Twenty-one-year-old engineering student and musician Manu Vijayan is part of his band called My Side of the Story. But the real surprise is that he is the band's sole member. The Pune musician talks about releasing his debut album Dawn on February 20, bringing together alternative rock and elements of rock metal and hard rock in the album through its six songs, dealing with themes such as unrequited love and 'energetic hope' through his music and lyrics.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. Tell us a bit about your childhood and earliest musical influences.
A. I had a brief introduction to singing in school, but never took it to a serious level. In Class 9, I started listening to metal and the band Children Of Bodom blew my mind. Their lead guitarist, Alexi Laiho, has been the greatest driving force in my life and inspired me to keep practicing and become a good guitar player. One artiste who inspired me to take my solo project ahead was John Mayer. My elder sister, who is a singer herself, introduced me to his music.
Q. Tell us a bit about your band My Side of the Story, also described as a 'one man band'.
A. I always wanted a musical project where I could let my emotions out. Not just lyrically, but sonically as well. After being a part of metal bands such as Epsilon and Amongst Denied, in 2014, I decided to embark on a solo, one man, journey.
Q. While performing, you have tracks pre-recorded, except of the vocals and the guitar which you perform live. How do you go about preparing for your songs?
A. If it's a cover song, I make sure I memorise the song thoroughly. I listen to it many times a day. I notice the changes the original artiste makes during live performances. Then I form my version of the song in my head. I first create the drum track and play the bass over it, along with the guitar parts. I leave out the guitar sections that I'd like to play when I am performing live. If it's an original, I first compose it. Then, I create the song as a whole and remove the parts I would like to play while performing live. In the end, I create these backing tracks and play alongside on the stage.
Cover of the album
Q. Tell us a bit about your debut album, Dawn.
A. The entire process took around seven months, during which I composed, recorded and released each song as a separate single. Finally in February, I remastered them, put them in one set and released it as an album. I wrote the lyrics of all the songs. I had some help on the lyrics of the song After The Solstice from Akshit Vijay, a friend of mine.
Q. The songs of Dawn are centred around the theme of love…
A. Yes. It also carries a theme of energetic hope. That is the very reason I have included two of the most famous patriotic tunes of our nation (a rock rendition of Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana). It's not just about love — it's about going through tough periods in your life and dealing with them in a positive manner. The final song of the album has been named 'Dawn' for this very reason. It's a new beginning of opportunities. It gives hope.
Q. What are your future projects?
A. I will be releasing more singles. And maybe after some time I might take a slight turn towards metal or comedy. I released a track called "Exam Song" to which the audience reacted quite positively. So it will depend on what seems right at that time.