Madboy/Mink: Riding Into Funk Town

If there’s anyone who loves vintage more than Madboy/Mink, then they haven’t projected it as much as the Mumbai electro-funk/nu disco duo. Comprising guitarist, synth player and producer Imaad Shah and vocalist Saba Azad, they put in a lot of work in their newly released second EP Union Farm to make it a half-psychedelic nostalgia trip in four tracks.

Talking about the preparation behind the EP, Shah says over the phone from Mumbai that he picked up an old Telecaster from the 70s, a limited edition guitar, while he was in Chicago. Shah explains, “I’ve been looking for a slightly Dan Auerbach, Jack White influenced tone for a bit and that kind of guitar tone is definitely on the sludgier, dirtier side.” With the songwriting just split among two members, some fans might be disappointed that there’s only four new Madboy/Mink tracks, but Shah insists even though they are constantly writing new material, they want to be careful with what they release for public ears. “Our first single ‘Lemonade’ was released at least a few months after we started playing live,” says Shah.

Plus, they feel that despite the sufficient material, it may not have all connected well together on a full-length album. Shah says, “The thing with an EP is that it’s a nice form – it allows you club together a smaller unit of songs and connect the dots between them. We are very conscious of the fact that we don’t want to do a full-length album and not have the dots connecting between the songs and have that flow, in terms of sound or production style and in terms of songwriting.” Union Farm was, like their debut EP All Ball, a home studio production undertaken entirely by Shah. While they only started recording a few weeks before they released the EP late last month, the duo have been playing all the songs for a few months now. Shah adds, “‘Sharaabi’ will probably be the newest of the lot. ‘Fire In the Streets’ and ‘Mousegirl’ are the oldest. In terms of final mixes and studio production, they’ve been finalized in the last few weeks.”

In terms of writing and producing, Shah says most of these songs have come about in the most organic way possible for them – “just sitting down with a synthesizer and a guitar and jamming,” says the guitarist. They’re still sticking with their winning formula of fusing funk, disco and electronica, though. Shah says they’ve made “micro-decisions with regard to our sound and the direction we want to go in.” The guitarist adds that in addition to going in for a dirtier guitar sound, they were influenced by late 70s, early 80s funk and disco and the whole New York City disco funk scene. Shah says about ‘Powders’, “But there was a bit of blues in ‘Powders’, we did want to bring our version of the blues.”

It’s essential that you have the right tools to get that vintage sound, and while even Madboy/Mink can’t afford the real deal, Shah is happy toying with software that emulates vintage synth like the Moog and Oberheim. Shah says, “In terms of Software, very often I’m upgrading my tools of work. I do use a lot of emulations of the classic synths by Arturia like the Roland Jupiter, the Oberheim SCM, the mini modular, the ARP. I do veer towards retro with regard to synth. I much prefer taking an old school synth.”

10369606_641571712593118_3037100606144231261_nIn terms of touring with Union Farm, Madboy/Mink have already gone on to promote the EP in Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi. This week, they play at the Humming Tree in Bangalore and at gig series Jamsteady in Kolkata. However, Shah notes that they aren’t yet ready to play with their four-member live lineup, which includes drummer Jehangir Jehangir and bassist Ruell Barretto, on this tour. Says Shah, “I think it’s more a question of venue size and not just logistics, and also the vibe of the place. We would like to keep that (live) thing as much as possible to our festival sets. Closer to the end of the year, when there’s lots of festivals, we do feel that vibe works with that.”

During our interview, Shah goes back to why they chose to release an EP over an album, saying that an EP does allow them to be more prolific. Madboy/Mink are planning a full-length album eventually, but fans could be treated to at least two more EPs before that, possibly by the end of this year. Says Shah. “It’s not a question of work – we can take on that much. We did produce this album in a slightly more old-school way. When rock bands went into the studio, they sat down tracked everything, mixed everything and the album was done. It wasn’t as intense as that, but it was as quick as that.”

Additionally, when they’re done with club shows, the duo are keeping their fingers crossed on working on the production for their festival sets later in the year. Although he won’t tell us which festivals they’re in talks to perform at, Shah adds that they’re planning to expand the band to even more than the existing four-member setup. Shah says, “We’ve had this vision for a live show for a bit now. Saba is a dancer and we’re both part of theatre companies. The idea is slightly ambitious, but this year at a festivals, our dream agenda has been to blur the lines between theatre performances and a live music concert.”

So the next time you see Madboy/Mink, it might be an all-out extravaganza in terms of sounds, lights and theatrics. Shah outlines the band’s grand plan, saying, “We want to expand the band for our live shows. If all goes according to plan, we want to bring in a tiny horn section. The idea is to set up a 70s/80s disco circus sort of thing. It is ambitious but it’s where we’re heading.”

Anurag Tagat

Anurag Tagat is a journalist/critic based in Bangalore, writing for Rolling Stone India. He has previously written for The Hindu, Rediff and Bangalore Mirror and TechRadar about everything from current affairs to art and culture to technology.

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