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Sulk Station: Being heard

**Toto Funds The Arts is currently calling for applications for the 2016 awards. The last date to apply for the Toto Music Award 2016 is August 25th. More information here.**

When UK Young Artists and Arts Council England sought TFA’s help in recommending and short listing artists for WEYA- the World Event Young Artists, Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) considered many artists who had previously applied for their annual awards. Sulk Station’s music stood out and they were chosen to travel to London for the meet in September 2012. This came at an opportune time for the band because their debut album ‘Till You Appear’ had just come out that year.

The duo was naturally very excited about their first international gig. “Nottingham was buzzing with art, music, literature, and we were in the midst of it,” describes Tanvi. “It was one full week of being a small part of something big.”

Looking back, it was in 2010 that Sulk Station first met Sarita and Anmol Vellani, founders of TFA. They applied for the award and made it to the short list that year, but didn’t win. This didn’t stop the board of TFA from falling in love with their music and remembering them when opportunity came knocking.

“We felt they needed to be more widely heard and that they would benefit from the exposure that WEYA would provide, so we recommended them and were happy that they got the chance to participate,” says Sarita Vellani.

“We thought they were pretty unique,” Abhijeet Tambe, trustee at TFA and fellow musician adds. “They managed to bring together two worlds without being what is often referred to as “fusion” music. Rahul’s techniques as an electronic music producer and Tanvi’s ability to draw on her Hindustaani classical training were great. But in the end what set them apart is that they were writing good songs, not just fusing sounds. They seemed to me the perfect choice for a young band that was to represent India in the UK.”

TFA (Toto Funds the Arts) is an organization dedicated to supporting young Indian artists. Among the many activities it promotes, there is an annual music award, which has been in place since 2004.

Sulk Station at the Great Escape Festival

The Sulk Station story started in 2009 when Tanvi and Rahul were in college together, Tanvi lending her sultry voice to the choir and Rahul producing electronic music for the occasional performance at a club. Rahul would often refer to Tanvi as ‘sulk station’, owing to her moody demeanor. The name stuck, and Sulk Station was born.

Inspired by artists like Thom Yorke, Grouper, and Fiona apple, Sulk Station focuses on using sounds, notes, and words to express complex states of mind. They aren’t defined or restrained by genres. “I think it’s really hard to describe our sound and there’s no need. We didn’t plan anything, our music is simply a combination of Rahul and my sensibilities and this is what came out,” says Tanvi.

“We started off by just making music for ourselves,” says Rahul. “We had no idea where our music was going or if anybody other than us could make any sense out of it. At that point we were basically a SoundCloud page. Most of our early gigs came courtesy Lounge Piranha (a Bangalore based alternative rock band) - mostly opening sets in venues like Bflat and Unwind Centre. The response was always mixed… we were quite green back then, figuring out how to take something that is made using mostly computer to a live context, figuring out live sound, technology etc.”

Things began to fall in place for Sulk Station after TFA and WEYA. The music that they had created found an audience, not just at WEYA but with a small following around the UK in general. People were given CDs, the band was asked them questions about their music, and as Tanvi says, “it was a very warm and attentive crowd.”

Sulk Station rehearses at the Southbank Centre

In 2015, the UK drew Sulk Station back once more for The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. “The second tour came about thanks to Wild City. Munbir and Sarah, who run Wild City, have supported our music from the very beginning - i.e. Wild City early days. They have created opportunities for us throughout. They got us our first gigs in Delhi, Bombay, Goa, etc and have played a very important role in our career,” says Rahul.

They played in the basement of the Sticky Mike’s Frog bar late one afternoon. “But the vibe was such that it felt like a late night gig - heavy, dark, meditative - perfect for our kind of sound.” Rahul reminisces.

“The Alternative India showcase felt like an actual tour - we played three shows - London (Southbank Centre), Glasgow (Recital Room, Glasgow Concert Halls) and The Great Escape Festival (Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton) alongside Curtain Blue and Nicholson. We were on the road a lot - trains, flights, with not many days between gigs. The gigs were promoted well, a lot of people showed up. That fact that we were performing with 2 other Indian bands helped a lot. I think we were less stressed this time around and slightly more confident thanks to our WEYA experience.” Tanvi shares about yet another gig that they landed in Europe.

“Sarita and Anmol from TFA have been very supportive of our music, especially in the early days when we really needed it and it meant a lot to us,” says Tanvi. TFA is currently calling for applications for the 2016 awards. The last date to apply for the Toto Music Award 2016 is August 25th. More information here.

Image credit (main): Emily Macinnes
Words: Disha Dinesh

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20 August 2015