It’s a Friday morning and we are backstage at the Youtube Fanfest. The place is buzzing with last minute rehearsals, stage settings, mic test and celebrity faces. As the chaos swirls around us, we spot 12 people fine-tuning their instruments, and we realise we are face-to-face with Thaikkudam Bridge, one of the best known YouTube influencers who soared to the top, ever since their first-ever video. A Kerala based music band, it marked its presence with 59 international shows and 400 plus gigs across the globe in 19 countries.
The band was formed for a one-time gig on Kappa TV which has turned into Thaikkudam Bridge, a 17-member team. Named after an innocuous small bridge that nobody knew of until the band was formed, it is the brainchild of Govind P Menon, a vocalist and a violinist. Famous for its first ever Youtube video Fish Rock, which has crossed 11 million views today, the band made a debut in Tamil cinema with Bejoy Nambiar’s directorial venture Solo where they fused a traditional devotional hymn Aigiri Nandini to contemporary rock sounds.
YourStory spoke to Mithun Raju - Lead Guitarist, Ashok Betty Nelson, Rhythm Guitarist, Vian Fernandes, Bass Guitarist and Vocalist, Ruthin Thej, Keyboards, Anish T N, Drummer, Anish Gopalkrishnan, Vocalist and Joseph, Marketing Head, Kappa TV, and they took us down the memory lane of their five-year-long stint and their music today.
MR: It was the summer of 2013, when Govind called all of us to discuss a new venture. He told us that a certain Malayalam channel was looking for musicians to play live on their channel. Most of us, who till then were working out of Mumbai, Aurangabad, and Odisha, flew to this small apartment in Kochi. On listening to the channel’s intent of bringing like-minded musicians onto one platform, we were intrigued by the idea and started jamming. Our first-ever piece was Fish Rock. Minutes before going live, the team at Kappa TV asked us to come up with a name for our band. We named the band, Thaikkudam Bridge as we were working out of an apartment that oversaw this bridge in Kochi.
VF: Most of us were excited at the thought that we would be on television. We shot our first video and it was a good experience. After the show was telecast, the video made an entry on Youtube - and this is where our story begins. The telecast was a huge success and the channel producers immediately began making plans for the second show. We were overwhelmed by the response and soon, the channel posted the final video on YouTube. Overnight, the video went viral and we woke up to messages, calls, and accolades from all parts of the globe. Most of our Facebook profiles saw friend requests and followers. None of us were prepared or expected this kind of acceptance.
ABN: We felt that we had done something right. We had just followed our gut. Soon, we started planning for our second show, right there in the same apartment. We moved in together, set apart a dedicated room which we turned into a studio and began working on our shows. For the next couple of weeks, we shot five videos for two episodes for the channel. During this time, we also started receiving invites for many shows, including one show in Dubai which we had to call off, because some of the team members were scared of flying.
YS: What is the reason for TB’s success?
RT: When we started, there were not many bands exploring different genres in one single piece, which is our USP. We are a team of 17+ musicians and each of us come from different genres of music. We want our work to reach all kinds of music lovers. We also try to experiment with the videos and make them more appealing. So there is story-telling, good music and the visual representation of today’s world, encapsulated into one.
ATN: In today’s age of reducing attention spans, we wanted our work to be engaging. All musicians are inspired by films at some point in their lives. So, we made sure our work stayed visually enriching, while we spoke of social issues, art and culture, all of which, came very naturally to us. We spent Rs. 50 lakhs on the first video. The audience of TB had something entirely new to look forward to each time. This has worked in our favour, so far.
YS: What is the creative process behind your music?
MR: Govind set up the template for the first-ever album we created. Most of our brain storming sessions are a melting point for different genres and how we can bring them all together. In the creative process, there is no definition of time, nor is there any limitation to the number of ideas, musicians and instruments. Often, we go by intuition. For example, when we composed Erumbu, I finished the song in 10 minutes while on the balcony of my home.
YS: With so many people in the team, how do you tackle feedback sessions and ego clashes?
VF: We work on the principle of mutual respect. Over the years, we have formed a strong bond and take pride in each other’s involvement because at the end of the day, it’s team work that matters. There is a constant need to improve, not only in creative fields, but in every aspect of life, and there is no such thing as ego. The kind of songs and singers we deal with come from genres like metal and electronic, to name a few, so having a mid-ground where we meet and discuss is crucial. After every creative process we conduct feedback sessions which are very important for us.
VF: It was never difficult. Our first video had set a precedence even before we stepped into the market. Of course, there were many other bands, back in 2013 but till today we have always had surplus enquiries and there is never a dearth of it. On good days, the band plays at 2-3 different gigs. Most of the time we are working on new content, practising or playing somewhere.
VF: We are the product of Youtube. We shot to fame only because our first video went viral. But of course, after that we had to maintain consistency in the content we produced. Today, there is surplus content and you have to be extraordinary each time, which is why an online presence helps you connect with your audience in real time. You know what’s new in the market and how the audience is reacting to your work. The Internet is one of the biggest sources of income for the music industry today. It’s a must for every band to have an online presence and with live video streaming evolving, we are quite sure that the future is going to be fascinating.
MR: Creative decisions are very tricky most of the time. Keeping an eye on the market or your possible competitor will just add more filters to your own creative process, which is something we don’t want. You can’t make decisions based on the end product or the impact it will create, which is of course beyond our scope. We have always followed our hearts and going forward, that’s the road we want to tread.
The formation of Thaikkudam Bridge, is one the best things that has happened to all of us and we cannot wait to explore more art in the future.