Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus in October 2011.


Delhi-based Half Step Down put together good old rock n’ roll with
hints of funk, blues and reggae. What sets them aside from any other
band is their resilience in remaining the best among scores of other
bands who claim to have championed the trade of the ever-popular genre
since their formation in 2005. There is no secret formula to this,
vocalist Dhaval Mudgal says, apart from constant reinvention. “If you
listen to our older songs such as ‘Overture to Outerspace’, ‘Working
Hour’ and ‘Knocking at the Back of my Head’, they’re kind of
easy-bluesy, with melody and big choruses. The new stuff took a
different direction. We’re not doing drastically different things, but
we’re pushing each other out of our comfort zone.” Dhaval says.

One factor that can be attributed to any sort of shift in a band’s
sound is the change in its lineup. Srijan Mahajan, drummer of the band
says with a laugh, “I think the new songs we’re doing show the changes
in our sound. Like, our guitar player Alvaro Lopez is from Spain!” The
entry of new members seems to have made the original members take
their duties more seriously. “What’s happening now is that Me, Srijan
and Carl Abraham (bass guitar) – who have been around the longest –
have taken much more interest in the songwriting process from the very
start,” Dhaval adds.

There can be no other genre apart from Rock n’ roll that fit Half Step
Down into, because Dhaval admits that “Led Zeppelin is a common ground
for everybody.”  But he is quick to inform that each member of the
band brings his own eclectic tastes in music to the practice room. As
a vocalist, he is very much influenced by Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and
Anthony Keidis (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Srijan adds that his work
behind the kit draws from prog rockers Porcupine Tree. Dhaval
sarcastically adds it’s a surprise that Carl is a fan of Flea (RHCP).
Among the two of the latest additions to the band, Alvaro listens to
Gypsy and Jazz and it’s second guitarist Nikhil Malik – who’s
temporarily filling in for pianist Shiv Lumba – that is described by
Dhaval as the one with “very well-rounded music tastes.”

Among the newer bands – both local and international – that the band
recommends are Australia’s the Cat Empire and the Temper Trap, and
folk rockers Mumford & Sons. No Safe Word from Chennai also attracted
Dhaval’s attention while Srijan said that Peter Cat Recording Co. and
The Circus were two Delhi bands on the rise.

Srijan, of course, is better known (now) for his stick skills while
playing for another Delhi band, veteran rockers Parikrama. Managing
other musical endeavours (including Half Step Down) along with
Parikrama is a non-issue according to him. “There haven’t been many
times in a year that both bands’ playing schedule clash,” he says,
while Dhaval adds that they share “a great camaraderie with other
bands from Delhi”, and they always figure a way around overlapping
schedules to “ensure that we all get to play more music at the end of
the day.” Interestingly, both bands will be playing at the Ladakh Arts
and Music festival later this month. “We know a friend who was
managing another band that was invited to play at the event. He was
the one who booked us for the show. We’re playing on the last day,
right before Mohit Chauhan and it’s Ladakh at the end of the day,”
Srijan adds, laughing.

Speaking of veteran bands, the band feels fantastic about sharing the
stage with Thermal and a Quarter. “When Bruce Lee Mani (TAAQ
guitarist) plays one chord, it sounds like three different guitar
players playing three different chords. The way he writes about real
issues and converts them into great hooks is inspiring. It’s always a
pleasure performing with them,” Dhaval says. The band is also all
praise for Harley, which has organised the second season of Rock
Riders. “Their marketing opens up our music to wider audiences,”
Srijan says, while Dhaval says both Rock n’ Roll and Harley have an
obvious association.”Those who don’t listen to our music, and love the
brand may
just show up to these shows and become fans,” he explains.

As for the future, the band is writing new compositions they hope to
release in form of singles soon. Till then, there’s always the staple
diet of songs available the bands website – www.halfstepdownmusic.com.
“Get on and tell us what you think, we need people’s opinion!” laughs