Chennai has always had a good crop of rock bands. The Family Cheese is no exception. The band has had quite some success in Chennai and competitions across the country. The band recently released a bunch of songs that can be heard on their soundcloud page. Drummer Yohan Marshall has bagged the Best Drummer award in most competitions the band has competed in. Here’s what he had to say in his interview with Indian Drummer.
ID – Hey Yohan, how’ve you been doing?
Yohan - Hey, I’m great, feels awesome to be back home for a bit. I actually just graduated a few days ago. I finished my two year extended-diploma in world music majoring in the from the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (Chennai) before which I did a certificate program at the KM Conservatory (Chennai). The south has been such a blessing to me and I am ever grateful to S.A.M. for giving me the “Tools” to communicate my thoughts musically.
Now that SAM is over It is up to “US” to make the way. My band and I are moving to Bombay in July. We are “The Family Cheese”-and we looooove that breakfast.
But we are doing a lot of gig’s so…
- COME HEAT OR COME RAIN – THE BACK-BEAT SHALL REMAIN!!
ID – Your band, The Family Cheese’s new song titled UNIR, was released a while back. How has the reception been for it? Congratulations on it. It’s a nice tune. I really liked melodies on it.
Yohan - Thanks bro, so glad you like it. I feel like UNIR is a melody that gets stuck in people’s heads. When these kind of odd changes are played live it comes together well. People have been asking for it for ages and finally it’s recorded and we get asked to play it live most places we play so I think it’s doing really well.
OOH By the way we came out with 4 songs in total!! It’s up for free download
HERE!! : http://soundcloud.com/thefamilycheese
ID – I noticed a few parts in the guitar solo in UNIR which sound pretty carnatic. Are you guys influenced by Carnatic music?
Yohan - Absolutely! First of all yes the guitar solo does have a few carnatic licks. Our composition “The Cheese” is kind-of our PROG-D’JENT-TRONICA tribute to carnatic music.
-It is in Sankeerna 9/8
-It has Two KORVAIS and I’m even reciting KONNAKOL in the second one.
Check it out HERE!! : http://soundcloud.com/thefamilycheese/the-cheese-live
ID – Tell us a bit more about how the song was written and recorded.
Yohan – The song was written two years ago when me and my friend Azaan Khan (who is a killer musician by the way). We were in Bombay, I was interning at Blue Frog at the time. I kept at it for a while and then I completed it at SAM. It’s a groovy, different song and The Family Cheese picked it up in no time. We’ve played it live for months now and it went through its set of changes and we have recorded it “by feel”. The recording was at the AM Studios in Chennai.
ID – The band has been around for almost a year now. How has the journey been since you guys first started out? The three of you in band are all from Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music. So how did you guys meet up and start the band?
Yohan – The journey has been unbelievable, We are three friends who met in music school and decided to just play every.. every.. every gig. We played everywhere- schools, colleges, bars, pubs, hotels, the freaking beach.. etc we played for free, entered competitions made youtube videos. We LOVE playing. Hell!! Me and Homi would jam all night when we first met!!
I came up with the name two days before a gig in Ahmedabad, that was the first and only gig I called Homi for. The gig went off great but then we started played together a lot and that’s when we roped “Apurv Frank Vedantam Isaac” (lala) into the picture. We started having these extended jam sessions and it would start off with many people but always end up with the 3 of us. No kidding-those jam sessions became our songs!!
The Family Cheese has been a journey that I will always respect because we haven’t given in!! We go around playing everything from Carnatic “Korvais” to Brazilian Folk tunes. We’re jamming and we probably couldn’t play you that same song twice..
Yohan - I have been playing drums for 6 years now and these have been the most intense years of my life. I started playing at 15 in school and since then music has basically take over. Growing up in Ahmedabad during school, I did as many gigs as I possibly could and even started going all over the country to play. After school I went straight to the South, totally overwhelmed!! Any drummer or percussionist will tell you that the South of Indian is extremely well known for its “Tala – system”. Going to a music school really made me listen to a lot of different music, and I am very open to that so I loved learning different styles, so my influences are coming from all over the place.
Some drummers that influenced me are Benny Greb, Jovol Bell, Alex Kautz, Atma Anur, David Anderson, Mark Guiliana, Karsh Kale, JoJo Mayer, Chris Dave, Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones..etc.Other influences- Prasanna, Radiohead, Laco Tayfa, Animals as Leaders, Now vs Now, Dave Chapelle, Fight Club, How To Disappear Completely and Never be Found.
ID – So many different elements of genres and sub-genres in your music. How is the writing process like normally?
Yohan - Honestly!! We don’t think about changing genres or changing meters in the beginning, If someone says, ‘hey guys play these chords or riff’ and we just play the groove for a while and when everyone is comfy holding the groove we start experimenting to the point where its fun and really sounds like something, so for us, it happens instantly. Sometimes the parts are really hard and we slow it down. That’s what music school does. We just quickly dust up some chops and BAMMM that sounds groovy !!
As for writing the songs goes, I used to write the songs like – Blue and Pissed Off and Unir. I used to play them acoustic, but again we just picked the songs up one day and we were playing them. Homi is gonna become a pop songwriter and lala composes some very cool Carnatic guitar riffs. So we all kinda do our part and we fight about everything!!
