Bamboo Shoots | Back to the Future

prof_bamboo2_sm.gif"Our music is basically either an outdated vision of the future or a slightly off futuristic vision of the past."

prof_bamboo2.gif 

"'Indie' is probably the most overused word second only to ‘love.'" So says Avir Mitra, frontman for the deliciously addictive Brooklyn band Bamboo Shoots. Were I forced to describe them, I probably would have used that word, and a host of others: retro, dance, Prince, pop, wave, upbeat, textured. For what it's worth, though, Mitra's not much better than me at defining his band's sound.

"My descriptions are always so unrealistic and unhelpful," he says." I always run into this problem. Our music is basically either an outdated vision of the future or a slightly off futuristic vision of the past. We did an in-store thing in Nebraska, and I said something like that and this girl just looked at me sideways: ‘So you mean like MGMT?' And I had to pause and just be like, ‘Yes, sure, just take a listen.'"

Bamboo Shoots' rags-to-riches story goes like this. A friend nominated them for the MTVu's Best Unsigned Band contest. The guys knew about it but didn't give it much thought; I mean, who really wins those things, right? "It was only when we were getting frantic calls from MTV for our IDs that we realized we had been voted way ahead," Mitra says. "Then we started seeing oddly dressed label people lurking around at shows. When they were at our show in a basement in Bushwick, we could tell something was up. Label people usually want to stay in Manhattan; if they are feeling especially edgy they may go to Williamsburg, but Bushwick? That's like Indonesia to them."

A quick reroute-Mitra put his med school plans on indefinite hold-and the band found themselves caught in a whirlwind of industry interest, soon finding themselves at home with Epic Records. "Honestly, we didn't do much label shopping; this sort of landed in our lap and the timing was right.

"We sort of have super underdog status at the label; we are the little band that could," says Mitra. The reality, of course, is that "every label, indie or major, has their priorities that they sink crazy money into, and the rest have to get what they can. And so as a fresh, unknown band, you just try to do your thing given the reality of their situation. Our attitude has always been take help (and money) when it's offered but otherwise steer your own ship. So that's what we continue to do."

Aside from the MTVu victory and major-label signing, Bamboo Shoots is unique in another way: All of its members are of Indian descent. You can't throw a rock at the band's press coverage without hitting this fun fact; does it get to the band? "I'd be sick of it if I obsessed over the press we get," admits Mitra. "I'm more concerned with the indie tag than the Indian tag. We are all Indian-American, and that is different, and none of us are trying to hide that. We're proud of who we are, and proud to be representing an under-represented culture. But in most ways we are just a regular band, you know? We played in garages and had the cops called on us, too. I don't care much how we get tagged because I think the music speaks for itself."

Bamboo Shoots' Epic Records debut, Armour, came out September 29. "We've been on the road pretty much nonstop since October 31," says Mitra. "We did the U.K. with 3OH!3, then came right home and started our U.S. tour. We got back in time to do some Christmas shopping and then we're leaving again January 10 through late February. As far as we're concerned, the van is our home now."

With all that time on the road, surely one show sticks out above the rest? "This is a debate we have among the band," Mitra says." Brighton in the U.K. with 3OH!3 was pretty incredible, in my opinion. The show was sold out and the energy was insane. There was no barrier between the stage and the audience, so people were hitting my pedals, which was making my guitar sound crazy, and a young man was reaching up and caressing my butt for a bunch of songs.

"On the other hand, there was our show in San Antonio, Texas, at a place called Jiggers where there were only a handful of people there. But everyone was so into it and so supportive and friendly that we made friends with each person there. I think every single person in the room bought merch; one guy bought four shirts."

Armour is 11 juicy, dance-inciting tracks just this side of guilty pleasure. It's a fun and refreshing listen, but it doesn't stop there; lyrically, it explores themes and stages of love in thoughtful and relatable ways. As primary songwriter, what does Mitra hope to communicate through his music? "I sort of see it in reverse," he said. "I let the songs communicate through me. It's like the songs have wants that I have to satisfy. But what do I want to convey? Honesty. I want people to know our shit is for real." | Laura Hamlett

 

 

Catch Bamboo Shoots live at Cicero's in St. Louis January 14. Doors 8/show 8:30, $5/8 under 21. With Cold Bear Scout, Humdrum and Lengrand.

 

 

01.13 | Hot Topic, Harlem Irving Plaza, Chicago
01.14 | Cicero's, St. Louis
01.21 | Harper's Ferry, Allston, Mass.
01.22 | The Sad Café, Plaistow, N.H.
01.23 | Knapp's Underground, Bennington, Vt.
01.24 | Arlene's Grocery, New York
01.25 | Angels and Kings, New York
02.01 | Mixtape Café, Grand Rapids, Mich.
02.02 | The Factory, Rochester, Mich.
02.04 | The Warehouse, LaCrosse, Wisc.
02.05-6 | Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa City
02.11 | The Space, Hamden, Conn.
02.12 |Amity Teen Center, Woodbridge, Conn.

 

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