Sifat and Samprit are Broun, a dynamic new band out of Jakarta and Toronto, with their roots in Dhaka. After the release of their first single, “Escape the Feeling,” 987’s Mikhail and Torben sat virtually down to talk to Broun about their style, experiences, influences, what gets them outta bed in the morning, and whether they like bud light lime better than craft beer. Read below the results of the experiment.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Hello Broun! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us… virtually. Can you talk about your musical backgrounds? Do you have any formal training? Did you teach yourselves everything you know?
[Sifat:] My mom was a pop singer in the 80s and as kids, my sister and I were encouraged to learn eastern classical music. I respected it, but never really vibed with it. Fast forward a few years “Everybody” by Backstreet Boys came out. My sister and I were allowed to purchase the cassette and we could sing every song on the album by heart. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, but then I saw a concert by Linkin Park in 2000 on MTV and was mesmerized by Mike Shinoda playing multiple instruments whilst singing and rapping and all my teenage hormones wanted was to be in a band.
[Samprit:] I wanted to play guitar since I heard Eddie Van Halen’s [rip] solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on cassette in the early 90s. In 2004, I finally got a guitar and over the years, took guitar lessons on and off from several capable guitar teachers until about 2009. After a 6 year hiatus from music, in late 2016 I took an interest in electronic music and started to teach myself producing from YouTube tutorials and forums.
[Sifat:] Samprit and I went to the same middle school and were two of the only rock n’ roll kids in a school dominated by hip-hop lovers. We bought the same Ibanez electric guitars, went to the same guitar teacher for lessons and listened to and jammed to a lot of rock and metal music.
I never learned how to sing, I always just could do it naturally. I did, however, learn a lot of breathing techniques and tips online once I started singing live. Samprit was a guitar prodigy in our teens, and while we did go to an amazing teacher for guitar lessons (Saadi Muktafi), he always had a knack for self-learning. In fact, he has learned everything about music production and sound design from Youtube and Twitch streams of famous producers.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You say that you came up making tunes in Dhaka. What kind of music do people make there? How have those styles influenced your music? Are there any Bangladeshi artists or bands that continue to influence you?
[Sifat:] Dhaka is one of the densest cities in the world and thus has a lot of music. Much of the mainstream music there is inspired by modern pop with eastern classical melodies and a noticeable influence from Bollywood music.
However, we started playing music during, what is commonly referred to as, the Bangladesh Underground Rock and Metal movement of the early 2000s—which was basically a group of kids who were tired of listening to what was on TV and wanted to sound edgy and different. We went to concerts in small overcrowded venues on the weekends and would be in the front row to watch bands that played covers of Metallica and Nirvana. By 2007 we had a band with the goal of sounding as different as we could from other artists in the scene, and so we would try to sound like bands like Alter Bridge, Incubus and Porcupine Tree, who at the time were new and fresh for the scene. Bands that continue to influence us from the Dhaka scene are Artcell, Black, Cryptic Fate and Nemesis to name a few. There are hundreds more.
In 2010, we released two rock singles with our band Absent Element which received a fair amount of radio play acclaim from the community, but were slowly discarded as one hit wonders as Samprit permanently moved to Canada and I was away from Dhaka for 6 years being in Canada and the UK till 2016.
The underground scene from Dhaka really influenced us not just musically, but in teaching us that kids of any age or background could come together and create something from nothing. Huh? Oh, why bud light lime of course! Anyways, the scene has now evolved far beyond just rock and metal, but continues to be a spirited generation of creators supporting each other and looking for the next unique sound. In fact more than one third of all of Broun’s listens still come from our old fans in Dhaka.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Sorry to interrupt but, do you prefer bud light lime or craft beer?
[Sifat:] Craft beer haha
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you still visit Dhaka? Have things changed there since you’ve been abroad?
[Sifat:] Yes, In fact, I was living there between 2016 and 2019. Things have changed massively. The internet has only fuelled the scene’s creativity and diversity. You can find all sorts of genres and listeners there now.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You guys have been ‘virtually’ jamming almost every weekend since May 2020 despite being halfway around the world from each other; do you have any more releases planned for the near future? Singles? EP? Album?
[Sifat:] We’ve been virtually jamming actively since May after we realized we really had nothing to do on the weekends because of Covid. But honestly, I don’t think we ever stopped nerding out on music since 2004. We still talk guitars, some crazy riff or breakdown in a song, our favourite concert videos—you should see our chats. I think Facebook once told me I have exchanged the most number of messages with Samprit amongst all of my connections.
Yes, Broun is a long term project. It is something that we wish to pursue for many years to come. We see this as us finally pursuing our “Freedom to follow our calls” as musicians. (*coughs* teaser from second single *coughs*). We have written about 7-8 songs now that we really like, with 2 in the final stages of production now. This goal is to release one single a month till 2021. If we can get a decent following by then, a sabbatical from work and our first face to face meeting in 10 years is on the cards!
