The juggernaut keeps rolling as Underside keeps turning heads wherever they play. Their rise has been the culmination of years of hard work and struggle, all finally coming to fruition.
As one scans the vicinity, bodies are rumbling and crashing into one another. All heads are down in a sea of black t-shirts. The chills of winter are all forgotten in the infamous pit as people are down to their last apparel or none at all. The heat and the buzz emanating from the crowd rumbling the ground underneath them, a young boy not even in his 20s slowly looks up to gasp some air. He throws up the double horns and screams on top of his lungs with all the energy he can mount “Yeah! Underside!”
In a country that absolutely loves its metal, Underside is like our proud baby. All across the board, from schools to colleges to the shirt and collars that most have become (nothing wrong with that!) everybody has a soft corner for the Metallicas, Panteras, Megadeths of their time. That is how we grew up; music was passed down from those who were strumming a little before us. And what good music it was. Listening to For Whom the Bell Tolls for the first time, or Cowboys to Hell or Ace of Spades all resonated with those who were impressionable and created a lifelong adoration towards this style of music. A style of music that believed in going fast, monster riffs, blinding solos and a voice that cut right through all of it. No wonder we admire Underside the way we do, they check all the boxes. Their sound, the drive, that guttural downright dirty monster that rides atop that you can feel, sense but never see all make this quartet a joy to behold.
There is experience that goes into reaching that sound though. It is called paying dues in any industry and the member of Underside have honed their craft in the underground scene for years, persisting, wanting and driving while others said it was a fruitless endeavor. Catcalls of how soon the band would split due to members leaving for greener pastures in the west and how nothing would come of it. It is true people left, but those who wanted to do something with it here did so and how! Avishek K.C. on vocals had garnered quite a reputation with his former band E.Quals during the Global Band Challenge a few years ago. So did Bikash Bhujel with E.Quals and formerly with Vhumi. His was a name well heard in the metal scene as a stellar player. The addition of Bikrant Shrestha formerly of Law of Silence would turn out to be very pivotal. The Vhumi, E.Quals alumni brought in Bibek Tamang on drums and with Manil Shakya (ex-Horny Monks) on bass, the shape was complete; it was time to unleash this force into the world now. All those projects that failed to reach their zenith, personal struggles, disappointments to fulfill this musical aspiration aligned the stars for them to come together and all that venom that was bottled within was put into their music.
It was back in 2010 during the 1st silence festival that I met the current band members. And the music just clicked.
Their first jamming is something that Bikrant Shrestha remembers vividly to this day:
Man, it was amazing. No one felt that it was the first time that we were playing together. It was just meant to be together. We already had like four songs after playing together for a week. It started as a side project but turned out so good that none of us could ignore what was happening.
Their formative years saw them quickly go on the road and their advent as a band was cemented soon after when they thrashed through the mighty mountains of Switzerland during the Himalayan Vs Alps Tour. News of this tour got back to Kathmandu and soon people were starting to hear murmurs of a band called Underside and their mighty stage presence. They played venues like Silver Clubs, Les Docks and Usine all further boosting their credibility and the metalheads back home were now waiting with baited breath to see this band live in Nepal.
Upon their return and the subsequent much talked about performance at Silence Festival 2011 brought down the gates and now those not even ardent metal fans were hearing the name ‘Underside’.
Of the name itself, Bikrant spells out how the band came onto it:
Avishek came up with the name Underside and everyone liked it. It made a lot of sense, since we always say our music is all about what we are and where we come from. Whether you’re representing a nation and a culture, or a personal state of mind, we discussed and we stuck to the name.
Damn well they did. What started as musicians coming together through previous setups being disintegrated were now a force to be reckoned with; the same force that is derived from practice, practice and more practice. On a very opportune day when I did get to see Avishek, Bibek, Bikash go at it was an experience in itself. The plethora of machines at their disposal stresses the fact that you need to spend to get to a professional level of playing. In that moment I realized that as a musician myself, there is a certain turning point in a music man’s life where he has to invest further in his craft not just for the sake of it, or because others tell him to, but because it is simple evolution. You need to progress, your gear needs to progress. Avishek presses one switch, then another then another as they do “All Notes Off” in parts. I must mention here that I was partially deaf when I sauntered out. The sound proofing must be commended for sure. That room was swaying sideways and it was glorious.
But what has been so crucial for their rise from the pits has been their fans. Metal fans all across the world are extremely loyal and support their music to the ends of the earth. Those who listened to Underside early on were already ranting and raving about it. Their live videos were going viral and being shared in the social networks. Their fans had spread the word and more and more shows were now going packed. Their legion was growing by the numbers and in turn the band has a message of gratitude for them:
We have had a lot of support from our fans. We have always given everything that we got and in return our fans continue to give us unconditional support. They are the most enraged fan base that we have seen in Nepal and we wouldn’t be here without them. We are truly thankful from the bottom of our hearts.
The Sound & Silence
The band’s impetus and the natural admiration that it produces, is centered around their hard crunching sound that emanates an aura of arena metal more than anything. It is hard to put them in thrash or any other sub genre of metal because they have expressed a desire to keep evolving their setup but still keep that raw grit that makes them what they are. Their music has dabbled with metalcore, groove metal to traces of hardcore punk. It is undeniable to hear all these mentioned; feel that thumping when you witness them performing live. Underside has its finger on the pulse at the moment and is giving the fans exactly what they have been craving, a tight metal band that can take the stage with any act from around the world. That is exactly what they were doing early on with the Himalayan Vs Alps tour and later with the Silence Festival.
