Fondly called the Mumford and Sons of India, When Chai Met Toast is a multilingual indie pop-folk band that recently came into the mainstream spotlight when Farhan Akhtar announced his next film Jee Le Zaraa.
For the uninitiated, Jee Le Zaraa is a film starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Alia Bhatt, and Katrina Kaif which is going to be directed by Farhan Akhtar and written by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. It was announced on the 20th anniversary of Dil Chahta Hai and will focus on the trio of girls going on a road trip. It’s slated to go on floors by September 2022, and the approximate release date will be sometime in 2023.
Apart from being a film about a girls’ road trip featuring three of the leading ladies of Bollywood, what caught the public’s attention was the song Firefly that was used in the teaser/announcement.
Firefly is one of the songs that brought recognition to this four-piece band from Kerala. Immensely popular in the indie music scene, When Chai Met Toast has often been compared to The Lumineers and John Mayer – their signature sound is a perfect amalgamation of the west and east, and that is the reference to the chai and toast in the band’s name.
The band consists of Ashwin Gopakumar (Vocalist), Achyuth Jaigopal (Guitarist), Palee Francis (Keyboard), and Pai Sailesh (Drummer). The band came to life when Ashwin and Achyuth met in 2014 at a music cafe. Finding that they had similar taste in music and worked well together, they decided to partner up. Palee and Sailesh then joined them in 2016 – they all knew each other from the music circle of Kochi.
The band came out with their first EP, Joy Of Little Things which had three songs – Beautiful World, Firefly, and Joy Of Little Things. Their songs were appreciated as it was like a breath of fresh air. The band’s songs have often been termed “happy,” and “infectious”; they believe that they are simple, happy folks, perhaps reflected in their music. The songs in this EP also represent the same – almost a child-like wonder at the beautiful world brought to life at night by the lights of fireflies – the songs explore life’s simple pleasures.
The songs are mostly in English but often feature a line or two in Hindi, Malayalam, or Tamil. Nee Aara is their only song that is entirely in Malayalam, while Kahaani being their only Hindi song. The simple lyric of their songs also helps connect with the public as they are easy to follow and remember.
The band came out with their second EP in 2018 titled Believe. It features four songs – Khoj (Passing By), Who Are You, Believe, and Forever. This EP features a slightly more mature tone though nonetheless warm, and traces the journey of discovery, finding oneself, believing in them, and ultimately an amalgamation of all these feelings, which leads to a celebration of the self. (My favorite track from this EP is Who Are You – thought-provoking and poignant.)
The band’s first full-length album, When We Feel Young, is supposed to feature eight tracks, out of which five have already been released. Moving slightly away from the folk, this album features more of a pop vibe and reminisces the younger days – the happy days of childhood, first love, and even heartbreak – all the emotions one feels while growing up. The first track to be released was the preppy Maybe I Can Fly – a song about freedom, feeling liberated, and moving on. The official visualizer is also stunning.
The next track Ocean Tide is a light-hearted take on young love, while Kahaani (penned by Ankur Tiwari) is about the acceptance that comes with maturity – things might not work out, and some stories remain incomplete: “Kahaani yeh adhoori sahi, Poori hogi phir kabhi.” Another version of this song was also released – a duet with Pavithra Chari, which is equally heart-touching.
The song Break Free portrays a heart-wrenching tale of the relationship between a parent and the child, complete with its ups and downs. The video guarantees wet eyes – it follows the story of a young woman and her father. The titular song When We Feel Young is about happy memories, love, and looking back to the past fondly. The official video released for this song is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Apart from two EPs and an album, they also have a few singles – Fight, Nee Aara, Hop Stomp, and Run Closer (one of the songs you’ll always feel like going back to!). The band has recently released a series called Nature Tapes, where they do acoustic renditions of their songs in natural settings, surrounded by nature and its beauty.
Their niche following of dedicated fans have mixed feelings about the band’s song going mainstream. They are happy that the band is finally getting the recognition they deserve but are saddened that their “secret little gem” is no longer a secret!
Having attended their live concert, I can guarantee that they are just as good to live as their recorded releases (if not better). The pure joy they feel for music transcends from the stage and into the crowd, and the energy is infectious! So if possible, do check out their music and shower some love on this happy bunch of highly talented musicians.
Edited by Prakriti Arora