The Legend of BOTOWN

Kurran Jagpal catches up with Ajay Srivastav to uncover the story of Britain's most multicultural band

Posted: 02.11.12

Tell us about the band’s name, are you devout Bollywood fans?
That’s only half the story! The title is a reference to the American Motown era. Our sound is a mixture of the 60’s and 70’s when all the funky cats came to play! I love its chilled out vibes and big mash up of cultures, just like us, we play soul music with Bollywood vibes.

What genres of music influenced you growing up?
I constantly had Bollywood music playing in the house from my parents. And as I started broadening my musical taste, soul music had a massive influence on me. When I began singing, it was originally soul. But I then came to a place in my life when I thought that I needed to connect to my roots.

It’s quite a line-up you’ve got going on, how did you find your fellow bandmates?
Some of them were hand picked but some of the story is a beautiful accident! I held auditions and invited some people I had listened to and performed with while others were new. We run as a collective, who are multicultural from all corners of the world. Initially we were only going to do five gigs but we connected with the audience instantly and our fans urged us to carry on as a band!

So how did they make the shortlist?
I just simply chose musicians that would fit the band and engage with the audience. Music works on a subconscious level, regardless of the language, music can break that barrier down, as long as everyone’s feeling the vibes!

How does the writing work when there’s so many people who want to input?
I’m the musical director so I’ll decide what song to do, and then I’ll pass it down to the band and let them see how they could interpret the song. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea on how we could play the song and I’ll tell the band how I want the song done. Sometimes it’ll be just the guitar and me and I’ll write the song like that.

Doesn’t that lead to conficts?
No – I just lay down the concept and take that leap of faith in my band to produce it. Everyone’s really musically aware. I try and create an enjoyable experience. I always try and see things from the perspectives of others, and how they can be happy; there’s no point in tension!

Do you guys do other things together as a band, other than making music?
We do hang out, especially after shows in London. Some of us are either full-time or part-time musicians, so we do have other projects on the side.

So who’s the vainest one in the band?
No one! An important part of building a team is the source, so I ensured I didn’t pick anyone who could disrupt the group dynamic. There are two girls in the group and we have a running joke that they add a touch of class to the band. It’s really good in working in a mixed gender group; everyone brings their own thing. If it was all boys, everyone’s ego would get in the way, but the girls bring in a great dynamic.

Tell us about your favourite gig experience.
I loved playing at The Jazz Café. The sound quality was great which helped us sound awesome. The crowd was amazing and the people there were really nice and took care of us! We’ve had a few funny experiences, such as people falling over whilst performing, stuff like that!

Have you ever had anything thrown at any of you on stage?
Flowers and banners with the band name on, some of it’s pretty cool. We have one guy who always comes and gives us jalebi. He puts a box of them on the stage; he’s such a legend. It’s so good to see how interactive the fans get with us, I mean because of the whole 60’s/70’s vibe we give, come fans even like to come dressed up!

Your most recent single released last month called ‘The Big B Shuffle’ is a tribute to Amitabh Bachchan, is he a hero of yours?
He’s always given us an identity and I wanted to translate that to a wider audience. All the guys wanted to be him, all the girls wanted to be with him. The song essentially is about the vibe he has. He’s up there with the Eastwoods, Pacinos and De Niros. The title, The Big B Shuffle is about his famous dance move, everyone does it at weddings and events, but it has never been named. So we decided to name it The Big B Shuffle.

Botown are touring next year, find out more here.

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