Music band ‘Ivy York’ takes old Bollywood songs in a new direction

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You probably have never heard of the band Ivy York, a UK quartet with Ivy and Ravi at its center, but if they have their way, you soon will. The group is getting ready to release a single called the ‘Call of Spring’, and I am sure that once you hear it, you will recognize a familiar melody. Ravi has gone back to his roots and has taken three classic Bollywood songs and remade them with a new spin. Ivy, the singer of the group, puts her unique voice on the lyrics, and what comes out is something they are sure will appeal to everyone. I got the chance to talk to Ivy and Ravi and we discussed, among other things, Country Bollywood. Read on to find out what we mean.

Tell us about your band Ivy York.

Ivy: Ivy York is me and Rav, and we have been working together almost 5 to 6 years now. We started when I was working on some songs and I heard Rav was the producer guy. I approached him with a bunch of tracks and said, can you help me with my songs. He said yes, well not straight away, only after he heard them (laughs) and we kind of went from there. We started out quite Indie-based sound, but it has developed from there. We put out one record, and that was quite Indie, but then we figured we needed more direction so we did a bit of soul searching and somehow everything came into place for what we are doing now.

Ivy York has a very unique sound. What influences your music?

Ivy: Everything really.

Ravi: Lots of things. Of late it was sort of going back in time really to the 50s and 60s and particularly Bollywood soundtracks. That has been our influence. That music is from our parent’s generation and with this, it is sort of telling our generation that now we have grown up and are in our 20s, that music is not so uncool. We are trying to tell all the people of our generation it wasn’t so bad back then and that there is a lot of decent stuff out there.

So how did you rediscover and come up with the idea to use old Bollywood music?

Ravi: It was a complete joke. We were around at my parent’s house when they were watching the movie channel, and I guess it was like the golden hour or something when the songs are on. My dad jokingly said, ‘you guys should do one of these old songs; they’re the greatest. They don’t write songs like this any more’. And we are like yeah, whatever Dad, and we sort of dismissed it. We went back to the studio that afternoon and Ivy was still humming one of the songs. And I was like, no way, do you remember it? And she was like yea, and then she runs off and writes a bunch of words for it. Not a translation – just a complete new set of words. Then we recorded it to the original, we used all the original music, same style, same vibe and it kind of happened from there. It was a complete experiment! We did it as a laugh and it worked!

Ivy: Obviously, it was a great tune back then, but trying to sell it to people now is a little harder and we wanted to bring that to it. First, I thought there is no way I can pronounce the Hindi properly (laughs) so the first thing was to make it in English! After that it was like okay, we have got this great Bollywood track, but how the hell are we going to make England get it. I am from Australia and there is a lot of country music in my childhood you know Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, all that sort, and as far as I am concerned the only person that can make absolutely everything sound cool is Johnny Cash. So I said to Rav, okay, let’s do this stuff but we have to make it cool and Johnny Cash makes things cool. So, if you can make this stuff sound like something Johnny Cash would want to do then I am for it. So that is how it came together, it was just sort of one of those random conversations and somehow it worked!

Now I believe ‘Island Song’ is ‘Ajeeb Dastan Hai Ye’? Is that right? (Island Song: Hindi Song Title: Ajeeb Dastan Yeh Hai Hindi Movie/ Album Name: Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar)

Ravi: That is the one, yes. It is called Island Song because if you YouTube that video it is from like 1960 or something, and there is a bunch of women sitting on this makeshift island singing this song.

Ivy: We picked out some songs and I would watch the snippets on YouTube to kind of get into them a bit. I couldn’t tell the songs apart by their titles, obviously, so I gave them my own names based on the film clips. So, that is how this one ended up being called ‘Island Song’.

Oh, that is great! I heard it and remembered it from this movie called Mujhse Dosti Karogee. They have this medley of songs and it has that song in it. I knew the melody right away.

Ravi: That is awesome! Wicked!