[Mikhail and Torben:] Your song blends elements from a few different genres. It’s the type of music that could really take off. Are you guys working towards the goal of Broun replacing your corporate jobs?
[Sifat:] Glad listeners are picking up on the variety of our influence.
Absolutely. Believe it or not, both of us just turned 30. We really think it’s now or never. While we will need to hold on to our jobs for now, if we can really make music at the level that we aspire to, who knows what’s possible.
Right now, we are just trying to be time-management ninjas, and channel the kind of discipline we’ve been able to cultivate in our jobs towards our creative endeavours.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Has Covid affected how you produce music? Did you have any shows or tours that you had to cancel? Are you thinking of ways that you can adapt and continue to connect with people despite being unable to perform live?
[Sifat:] Covid has changed the game for us. It forced us to get rid of our mind-numbing weekend distractions and actually sit at home and give music one more shot. While I did play a few open mics here and there for the last few months, we didn’t even exist as an act—so covid was more of a catalyst than an inconvenience for us.
In May, Samprit randomly sent me a synth backing with a beat and in 15 minutes of our first zoom call we had the first verse and chorus of “Escape The Feeling”. Over the next few weeks, we went back and forth on the arrangement, structure and mix of the song. By June, when it was done—it was something we were really proud of and it opened our eyes to the possibilities we had as a duo. We started writing other material in full force while planning how to market ourselves as an act online.
Above everything else, we want to make good quality music that people would love to jam to—whether that be at work, the gym or a sold out stadium. However, we live in the age of digital media and thus online content is always going to be an important tool for us to reach our audience.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Did you enjoy producing the music video for “Escape the Feeling”? Would you like to do more videos in the future, and do you see them as an integral piece of modern music production?
[Sifat:] It was the most fun I have had in a very long time, and am really sad Samprit could not be part of it.
A little back story.
I was lucky enough to randomly come across Wina, a film producer in Jakarta. She liked the song instantly and agreed to assemble a team of 3—Putrisa, Adit and her brother Monty who did everything on the video, starting from concept, direction till the final cut. Along the way I asked my friend Adara to play the eccentric and mysterious girl in the video. Yousuf helped drive us around, took some photos and also featured in a little cameo. It all just came together like magic! Believe it or not, we filmed everything on a Sunday night from 5PM to 5AM. These guys were super supportive and honestly are our very first fans and believers. I have promised to get them backstage passess when we play Tomorrowland haha.
We definitely will do more videos in the future, maybe stuff that’s a little easier to shoot. We have been exploring lyric videos as an option too.
Online content is the prime way to build engagement with an audience now. I have actually been YouTubing for the past few years, and the skills I have picked up have been insanely useful so far. I even made Samprit do a photoshoot, and he’s the type who hasn’t uploaded a photo in 8 years.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you think that metropolitan life and corporate work stifle creativity? Is there any room for creativity in the world of work?
[Sifat:] Not at all. We feel like it gives us a chip on our shoulder to fight for our dreams harder. If we didn’t have our jobs, what would we be trying to escape from? It’s a strange paradox.
The corporate hustle also teaches you to be tough, work with tight deadlines and prioritize ruthlessly. Honestly we’re the type of people who would be lazy bums otherwise. The world of work is extremely dynamic now. Creativity is an essential skill needed to thrive in it. In fact, our colleagues fully know about and support our music.
Life in the city exposes you to a lot of stories. These stories fuel imagination and creativity.
[Mikhail and Torben:] How did you two end up in Toronto and Jakarta? Are your new homes starting to influence your music in different ways?
[Sifat:] Samprit’s family emigrated to Canada in 2010. He studied at UofT, and being the perfect poster boy engineer, found his footing in the tech industry in Toronto. I was more of a confused hopper—after completing university in the UK I was part of a tech startup in Dhaka. The connections I made there brought me to my current gig in Jakarta. I really like Indonesia, and plan to stay here for the next 2 years at least.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Who would you most like to collaborate with?
[Sifat:] The priority right now is to really establish our own unique and recognizable sound. We have exchanged messages with many musicians in Toronto, Dhaka and Jakarta – but for now we’re heads down in work trying to get our craft right.
[Mikhail and Torben:] What is one message you would give to your fans?
[Sifat:] Be honest with us, tell us what you really think.
Feedback is the one thing that will help catapult us to a global stage.
You’re the architects of our dreams as much as we are.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Thanks for chatting with us, Broun!
You can listen to “Escape The Feeling” here
Broun’s second single “Tonight I’ll Wait” here
Interview curated by: Mik and Torben