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Band Lineup:

Mark Lazaro Trinity “Tiny” D’Souza Gaurav Joshua Vaz Mrinal Kalakrishnan Jnaneshwar Das

When someone asked Phenom how they got their name, lead vocalist and bassist Gaurav answered “as a college band, we didn’t have a name, so our audiences named us Phenom, and the name stuck”.

This, in a way, symbolises the laid-back approach Phenom has towards this whole “band business” – focussing intensely on their music, and less bothered about the trappings and publicity parts.

And it is an approach that has paid huge dividends. Today Phenom, fresh out of college (they are no longer a “college band”, having graduated from PESIT, Bangalore, in June 2004), have proven themselves as amazingly talented musicians, producing credible and highly appreciated original music.

People who have heard Phenom perform rate songs such as “Coloured for this World”, “A Little Step”, “CAP 5101” etc. extremely highly, and tip Phenom’s “Unbound” as the song that will eventually launch them to national and international success.

While Phenom “categorises” itself as a Classic and Progressive Rock band, their music really spans many genres, and the talented members of the group have never allowed “categories” to limit their experiements in music. An example of this is their instrumental “Resurgence”, which appears to be a metal number, with underlying prog rhythms. Another is the deceptively “ethnic” startup of “Unbound”, which then goes on to build into an awesome crescendo of rock, metal, prog and and strong melodic overtones. And just when you think you have their style pinned down, they come up with “A Little Step” – a song about peace that is so completely different in style, yet uniquely recognisable as a Phenom song.

Each component of Phenom’s music is highly specialised and unique in approach and execution. The “lead bass” style of playing consistently wins awards. The drumming draws attention with tight, controlled and appropriately restless sequences, treating the kit almost like a lead instrument. The guitaring is an amazing blend of lead and rhythm guitar, creating a completely new and uniquely recognisable style. And the keyboards produce impeccable and accurately placed pieces of keyboard magic to “glue” their compositions together.

When asked about their influences, they mention Dream Theater and Rush (they joke that they have performed Rush’s “Jacob’s Ladder” more often on stage than Rush itself has), an assortment of sometimes obscure international names, but surprisingly also name several Indian groups, including Thermal and a Quarter, Zero and Motherjane.

The group has been participating in rock competitions for several years, and their track record is enviable – winning virtually every big-name event they have participated in at the “college group” level, including the prestigious NLS Strawberry Fields 2003.

While on stage, their “stage act” tends to be more subtle than many other groups. As Gaurav and Mrinal explain, this is intentional – they want audiences to focus on the music the group is performing, not on their prancing around. This makes sense – their music is incredibly complicated in places, and does not lend itself to flying leaps and stage sprints.

But their on-stage mannerisms do draw attention. An example of this is when JD is seen quietly (and almost religiously) donning a cap on stage – signalling to the audiences who know the song that “CAP 5101” (named after Mrinal’s car registration number) is coming up. Or Sashi’s tendency to break into a huge anticipating grin as he is about to launch into “Resurgence”. And Gaurav is quite adept at talking to Phenom’s audiences, going from zero to fever-pitch, dragging the audience along with him.

When asked what they find most exciting about their performances, they characteristically point at their audiences, and with good reason: to have a college band perform on stage at a national-level rock competition dominated by metal rock, and to see the huge audience singing along when Phenom performs its own original compositions, is something you do not get to see every day.

What about studio time? Is there a CD on the horizon?

“Yes”, says JD, and counters the inevitable next question of “When?” with an enigmatic grin and “When it is ready”. He does let on, however, that they have been spending a lot of time in the studio over the past few months, working at recording both existing and new material.

Where does the band see itself going over the years?

“The answer”, says Gaurav, “can be found in the lyrics of CAP 5101”:

Not for the money, not for the pride
Its been so long, its taken time
You’ve come this far, a dream to live
Most hurdles crossed, loose ends tied

Not for the money, not for the pride
Its been so long, its taken time
The journey’s long, it has begun
Another step and then … who knows…

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