Ivy: A lot of people recognise the melodies and the songs at the gigs and stuff. They all sort of came rushing in when we played this gig in Ilford in Essex – it was at a fair. It was quite funny because we had a bunch of people in front of the stage already and we started playing and the whole field was sort of amped up and everything. All of a sudden a bunch of Asians were running across the field saying, we know this song!

I tried to place the song in ‘The Call of Spring’ but could not do it. My colleague said ‘Pukarta Chala Hoon Main’, is that right? (Call of Spring: Hindi Song Title: Pukarta Chala Hu Main Hindi Movie/Album Name: Mere Sanam (1965) Singer: Rafi)

Ravi: Yeah. [editor’s note: this is the first song that Ivy was humming the tune to!]

We are two for two!

Ravi: Yep, wicked!

Are there other songs that also incorporate Bollywood into them, and we could only recognize those two?

Ravi: There is going to be another song that has not been included on the 5 track EP that you heard. You would recognize it. (editor’s note: My Happiness: Hindi Song Title: Jawani Aye Mast Mast Bin Piye, Hindi Movie/ Album Name: Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) Singer: Rafi)

Ivy: Yeah, we have just done a trilogy of them.

What was it about the older Bollywood melodies that made you say okay, we need to do this?

Ivy: I am sort of like a melodic person and I am sort of non-biased to any music, I don’t care what music it is as long as it has got a good melody to it! That was all it was for me. Anything I can sing in my head an hour after hearing it has got to be good, so…

Ravi: Where it would have been harder for myself, because I know them from childhood.

Ivy: He was very biased, he would be bringing up all these tracks and he would be like, oh, my dad used to sing this one, but I was like yeah, but it is not really catchy. I had to be really harsh like that, because I had to look at it from the perspective, would people catch on to it now. There are a lot of Rafi tracks and people are sort of sympathetic to it because they are going, oh, it is my favorite singer so it’s got to be a great track. I mean obviously there are like thousands of Rafi songs, but people are like, oh it is a Rafi track, so it has got to be good.

Ravi: And a lot of it is lost in translation as well, it means something in Hindi and you can’t translate it. A lot of the songs only work in one language to get the same sentiment across…you know what I mean?

Yeah, Yeah I do.

Ivy: Yeah, we really found that to be true.

So I know you used the melody lines and added your own lyrics, but what other things did you use to incorporate the Bollywood music into the songs?

Ravi: Well, what we found that the old Bollywood songs used to, well, I am not going to say rip off ’cause that is a bit harsh, but they used to draw their influences from across the water in America I think, that is my opinion.

Ivy: Not just his opinion. I think a lot think that because if you listen to a lot of Doris Day records of that time it is quite similar to what they are doing back then.

Ravi: There is one particular music director that I think worked on all 3 tracks we used, O.P. Nayyar. He was very prominent back in the day. His style was, well, it was country and western. A lot of people of our generation will go, what the hell you know, the country we have here now sucks. But back then it had a different sentiment and a different meaning. Most of the old stuff, the old great Bollywood stuff, has that sort of country beat, that sort of horse galloping vibe to it. We sort of strip it down and bring it to the 21st century, we reproduce it and go into a proper studio and make it again. You can actually make it quite cool. And you think, oh, this is not that cheesy, this country stuff. So it is sort-of all right actually.

Ivy: It sounds really far fetched when you sort of first say it: Country Bollywood, but when you look more into it, it is not that big a thing. You know they were sort of kind of doing it then.

Ravi: The Ep of the five songs that you have got, that is part of a bigger master plan and we are in the motion now of sorting it out as part of the campaign for this album. We are going to record half in Nashville and then the other half, the more interesting half, we are going to record with a Bollywood film orchestra in Mumbai. All the sort of quirky stuff, all the trumpet players, the violin players, all the flute players… all that sort of thing we are going to get that done out there. We are going to catch something different and that will be a story in itself. It’s not just a story, it is kind of true, like we have done on the record, mixing those 2 worlds we might as well go do it in person.

