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An Interview with the former Baby Gopal front lady Sri
By Sounni de Fontenay
(more articles from this author)
1998-12-16
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Sri, you might remember her as the front lady for Tommy Boy Records' Baby Gopal. Well, Baby Gopal is no longer with Tommy Boy and Sri is no longer with Baby Gopal. She is embarking on a solo career and is preparing to blaze the hardcore scene with her upcoming release. Find out more on this native Australian singer/songwriter.

[SDF] How did your love of music develop?

[Sri] I always loved music and in Australia we were fortunate enough to get a lot of English as well as American content on TV and radio, so my style of music is heavily influenced by both. I can mention some amazing British bands that were just a part of my growing up that some of my American friends have never heard of. Because of that my music tends to have some of the lushness and texture of British pop mixed with the heavy guitars of American rock. Also, now that I look back I can see that my family was quite musical in an unconventional way. My sister is an opera singer and lives in Switzerland now and my father owned a venue that international bands would play. So I saw some great bands when I was very young.

[SDF] What was the local scene like?

[Sri] There were some cool bands but honestly the vast majority pretty much sucked. There is no suffering in Australia so there is very little good art, just a thought.

[SDF] Why did you leave?

[Sri] What I said earlier, seriously though, that played a small role, but you have to understand that Australia is a country the size of the United States with only 16 million people. So the traveling distance for a touring band is great but the population is small, so it is hard to move ahead. As a songwriter you can have a gold record and be broke, the same in America can float your career. Also, Australia, as much as I adore it, is a bit of a cultural wasteland and as an actor and general rocking out chick! I wanted to go somewhere that could support my art. Most Australians go to London and the rest head to the good ol U.S. of A.

[SDF] Where did you decide to go?

[Sri] I was planning on going to L.A. and actually did go there for a couple of weeks but I had met some American musicians in India a few months before and they invited me to the east coast to go on tour with them and I just sort of ended up in NYC. It was very unplanned, but there I was for 4 years. It's taken me that long to get back to the west coast! So I toured that summer with the band shelter [not in the band, just tagging along like an extra suitcase]. By the end of it I had met some of the best musicians I have ever played with. They weren't "muso's" on the technical side, but the kind who are incredibly talented by nature.

[SDF] You lived and studied Vedanta in the Himalayas. What was it like? How did it change your music and your view on life?

[Sri] It didn't really change my rock music, well maybe lyrically. Anything that effects my world view effects my lyrics. As far as the music, sometimes I incorporate traditional instruments like mrdanga and karatalas but that particular example was for an album track that was more like a soundtrack for Platoon or something. Besides ambient album tracks keep it separated from the rock. Although I would like to do something beat oriented that has the ambience of the east. I also put out bhajan CD's/tapes independently. These are of me playing traditional instruments like the harmonium [actually this was invented in the days of the Raj, in lieu of the piano] and I sing Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali devotional hymns. They're not huge sellers, but my fans really dig them.

[SDF] Once in New York City, you formed a band called Baby Gopal. How well did the band do?

[Sri] I adored Baby Gopal. I loved the sound we created which was like a combination between British pop, American punk and hardcore. Really crunchy guitars with girlie pop melodies. We released a bunch of records on the Get- Go/Caroline and Victory labels. For an independent band we really floated ourselves with a lot of touring in America and Europe. We had great college radio airplay here and commercial airplay in Europe. Then wanting to take it to the next level we signed to Tommy Boy records who were launching a new rock division. Things didn't work out, although not for personal reasons. All the other rock bands that were signed except for one already released split with the label too. The only regret I have is the time wasted. Musicians are normal people with goals and time frames and most are prolific, so it can really ruin band moral when things are pushed back repeatedly, especially for a touring band like us. You tend to tour a record for only so long before the fans hanker for more. I love major label budgets, but you can't beat how quick the Indie's get your product on the street coz they're depending on you to sell it and they don't care that Mariah Carey is releasing her record this week and you're in competition... ya know?

Sri [SDF] How many recordings did the band come out with?

[Sri] We released two E.P's with Get-Go/Caroline and one full length CD with Victory Records out of Chicago and La Banda Bonnot in Europe. I also released two bhajan CD's independently.

[SDF] Why did you leave Baby Gopal?

[Sri] Two things, one, the Tommy boy thing went sour and some of the members lost moral. I can understand that, but I wasn't going to let something so irrelevant stop me from playing music so I am continuing solo. I was a little disheartened, but then I started getting all these emails from fans begging me to keep going. I mean it's amazing how fast news travels coz I was getting emails from far out places like Paraguay, Italy and Poland! Also, I had always wanted to settle on the west coast coz it's more like Australia with beaches and surf and it's a shorter distance to get home to a hot Aussie Christmas. So I thought this would be a great time to move and start a great new chapter in this perilous adventure otherwise known as my life.

[SDF] How are the scenes in New York and L.A. different?

[Sri] I think the scenes are very different. For starters NYC is pretty avant-garde artistically whereas the rest of the country can pretty much relate to the music that comes from the so-cal scene. Artists that are popular in NYC tend to be popular only in NYC as they would probably scare most of the mid-west silly. But then again, Marilyn Manson is from Florida, so who knows. But generally I think Southern California (so-cal) is more in touch with the rest of the country and everyone drives, so they're always listening to the radio, so I think rock radio is stronger over there. These are all just thoughts, although I will say, that out of all the bands that I personally know from so-cal all are nationally famous acts, I can't say that for the musicians I know in NYC. The only one I know is Samantha, the new drummer for Hole, and she's now in L.A. - so I am not sure if there is some conclusion to be drawn from that.

[SDF] Now that you are no longer with Tommy Boy, are you signing to another label?

[Sri] Definitely, I am already working on new material and stuff that we had been touring with between our last releases and I am ready to go. But I am not dependent, I don't mind releasing stuff myself, I know I have a fan base so I can always cover costs. That's the great thing about developing loyal fans, they are actually loyal! I have already hooked up with local musicians on the west coast so I am pretty lucky.

[SDF] How would you describe your musical style?

[Sri] On the one hand it is straight in your face, unashamed pop music, but at the same time there is a crunchiness that is tough and then an underlying texture which is pretty creamy. It is sort of like a chocolate coated candy bar! Lyrically I've always tried to be a little poignant, or at the least upbeat. But who knows I might get a little dark coz of some of the stuff I've had to go thru recently. Although I maintain a strict rule not to get too preachy no matter what I feel strong about. Realization is personal and all you can do is share your feelings. The Smiths were a great example of that, even when they were professing their views on, say vegetarianism, they would add a comic element that would diffuse any self righteousness. Morrissey is a genius in some ways.

[SDF] Tell me about your new solo project?

[Sri] It the best thing I have done to date. It's the perfect pop record, what more can I say?

[SDF] What message do you try to impart with your lyrics?

[Sri] I really just try to share my thoughts, although I have got such a great response over the years from fans that I realize it has been a major part of the bands' popularity. Also when you look at artists like Alanis Morrissette, whether you like her or not, you have to admit it is her anthemic lyrics that make her so relatable.

[SDF] Are you satisfied with the album?

[Sri] yes

[SDF] What lessons have you learned from your years in music? How have you and your music evolved?

[Sri] I've learnt to always give your best performance regardless of how obscure a town or show might be coz it's from all these bizarre places that you get the family of people that become fans. Also I've learnt to hold on to the constants of life and not be bewildered by constant flux that comes along with being a musician. Any job security is an illusion whether you're an engineer or an artist, you just have to love what you do. I've also learnt that videos last a lifetime, so be careful what you wear!


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