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“Our jam sessions are often interrupted by discussions about so many different things because we get excited and carried away. This is also demonstrative of the fun we have when we get together to jam.” 

With fashion styles as contrasting from each other as their music styles, the ladies from Ladies Compartment like to wear the same colour while they’re performing, looking cohesive while retaining their individuality.

Ladies Compartment was formed just like friendships in a ladies compartment of a local train: despite the distinct backgrounds, commonalities were found, and finally, everyone wanted to have a good time. The band came together via Aditi Ramesh [keys and vocals], who spotted Nandita V [bass and vocals] in church, and was introduced to Ramya Pothuri [acoustic and vocals] by ‘floating’ band member Kirsten Marea [violinist]; Aarifah Rebello [drums and vocals] joined after an Instagram post by Aditi calling female musicians to come and jam. While each of them have different plans for their own individual works, the time they spend together is meant for making good music and having great conversations. There’s another thing they have in common: they hate the tag ‘girl band’. 

They chat with us on their process of collaboration and more. 

“We like to keep in mind that we have no one process or rules. Our songs are usually an organic blend of each band members’ ideas, inputs and styles. Also many times when we’re writing music, the song goes through various stages and the end result may be very different from what we started out with.” From the current Indie scene, the musicians they find most inspiring are Fame the Band, No Honey, Meba Ofilia, Komorebi, the F16s, Smalltalk, Gouri and Aksha and more. Two artists they want to collaborate with are Sandunes and Pulpy Shilpy

Since indie music relies a lot on collaboration, there is a constant exchange of ideas and energies that forms the music that we hear. The band members agree that individually they have noted a significant change in their own practice as a result of their collaborative work. “Ladies Compartment has grown as we each have grown individually and through our other bands and collaborations. Similarly, the work we’ve done as Ladies Compartment has taught us a lot of things that we bring back to our solo and collaborative projects.” 

We ask them if they have a quirky ritual before a gig, and they tell us it’s collectively practicing Indian classical vocals as warmups. 

Ladies Compartment: Not a Girl Band – INTERVIEW
Aditi Ramesh of Ladies Compartment on the Keys

Ladies Compartment: Not a Girl Band – INTERVIEW
Nandita Varkey of Ladies Compartment on the Bass

The girls describe their jam sessions as being a safe space for experimentation. “Our sessions are often interrupted by discussions about so many different things because we get excited and carried away. This is also demonstrative of the fun we have when we get together to jam. So we’ll often have an agenda for the session, which we’ll have to bring ourselves back to. We all love the banter though, and this translates on stage as well. It’s been particularly fun when we’ve collaborated with artists like Kamakshi Khanna, Nush Lewis, Warsha Easwar and Tanya Shah.”

The tendency is to put music, like people, in boxes that fit precise descriptions. That is the ideology that women today and Ladies Compartment, are averse to and constantly attempting to defy. Ladies Compartment doesn’t want to be categorized into a single sound. Each song is different, and allows for different influences to come in, like electronic music, which the band thinks is definitely worth exploring in the future. With an influence of multiple sounds, they say that none of their songs or compositions begin in the same way. “Songwriting has everything to do with the process of composing because it’s what connects the different ideas we have, whether these ideas are vocal, instrumental, lyric based, melodic or harmonic.” For certain songs like ‘General Specific’, the beat and the bass parts were first composed by Aarifah and Nandita respectively, and the groove they created served as the basis of the song. In other songs Aditi and Ramya have first sketched out melody and lyrics and the rhythm section has completed the songs.

Ladies Compartment: Not a Girl Band – INTERVIEW
Aarifah Rebello of Ladies Compartment on the Drums
Ladies Compartment: Not a Girl Band – INTERVIEW
Ramya Pothuri of Ladies Compartment on the Guitar

Speaking on how the representation of women in the music industry has changed, the girls say more women are putting out their original music and performing in spaces which were formerly dominated by male musicians.

There’s a lot of pressure to put out EPs and albums, but still looking to find their sound and identity as a band, Ladies Compartment are in no hurry to succumb to such pressures.  This bunch of strong-headed, solid musicians, like to do things on their own terms, when they’re ready. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you catch them laughing at an inside joke, while they rehearse for their next gig. It’s how these ladies put joy in what they create. 

Watch Ladies Compartment LIVE at PORT

words by Shaista Vaishnav