The Silence Festival in 2011 is where they really announced themselves to the Nepali audience. Their bootleg videos went viral for a while and got the right kind of attention. While throngs of people came for the various foreign acts, Underside quite loudly stole the show and had the murmur going again. To put into perspective, this was a festival headlined by Vader, and people still came away saying how they thought Underside was the tightest band of the card. That is immense praise early on. What followed next was with the Evolving To Life Tour all over Nepal. The intent was to introduce Underside live to other cities around the country where they were beginning to get more and more requests to play. Places like Dharan, Butwal and Pokhara then subsequently received their dose of metal mayhem thanks to the boys. The goal and focus was kept simple, conquer Nepal and the world. The Evolving To Life Tour was a masterstroke and gave the band a strong legion of Nepali metalheads.
The Big Leap
But the band was organically motioning towards the next step, an EP or album, and a music video. It was time to cast their sound on record now and fans from all genres were waiting for this one and rightfully so. By 2012-13 the band was synonymous with Metal in Nepal. So much so that when rumors of their first music video started going, Facebook was a buzz and Avishek K.C further fueled the wait by opening up online a slot for fans to come and be a part of their first visual music sojourn. They tied up with the promising Fuzz Factory Productions and what came out was a video unlike any other in the Nepali Music Scene.
Perhaps the video for ‘Disconnect’ deserves a whole new chapter in this story. The quality, the production, sound, delivery all had music lovers chomping at the bits in delight. It was a statement more than a video, not only highlighting the band’s talent but also how far the video production quality had come in Nepal. One of the leading people behind Fuzz Factory Productions Prashit Sthapit said of the experience, “We are particular about the projects we take and when we do, we do the best to capture their essence. That’s what we did with ‘Disconnect’.”They did that, and a whole lot more. Online portals like Texas Nepal were set alight with news of a metal song going viral and Underside was touted as the great white hope from back home. The video received rave reviews with people gushing over the concept, format and execution as well as lavishing more praise for the band.
The idea was to make a statement as metal coming from Nepal. We wanted to show intensity of the band, the crowd and show people in and outside of Nepal what’s coming. We delivered with the help of Fuzz Factory and our fans who came out to help us shoot the video, it turned out amazing.
Then came the first EP that came out on the 11th of January 2014. The boys had set their sights on getting their music on track and Welcome To The Underside delivered with the EP getting good feedback and something that led the band to bigger things this year. The highlights kept a-coming and a feature in the ‘Terrorizer Magazine’, UK, where their song was featured at the free compilation CD on one of their issues had everyone going at it again. They shared print space with great acts like Savage Messiah, Conan and Nervosa to name a few. Next came their maiden tour to India where they played Insurrection at Bangalore and Shillong. More press coverage followed with Headbangers India and other outlets as the south of the border got a little taste of Underside. As recent as August of this year, Underside was on the same marquee as Airbourne, Motörhead, Krokus, and Billy Talent at Rock Oz’arénes in Avenches, Switzerland.
It was a great experience for us to learn and travel as a band. You really get a chance to know how a band and its individual members work. Of course it was awesome to be in the same line-up as Motorhead, Billy Talent, Airborne and many more. It was one of the most beautiful festivals that we have ever done.
Sharing the same stage as Motorhead, touring India, first EP, debut music video; can it get any better for a band only in its 4th year of inception? All notes are right on at the moment, as Underside is riding the biggest wave any band has ridden. Their journey stands apart from acts of the past or present because they are breaking down the barrier. Something as simple as having songs in English, is now opening up a market of millions instead of thousands. They know what they have and more importantly, they know where they have the potential to go. This is a band that can go beyond their birth nation, or genre; they can become a part of global popular culture at this rate.
All these accolades, all the praise; all well deserved. Here is a band that has thrashed amongst some of the best in the world, all the while keeping their roots close and playing places like Pokhara and Butwal along with Switzerland and Hong Kong so their fans never feel spurned. They have shown how to make that quintessential blow to break that glass ceiling. To go over not only with fans here but with everyone that comes to listen to them anywhere in the world they may play. And their plans going ahead are simple enough:
Tour, tour and tour that is what makes a band stronger. In addition to that, we are just done recording our new songs and probably by the end of this year, we will get our album out. We have more plans for touring abroad as well.
Underside has shown that with enough steel in your resolve, artists can pick up the pieces and give their musical endeavors a mighty heave-ho to reach the top. It isn’t an easy battle. It is one laced with many pitfalls both personal and social. Underside has preached that music doesn’t belong to a genre, nor have they stuck to playing a certain type of metal. They played what they damn pleased!
And for those reading this, those who have stuck long enough to the end of this story, here is their secret. Here is how your band can become like Underside –
Forming a band and keeping the momentum going is real hard work. You need to be able to write music continuously, believe in your music and be strong enough to work as a band. It is important to be conscious enough to understand each of the members and freaking do whatever in order to pursue your dream as a band!