The stage is all set. We're just minutes away from a highly anticipated performance of Arbovirus. The entire band is there, except for Nafeez, who is stuck in Malaysia! Who will be on the drums? Then to everyone's surprise, the screen behind the stage lights up and there we see Nafeez sitting behind the drums talking to the audience in a pre-recorded video clip. Before we know it, Ranjan (guitar), Suharto (guitar), Aldnane (bass) and Sufi (vocal) start playing on stage while Nafeez's drums come alive in the video for a breathtaking live show that would be the first of its kind in the history of Bangladesh. A few days before that electrifying performance at Rocknation III, we went to the shooting of their latest music video 'Prolap' (released online on 16th December) to schmooze with the band.
What's behind the name 'Arbovirus'?
Ranjan: Nothing really. We just needed a name for the band.
Sufi: We got the name from Blade II. The comic book of Blade actually.
So you guys are comic fans?
Ranjan: We're not insane about it.
Sufi: We grew up reading comics. That's all.
Your lyrics range from personal to political issues. Why is there so much talk of political rage in your songs?
Ranjan: Our experiences range from personal to political issues. That's why our lyrics reflect that. Whatever we feel finds its way into our lyrics. It's not like all we ever feel revolve around personal issues and nothing else matters to us. It's not like that at all.
Sufi: One thing influences the other. Politics influences our personal life. Jalo Agun Jalo and Prolap- these two songs are completely political.
Ranjan: These are about the contemporary issues that are surrounding us.
Tell us about your performances in the Rocknation concerts. You had the entire city talking every time.
Ranjan: We were in all of the Rocknation concerts.
Nafeez: In Rocknation II, we tried to give it a different look. We've always tried to do something unique.
Ranjan: We don't always have this option. Most shows are arranged in a smaller scale. There we had a big stage and a big audience. Also our rapport with the organizers is such that we can combine our ideas and come up with something new every time.
Who came up with the idea of putting on uniform G Suits?
Nafeez: We were thinking about what new attractions we can introduce this time. Sufi called me up and said, “Your Dad's in the Navy. Can you manage five G Suits?” Then I went to this place where they sell military stuff. You can't get in there without an ID. I had to wear a sunglass and look as if I'm from the military just to get the G suits.
Nafeez plays in other bands. How does that impact Arbovirus?
Nafeez: Frankly speaking, my band members give me a lot of space. They realize that it is helping me in my development as well. Every other band that I play with is secondary. Arbovirus is my first priority and my primary band.
Don't your practice schedules ever clash?
Nafeez: They are kind enough to keep my convenience in mind. Whenever we practice, it's mostly after 8pm. If we needed to get the schedule from any other practice pad, then it could have been a problem.
Ranjan: Since Nafeez has his own practice pad, the timing is not a big problem for us. We can always accommodate.
Nafeez: Usually, we can practice from 8pm-11pm. The first hour is spent on eating and 'chillaxing'. Then if the electricity goes away, another one hour flies by.
We hear that you're working on your third album.
Nafeez: Yes. We have started working on our third album.
Ranjan: We have some materials ready. But we'll give it a bit of time.
Nafeez: We recorded a few songs already.
Will there be a huge gap again like that between the first and the second album?
Ranjan: No. We had problems with our lineup back then, which we don't have anymore. But during that gap we had singles released in 10-11 mixed albums. So we were pretty active now.
How much of the third album is ready would you say?
Nafeez: We had plans to have an EP (extended play).
Ranjan: We are working on the third album and the EP simultaneously.
When can we expect it to be released?
Ranjan: We're not completely sure, but it'll probably be released within six months or a year, tops.
Nafeez: Compared to seven years, it's nothing.
Ranjan: It shouldn't take much longer. We wanted to release it sooner, but we still have some work left to be done. We need to make some more people listen to it before it's released. There are also a lot of promotions to be done. But our compositions are ready.
What makes you decide which songs stay in the album and which ones are better left out?
Ranjan: When we make an album, we sit with 25-30 compositions. Then we narrow it down to 10-11 songs. Last time, we had 2-3 really good songs that we didn't put in the album as it wasn't fitting in with the rest of the songs. We try to give each album a unique sound. The second album had a distinct sound compared to the first album. The third album will also have a different sound.
Nafeez: There are some instances where we randomly make a song in the studio; like Prolap. I think it was a pretty big hit though. The output was impressive especially considering that the whole song was made on the spot. When we were recording it, Ranjan Bhai was telling me on the mic that we'll play the chorus here; do something with the 'ride' (ride cymbal)'. Then he said, “Stop here; we have some breaks; work on the 'toms'.”
The song was created just like that?
Sufi: The same thing happened in the case of Jaalo Aagun Jaalo.
Ranjan: In both of these songs, we believed in ourselves. We didn't compose the songs beforehand. We thought we need another heavy song. This is the tempo. Let's keep playing and see what comes out of it.
Nafeez: It also didn't take much time. Usually it takes a lot of time to make a song. We have to do it part by part. But Prolap was done at a go. We practiced and recorded the song in merely 6 minutes! We were just talking over the microphone. These instances happen a lot for us, which is great.
Who is managing the band?
Ranjan: Live Square manages us. We have been working with them directly for many years.
How many years has it been?
Ranjan: 7-8 years. We are the only band that has played in every show of Live Square's Wireless Series. We try to participate in the experimental things that they do like that with DJ Ward and Amewu. DJ Ward is one of the greatest hiphop DJs you'll ever meet and Amewu is one of the fastest rappers in Germany.
But you don't do hiphop, right?
Ranjan: We are not rappers, but we thought to mix two different worlds of music and see what happens. We try to deliver our best when a challenge like that is thrown at us.
How was it for you to do concerts outside of Bangladesh?
Ranjan: We had shows in Kolkata. We enjoyed it very much. The culture there is not very different from ours. We didn't really feel like we're foreigners. They get very excited when a band from Bangladesh comes to perform. Some of the fans still knock us online. They listen to our new songs. They follow us on Facebook, which is really great. We are also in very good terms with the bands we met there.
Is there any upcoming international tour?
Ranjan: We have plans for two international tours next year- one is in India, the other is in Nepal. But nothing is confirmed at the moment. We had several other opportunities to do shows abroad, but we could not manage somehow for the lengthy time it takes to get a visa. If they invite us 7 days before the show, it's not possible for us.
You have some impressive music videos made so far. Which one is your favourite?
Ranjan: Jaalo Aagun Jaalo and Shohor. Both of these are favourites. And hopefully Prolap after it's released.
Nafeez: We agree with Ranjan Bhai.
Interviewed by Sadia Khalid