect! The video is all about color, fun, dancing, randomness, - POP!

Which is your favorite track from the album?

Sanam: Our favourite is the fifth track on the album called Teri Aankhon Se. It  starts with Sanam singing a sweet hook with a punchy guitar riff climbing steadily into the power of the chorus. It's got rock n' roll and has some great buildups and breakdowns. We love it!

What was recording the album like?

Samar: It was a contrast of fun and stress. Recording our first album in Kailasa Studios was like a dream come true. And while we were recording the album,  we were also undergoing fitness training from Kunal Sharma, which was awesome, as we had never done something like that in any other competition.

Quesh: Working out was a different panorama all together. We use to spot one another and test how exhausted we could get at the end of the sessions and still be ready to go into the studio and record, compose and re-work parts of different tunes.

How is Times Music promoting Supastars SQS?

Samar: We've been doing many radio interviews on channels like Oye FM, Fever, Radio Mirchi, Radio One… and we're looking forward to doing more promotions in the near future.

Sanam: Our title song Hawa Hawa  and Behka  have been playing on 14 TV channels – including GECs and News and Music Channels -- for 2 months. We've been interviewed across the media, and Times Music plans to promote the band all year long via live concerts, merchandising engagements and endorsements, amongst other things.

Quesh: We plan to promote the album by playing as many gigs as possible around the country, so the next couple of months look promising.

Do you enjoy playing live? What kind of live events have you done?

Samar: After the competition we did our first gig at VJTI Matunga as the headliners for Pratibimb '11,  which was on the 29th of January. It was an epic! We were given awesome treatment by the hospitality committee. The college crowd went berserk when we started playing. Out of excitement all of them started dancing and grooving to our tunes. It was a different level of high when all of them went crazy on our first gig and started singing along to Behka  By the end the lights turned dim and the students got swaying with their mobile phones lit at the last performance, the acoustic version of Hawa Hawa.

Venky: We got their total support and many of them promised to be our fans. We couldn't ask for a better start to begin with a live concert.

Now a mandatory question for any upcoming artists: Which musical personality or band inspires SQS?

Sanam: Each of us has our own idols. Muse, Kings of Leon, Michael Jackson, Dave Matthews Band (DMB), Blink 182,  Josh Gropan, Tiziano Ferro and Victor Wooten, to name a few.