On an unbearably warm summer evening in Delhi's Khan Market, one of the country's newest metal exports Bloodywood are cooling down with orange popsicles, recalling the all-nighters they pulled at their old studio where they likely would have gotten little very little sleep anyway, on account of large rats and cockroaches. It seems like a past life now that they've moved into a proper space in the city of Noida, producing new music and videos much more comfortably.
Since 2016, guitarist/producer Karan Katiyar and vocalist Jayant Bhadula have been a parody metal band, taking apart Top 40 hits, Bollywood songs and Hindi/Punjabi commercial music and giving them a heavier and quirkier edge. But after tasting success with their takes on cuts including Daler Mehndi's "Tunak Tunak Tun" and classic folk song "Ari Ari" (the latter has breaching 1 million views on YouTube), the duo say they're about to get serious. Bhadula says, "People listen to a rendition and go, 'Ah, a good riff wasted on a cover.' Which is true."
Bloodywood have come to see their covers of everything from Chainsmokers' hit "Closer" to Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" as fun exercises, especially now that members of their growing online fan base — situated more in the U.S. and European countries than India — have been clamoring for them to write their own music. Katiyar says with a laugh, "Most of the comments we get on our covers now are, 'Please stop doing this.' They tell us, 'You make good music, you can use this for originals.' That's what our focus is going to be now."
As such, their latest release isn't a cover, a modern remake or a parody. To the contrary, it's one of the most serious things they've done. "Jee Veerey," which translates to "live, brave one" in Punjabi, features hip-hop artist Raoul Kerr, who also appeared on the group's "Ari Ari" cover, and the subject matter is an emotional one — fighting depression and advocating mental well-being. In association with the single, the group even partnered with online counseling site HopeTherapy, which is offering 50 counseling sessions paid for by the band. (Use the discount voucher code "BWOOD1001" when you click on Book Appointment.) While the "Jee Veerey" music video was shot in the mountain town of Solan in Himachal Pradesh in Northern India, back in New Delhi, Bloodywood spoke about their creative process and how metal can be elevating.
YOU STARTED OFF WITH PARODIES AND ALWAYS HAVE FUNNY ELEMENTS IN YOUR VIDEOS. IS COMEDY ALWAYS GOING TO BE AT THE CORE OF WHAT YOU DO?
KARAN KATIYAR It might not be in the future. We've very recently found a new direction that's much more rewarding. We have much more fun doing it and the reception is obviously a thousand-fold better.
ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE DIRECTION YOU TOOK WITH "ARI ARI"?
KATIYAR Yes, that was an all-out cover. But then again, from now onwards, we're focussing completely on originals. We know now that it doesn't matter if you cover a song — if the song is good, if the message is just perfect, it's going to work. No one knew about "Ari Ari" outside India and that's where it worked.
IS THERE ALWAYS A SENSE OF UNCERTAINTY ABOUT HOW A SONG WILL BE RECEIVED BEFORE YOU RELEASE IT?
KATIYAR We were literally a band that people related with having fun, memes and stuff. "Ari Ari" was us taking things seriously.
JAYANT BHADULA Maybe that's why people never took our music seriously — they never thought of us as a serious band, more like a "YouTube band." But now, after "Ari Ari," the amount of messages we get, "Come to the U.S.!" that has changed.
KATIYAR In the past year and a half, we've probably changed directions a dozen times to find that thing that would make us unique.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE AND HOW IS IT CHANGING?
KATIYAR I think it depends on the number of failures we have. If we lose views or patrons, that's when we change direction. Creatively, if something won't work, we will change direction. That's how it's been. Right now, our current direction is going to be 100 percent originals. That's what we're trying out. It's funny, we're changing despite success. It's like jumping off an airplane. We don't want to stick to it, because if you keep doing the same thing, it's going to get redundant.
BLOODYWOOD IS ONE OF THE FEW WELL-KNOWN METAL COVER BANDS IN THE WORLD, AND THE INDIAN METAL CIRCUIT HAS MANY BANDS PLAYING THEIR OWN MUSIC. WHY DID IT TAKE THIS LONG TO WRITE YOUR OWN MUSIC?
KATIYAR What happened was, we discovered a sound that everyone loves. The base that we had, all of them want that sound in our original sound, and they want new material. It's worked out really well in the last few videos, and we're quite confident if we continue this, it's going to work out.
HOW IS YOUR NEW MATERIAL SHAPING UP?
KATIYAR What we've discovered is that a message in the video is very important. People have really praised the fact that we've done positive stuff.
BHADULA This has been our direction from day one — metal can be fun. You don't have to be angry all the time. People say metal is a way of life, so you do get happy, you get sad, you are in a chilled-out mode.
We got a message from someone saying they loved our song and it said, "But what is your stand on homophobia and misogyny?" I said, "Love whomever you want to." We're very open in general. We want to send out that message.
KATIYAR It's much more fun when you have a positive message and everyone relates to it. Usually, no one looks at the lyrics in metal. The sound is obviously going to be Indian and metal, but fused in a way that you can't say, "Oh, this sounds completely Indian" or "This is all-out metal." It's in the middle.