It’s every bedroom musician’s dream; playing to massive crowds, hearing scores of fans chant your name, changing people’s lives with music (or snorting coke for dinner and sleeping on a bed stuffed with cash; it depends, really).
There’s a long phase of struggle and hard work before you get to that, though.
“Awkward Bong as a project started during college. I’d write songs for no reason other than wanting to write. It was only after college that I decided to record them and start putting them out.”
So, what was the songwriting process like for him? “It has always been a bit of an unplanned thing for me,” he told us. “It usually starts with a seed, an idea for a song; it could be anything from a melody to a couple of words, which I then either work on immediately or save as a phone recording for later.”
Writing the songs is just step one, though. Next comes recording them, perhaps finding a record label to sign you on, and of course, the expenses for all of it.
“I recorded my first EP pretty much by myself, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea,” he laughed ruefully. “I only realized the value of having a second pair of ears working on a piece of music when I roped in Rishi Bradoo (a batchmate from college and frontman of Blek, who had returned from London with a degree in Music Production) to produce the first album.”
“Both records were pretty much bedroom projects, though; we didn’t book any fancy studio, brought in friends to help with a lot of the instrumentation and pretty much did everything else ourselves,” he continued. “I didn’t even try for a record deal. Labels work very differently here than they do in the West, and I had no idea about what a label here looks for in a potential signee. I just wanted to record and put out my music, so that’s what I did.”
Recording an album can’t be cheap, surely. When we asked how he managed, Ronit revealed that it was funded by his past work on advertising jingles. “We saved a lot of money by opting not to book professional studios,” he elaborates. “Modern recording technology has made it possible to craft great records in bedrooms, so the money went into paying the producer, the musicians who played on the record, and the mastering engineer.”
Finally, we asked what advice he has for millennials trying to get their own music off the ground. “Just keep writing music. Go play open mic nights, send your music to whoever you think might be interested in it, and go for every gig you can afford to go to,” he answered. “It takes patience, the willingness to sacrifice sleep in order to write and record, and being open to every kind of music. That really is the best way to learn in our scene.”
Awkward Bong is Mumbai-based musician Ronit Sarkar’s singer-songwriter avatar. Started as a solo bedroom project in 2014, the act has now grown into a four-piece band with a lush, organic pop sound. He also launched two music videos; Golden and You Don’t Have To Hide, off the album. Awkward Bong was featured on Rolling Stone India’s 10 best new Indian acts of 2015.