Introducing… The Bombay Royale

This feature originally appeared in Songlines #96 (Nov/Dec 2013) p24. Download a pdf here.

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Alexandra Petropoulos talks to the group breathing psychedelic life back into vintage Bollywood (Photo: Lee Grubb) 

We sit down in a hidden alcove behind the main stage at Larmer Tree Festival, surrounded by roaming peacocks and beautiful gardens. Andy Williamson of The Bombay Royale is just about to start telling me all about the group when we are suddenly interrupted by a noisy pair of parrots overhead. I embarrassingly half shriek, half shout “this place is like a jungle!” Singer Parvyn Kaur Singh, cool as a cucumber, replies “it suits us perfectly.”

And indeed it does. From Melbourne, The Bombay Royale offer up a high- energy, psychedelic take on vintage Bollywood, which sounds perfectly at home in the movie-set-like jungle we’ve found ourselves in. You might have caught the group, or at least spotted the giant inflatable, crowd-surfing elephant known as The Colonel, at one of this summer’s festivals; whether at Glastonbury, WOMAD or Larmer Tree. Combining Bollywood with a surf rock, Spaghetti Western and spy movie ethos, they left exhausted, danced-out audiences in their wake.

The 11-piece group was the brainchild of Williamson (aka The Skipper), who had the idea three year ago. “I always loved the soundtracks to all the 60s and 70s Bollywood films and thought I want to play in a band that does that. So I set about trying to find people to realise my dream.” Singh (aka The Mysterious Lady) cheerily chimes in, “and we were crazy enough to follow him!”

Both Singh and another core member, Shourov Bhattacharya (aka The Tiger), had grown up with the Bollywood classics. Singh is trained in North Indian classical music but has an affinity for Bollywood: “it’s the sort of stuff that I remember my mum listening to. She’d put on the vinyl and listen to all these old records – Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle especially.” Bhattacharya agrees, “I loved the music and was familiar with it because of my parents. It’s great music. It sticks in your head.”

True to form, their music is catchy. And theatrical. It’s not just the core trio who have their own nicknames, the band also includes Chip Chase the Tennis Ace, The Kung Fu Dentist and The Leaping Shaman to name but a few. Williamson, the mastermind behind the names, admits, “the idea, both with the names and costuming, is to give the sense that this is cinematic music, as though it’s a soundtrack. Those old films often have extreme and entertaining characters.” The title-track from their debut, You Me Bullets Love, explores this with a video that is almost a mini-movie in its own right, complete with villains, martial arts and intrigue.

This means, of course, that they have all the right ingredients for their own movie. Singh tells me they’d love to get into the movie business: “Give us the budget and we would for sure – that’s definitely the idea.” Williamson confidently adds, “we’re definitely ready for the B-grade movie industry.”

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