Ivy: We also hope to make some more contacts over there so we might be able to do even more with it while we are there. Get more involved in the movie scene over there as well.

Do you have any Bollywood composers or music that has influenced you or that you admire?

Ravi: On a more personal level as a young Asian guy I am not a big fan of modern Bollywood at all. I appreciate the more arty stuff and recently I have seen a few more movies after my Mum saying these ones aren’t so cheesy. They are definitely moving in the right direction but on the whole I think a lot of songs and movies are produced, just by sort of the production line, they just keep churning them out. There is no value in them. They are sort of here today, gone tomorrow. Going back to the old stuff is my way of sort of saying, once it had a lot of integrity and it was great!

Ivy: It is music for the sake of music these days a lot, and its just like, let’s put a record out and make some money, but the artistry behind it is sort of getting thinner and thinner over the generations.

Ravi: I think it has been thin for a while and these days, in my opinion, one in a hundred Bollywood songs that comes out is a great one. The majority you will forget about in a few months.

Could you see yourselves doing music for a Bollywood film? Is that something you would be interested in?

Ravi: Oh absolutely! Yes, absolutely!

Ivy: Totally, yeah! Definitely.

Ravi: I have been wanting to do that forever. Since I was a kid I always wanted to one day move into Bollywood. Do a soundtrack.

Ivy: His dad is a singer and his grandpa is a singer so it is kind of in the family for him to do that sort of thing.

Ravi: I mean, I respect AR Rahman. I think he has become very, very big and no one knows anyone else down there [in India].

Ivy: You know, every since Slumdog Millionaire came out everyone wants to jump on the Bollywood bandwagon. I heard Kylie Mignone is recording some album over there or something like that.

Yes, she is going to be a film called Blue with Akshay Kumar – she has done a song in the film .

Ivy: Ah, so the rumors are true. You know, we thought this was just the best time because we have been working on this for a while, actually years, and it is quite funny that when you finish it, when you finally have everything together, already stuff is coming out. We just feel like it is the right time for everything because we are right there at the beginning. So I think in a few years, everyone is going to be doing Country Bollywood – at least we are in there first.

So you are bringing together different worlds (UK, young Asians, Australian) into a new sound, is that what you are thinking?

Ivy: Yeah, it is actually. It’s got enough old Hollywood as well to sort of prick the interest of the older folk that are the British generation, that are Western as well. I mean, I will play it for Mom and she absolutely loves it. She watches a lot of old Hollywood movies and she never watched anything Bollywood in her life, but she was like, wow, I really like this song. She totally wasn’t saying that just because it was me, because she hated our other album (laughs). So, it was quite funny to get the interest of someone like that. Then we will sort of get younger people at the gig saying hey, that is really cool. That sounds really different to what we are hearing at the moment. It is kind of cool to appeal to a cross section of people. Because what we did on the first album, it was kind of Indie and it was only driven to the indie market. We weren’t encompassing everyone or thinking about everyone… this is our direction, this is where we are going. But then we sort of realized that was not really the thing for us to do.

Ravi: My grandma listens to the CD and she is 82. She listens to it while she is ironing.

Ivy: She came to our gig the other day. It was so funny; I never thought I would see that.

When does ‘Call of Spring’ release?

Ivy: The single releases on the 28th of September. That is the ‘Call of Spring’ single. The album – we haven’t got a date for that yet.

Ravi: The album is still to be recorded. Like we said, we still have to go and complete the recording of the album in Nashville and Bollywood so no release date as yet for the complete album.

You can hear ‘Call of Spring’ as well as ‘Island Song’ on their website, and the single ‘Call of Spring; releases on September 28th. We wish them the best of luck in this new direction and look forward to hearing the songs mixed with the Bollywood film orchestra once the full album is released. We will keep you updated on that so be sure and check back here for more news!

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