Writer's block is not a feeling we know of," declares Imaad Shah, one half of the nu- disco/funk/old-school swing outfit Madboy/Mink along with Saba Azad. "Saba and I have a huge body of material waiting to be released. But our friends have asked us to take it slow for now, and bask in the glory of the first EP," he says, soon after the release of their debut EP, All Ball.
If their EP is anything to go by, Madboy/Mink has hit the freshest spot in the Indian electronic indie genre. But tying it down to a specific genre is not how they want their music to be/evolve. "Our trademark sound is a varied one; we don't want to adhere to any genre. There are traces of swing, funk and 80s disco," he says.
"We are also influenced by flapper, 20s-30s jazz focussing more on the trumpet and vocals, filtering it though our synth to produce a modern day dirty/French electro sound while keeping it old school," adds vocalist Saba.
Their influences, given their individual aesthetics, are varied. Imaad is sold to old school funk, pumping disco, apart from funkadelia. "The 70s James Brown sound, Giorgio Moroder, Prince, Donna Summer, and even Indian artistes like Nazia Hassan. We want to incorporate more of the analogue sounds that were first used in pop or dance music," says Imaad. Saba is into the definitive crooners of the jazz era. "Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Robert Johnson and old school blues, apart from world music that span from African music to Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd," she says.
The Mumbai-based duo has been gigging for less than a year and the Madboy/Mink sound has found many takers. Since they started sometime last year, they have performed at Sunburn, NH7 Weekender Pune and Magnetic Fields.
Actor-musician Imaad, who has been producing music for a while as Madboy, remembers their coming together during a boring summer party where Saba was jamming with a bunch of boys in another room. "I heard her voice from a corner of the next room, and even though she kept on claiming that her throat was horrible that night, all I heard was this husky voice and strongly felt that I should collaborate with her.
What hit me was the ethereal quality of her voice," he says.
"We've worked in plays together before, and I would go to his place to listen and play music. At one point, it became pretty obvious that his music adhered to my aesthetics. There was some vagueness initially, but then it consolidated to lead to Madboy/Mink," says Saba, who's also acted in movies and commercials.
Their sound is very old school disco and modern Parisian, with Saba's Harlem flapper vocals keying in the right punches. Warm analogue beats that marry strong songwriting make for a distinct sound.
Lemonade and Funkenstein have been gig hits for a while, and the EP launch party at Bonobo in Bandra last week was a full-house affair. The duo, which has drummed up many a loyal fan through gigs, say that the NH7 Weekender late afternoon set in Pune last year opened them to bigger events. "It was a great experience, very Woodstockish that later turned into a swing party," remembers Imaad. "We are happiest when we are gigging."
For Saba, the sight of fans dancing during a gig is what does it. "There is this internal space where people are dancing unabashedly, oblivious to what the next person is doing. It's great fun," she says. They confess that bigger stages are definitely "an addiction", even though their roots lie in small, packed underground bars. "We want to move to smaller towns to reach out to a non-pretentious crowd," says Imaad.
With their acting credentials, they are also working on pushing their live acts to a performance art space. "We're talking an audio-visual experience that is in a carnival-like space," he says, adding that they are working on a video which will be out in a couple of weeks. "We need to constantly reinvent ourselves because we're very ambitious."
There is definitely an album coming out within a year, but with the huge amount of swing material they have been working on, expect another EP soon enough. "A monsoon or a swing EP," says Imaad.
Tune in to the Madboy/Mink sound, because it is here to stay.