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Phosphenes: Unknown to many, the band are showing a new light in Nepali indie music

(L-R) Aman Karna, Abhishekh Pokhrel, and Prajwal Aryal have been playing together since 2016. Photo: Phosphenes

Whenever Abhishekh Pokhrel, Aman Karna and Prajwal Aryal get on stage, there is complete silence. The trio, parts of this one-of-a-kind indie folk/pop band, Phosphenes, does not have a lot of fans, but whenever they do a show, they have a full house.

Their songs are soulful and mellow. Musically, they have many layers and lyrically, they are relatable. In a short span, the band are touching the hearts of thousands of Nepalis who had been crying for Nepali indie bands.

“The love that we’ve received since we started off has been overwhelming,” says Pokhrel. “It’s been an eventful journey which we want to continue for years to come.”

Pursuing the potential

The trio started off in late 2016 and since then have produced an EP and released seven singles. Now, the band are releasing their debut album Sullen Days on July 9, which they have been working on since 2018. Along with that, they are also working on releasing another EP, with only Nepali songs, as they want to treat the fans who have stood by them all these years.

“We hope people will like what we’ve been able to produce. The songs in the albums aren’t restricted to a single genre as we’ve trying to bring something new while keeping our core values intact,” says Karna.

The band got together in 2016 after Aryal and Pokhrel met Karna at a charity gig in Kathmandu. Both Aryal and Pokhrel were already into producing songs by drawing influences from artists like the Beatles, Nick Drake and Damien Rice. But, they knew they needed one more member who could complement them and help them reach the next level.

“We were looking for someone who could help us with electronics. When we saw Aman [Karna] at the gig playing electronics, we thought he could be a great addition to our band,” says Pokhrel.

Karna already had an idea about the duo before they approached him. He had been impressed with the raw version of their single Dust, but he was a bit sceptical about having been a part of the band that were yet to fulfil their potential. But after a while, he agreed to join the band with one major objective on his mind; making sure the band fulfilled their potential.

“Abhishekh and Prajwal were great singers and songwriters. I told them from the start that we had to put in all our energy to make sure that we reached our full potential. Since then, that is what we’ve been working hard to achieve,” says Karna.

They had a fourth member, Supriya Moktan, but she left in 2019 after she landed her dream job. Before that, she was a part of the band when they released their first EP ‘Know This Time’ in 2018 which had four tracks including Dust, the track which put them on the map.

Delay for the debut album

Since then, they have been working tirelessly on releasing their debut album – Sullen Days. They had targeted to release it by 2019, but with Moktan leaving and the band producing new songs, they had postponed it to 2020.

“We had 14 tracks lined up, but we kept chopping and changing the songs as Prajwal and Abhishekh wrote new songs which we felt were better than the ones we had listed on the album previously,” says Karna.

Lockdowns also did not help as they wanted to do a show prior to its release.

“Things don’t always go as planned, but we’ve refined our music and are hoping that people will like this album,” says Pokhrel.

The album is being released on Noodle, a portal on which musicians can sell their music digitally. Out of the 14 tracks, the album also has two Nepali songs Eklai Huda and Estai Nai Hola.

“We’ve tried to do different things in this album as we’ve tried to add some alternative, indie folk, synth-pop and rock vibes to it,” says Karna.

But, the core music is still the same they say as they want to stay true to their values which have brought them this far. That said, they do say that their sound has evolved a lot since they released Know This Time as their own playlist has evolved with time. They have also worked with great music Nepali music producers like Diwas Gurung and Rohit Shakya, which they say has helped them look at things differently.

“Working with Diwas dai has been amazing. He’s been of great help to us as we feel that he gets us and the type of music that we want to do. It’s the same with Rohit dai whose feedback has been invaluable,” says Pokhrel.

Eager to expand fanbase

They are now hoping that they will be able to do a show after their release as they have missed being on stage with singing for their fans due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“It’s been too long. Our fans are quite loyal as we’ve started to know some of them on a first-name basis. We really do hope that things get better soon and we can play them some of our new songs from the album,” says Karna.

Their plan after that is to go to India and play at various festivals as they feel that they need to tap into another market because they believe they have what it takes to go global. And, with their type of music being popular in India, they feel that spending a few months there might give them the break they have always craved for.

“I think we have reached a saturation in Nepal because our music is still not as popular as the likes of Bipul Chhetri or the Shadows who can tour all over Nepal,” says Karna. “That is why we want to go to India where this type of music is booming thanks to the likes of Pratik Kuhad and Peter Cat Recording Co.”

Since almost 90 per cent of their songs are in English, they believe that they might be able to tap the Indian market and get a new fan base in Nepal’s neighbouring country.

“It’s not going to be as easy, but we have to give it our best because we believe in our music and believe that we have what it takes to succeed.”

You can buy their album here.

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Pant is a journalist currently working for Onlinekhabar. He writes on movies and music, travel and mountains, and culture among others.

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