ID – Do you guys improvise a lot of the material?
Yohan - This is my kind-of question. Yes bro, in fact that’s what we do. Or let us put it this way, when given the chance to play what we want, we improvise. In our compositions, there are parts that we improvise differently ever time. We do this thing called “The Game Of Chance” whenever we play in anew city; it’s basically an improv game. We basically just search for a groove for a while and then just pull something out of our hats!! Sometimes we fight on stage so two people are playing different grooves but well keep them in time, we’ll take popular tunes and play them in odd time. Solo sections include “guitarist + fan + hair flying + horns” Mr. Eat-my-guitar-and-play-it-at-the-back-of-my-head!! hahaaa to Mr. Im-so-loud-you-can-hear-my-10db-rattle-on-the-moon to me and Yes I absolutely freaking love drum solos.
ID – What’s your setup like?
Yohan - The Family Cheese set up has a kit with 2 toms, a Double-bass pedal and about 6 cymbals. I do all kinds of things with the kit so if it’s a good kit I play with my hands, play pitch melodies if the skins are good, snare spring. Small tricks so if the kit has “Tone” and “Depth” that’s my setup right there.
ID – I saw a video of one of your drum solos on youtube where you play a fair portion of it using brushes. What do you think is the major difference when a drummer switches to using brushes from a normal pair of sticks?
Yohan - Many reasons, some music calls for it, its a different texture, because you want to do something that requires that sound. That video is of me playing a Black Orpheus which is an old jazz standard and we put a “bossa” (Brazilian) grove to it so I though a different texture would be fun..
But in general I like different texture, the sticks are just an extenuation of your hands, so if properly practiced – brushes, mallets, hands, keep a splash on the snare to make it a clap snare, stacking cymbals, playing one handed etc. all give different effects and if done tastefully and with finesse create a very “Authentic” feel. – Philly Joe Jones
Yohan - First off. If you’re using brushes you should have coated heads, not saying you can’t play brushes if you don’t have coated heads, because I rarely do. But it’s just better.
Secondly, you should use traditional grip when playing brushes and be as calm and as into the groove as possible cause keeping the groove is easy, but applying the right amount of pressure to get those crisp “sweeping” sounds from the snare is the tricky bit.
When ever I am playing a new texture, a little repetition helps and there are ways to accentuate the fact that you’re creating different textures, again if tastefully done, very effective.
ID –You’ve won Best Drummer in pretty much every competition you guys have competed in. How have you tracked your own progress over the years?
Yohan - 80% of the stuff I can do is just because I’ve worked my behind off doing rudiments and sticking combinations and metronome training, although if I don’t practice often enough I can feel it the next time I play and so can my friends, So I keep at it everyday. The Best drummer part is very Inspiring, I feel like what I am doing is definitely reaching people.
I think The Family Cheese keep me in check. I have to be at the top of my game when I am playing in that mind-space. I’m always trying to update what I play and how I play it, and I try to be musical about it, that’s about all. I find new ideas every time I play and then, I just have to dive in and find all the fills, poly-rhythms and syncopation to enhance what ever is going on. I practice different techniques, think in shapes and try to add dynamics and un-expected things in un-expected places. So the gig’s I play has been my progress report!!
ID – How is the music scene in Chennai by the way? Any bands in particular who’ve been of a lot of help?
Yohan - The answer is that SAM was perfect. I don’t think I would have felt the same way about Chennai if it wasn’t for SAM. I made so many friends, even right now I am in Chennai for a gig. Chennai has a music scene, because they have a lot of musicians, good musicians!!
Helped us – SAM, Shyam Rao, Prasanna, Johanson, Rohan Sen, Ed Deganaro, Trojan Horse, Unwind center, 5 senses, Apurv’s family and Murugan anna!!
ID – I heard Benny Greb spent a week teaching at the SAM campus last year. Did you get to meet and learn from him?
Yohan - Benny spent a month at SAM, I was very fortunate to having previously spent a year at SAM working on my fundamentals and basics, So that when Benny showed up I was able to get a lot from what he had to offer. I was well prepared and had checked out all the great work he has been a part of and totally stole his one handed move. Benny is really into dynamics, cymbal textures, melodies tom grooves and RIPPING fills!! He taught me a lot just by hanging out with me and I feel like after I saw him play I found my sound.
Hope to see Benny back at SAM soon.
Yohan - “The Family Cheese” is gonna be playing all through July and we are also moving toBombay so it’s an exciting time. I don’t know about an EP cause these demos are out but the radio play and youtube have been very kind to us so please keep in touch with me and the family cheese
ID –. This is your space Yohan. Feel free to say anything to your fans, friends, family, etc.
Yohan - I first wanna thank Indian Drummer for having me on.
Here are some videos.
We are looking to collaborate with all kinds of artists from everywhere.
Sessions, recordings, giggles.
We are The Family Cheese and we looove that breakfast.
ID – Thanks for chatting with us Yohan. We wish you the very best and look forward to more music from you guys.
Yohan - Thank you for taking an interest. Hope to see you guys real soon.