Pineapple Express solidifies their genre blending expertise with the brilliant new EP, Passages

By Ranjini Achuthan

Midway through Passages by Pineapple Express, we begin to realize that throughout the EP, we are witnessing the tumultuous journey of a fighter pilot struggling to navigate hard choices between his ideals, integrity and survival.

Passages has been unintentionally inspired by our collective state of mind in the new normal, which happens to be dark and existential. It is an allegorical reference to the journey of humankind in 2020. With the pandemic continuing unabated in the backdrop, the common man is constantly distracted and waging futile wars against trivial and farcical issues.” Says Karthik Chennoji Rao, the English vocalist of the band.

Yogeendra Hariprasad, the lead songwriter and producer of the band reveals that a lot of thought and process has gone into rendering authenticity to the story being told. Take the instance of simulating how a real military communication would sound like. A plug in was created with elements such as bit crusher, distortion on vocals with radio filters along with layers of actual radio static, beep sounds and the right amount of compression as well as military vocal histrionics so that the listener is transported to the world of a battlefield. Karthik (KC) plays the part of the pilot throughout and Ritwik Bhattacharya, the guitarist, lends his voice as the air traffic controller.

This outing by the band has been their most collaborative and honest work till date.

Says Yogi, “Prior to this EP, I used to compose and program the arrangement, over which I usually have a few options of hooks and vocal melodies. KC and I then conceptualize the theme and with the inputs of Arpith who handles Hindi, write lyrics over the melodies. This is usually followed by recording, which is my favorite part, because a lot of magic happens in that flow, and every member adds their unique flavour to the songs. This used to be the general flow, but this time, there's been some involvement of Ritwik and KC on all fronts from the beginning; Both of them were involved in the actual songwriting process. KC wrote some vocal melodies and also played acoustic guitar in a lot of sections. So did Ritwik. Similarly, Jimmy usually sings Hindi. KC usually does English. But here, for the first time ever, we have Jimmy singing English parts on Paralyze and Ritwik performing vocals in Relentless.

Also, this happens to be Jyothish's first release with us, which makes it all the more special! So yes, this EP definitely has a couple of firsts for us.

The one thing that sets this apart from the rest of our music is the fact that we’ve grown closer. We went from playing on stage to thousands of fans, week in and week out, to sudden isolation. Having been unable to see each other for weeks, we found tremendous value in the connection we share. When we finally got together, this music became an exact reflection of all the things we had felt and experienced during that time. It was meant to be.”

Ritwik adds that this is the band’s quickest work till date, taking only a couple of months. Not being able to meet all the time was the biggest hurdle, but we worked very quickly whenever regulations were relaxed, and got results. Every time the members came together the work was being created spontaneously and organically. This lockdown saw some of the most productive sessions we have ever had.

Yogi insists that just like how the EP as a whole is a sum of its parts, each song in Passages has been designed in such a way that it is a collection of musical sections that speaks for itself while maintaining an unbreakable flow.

He elaborates further, “If a listener decides to focus just on the drums by Gopi Shravan it will tell you an independent outlook about the song, providing a fresh wholesome experience in itself. Same would go for the guitars and so on and so forth. Arjun MPN on the flute solos provide the quintessential uniqueness to all our creations. We try to infuse a purpose to every section of the song so that every single time the listener listens, he or she gets to discover something new in the song.”

Upon listening to Pineapple Express songs, we find that they tend to change perspectives by means of contradictions in lyrics. With such dark theme running throughout the songs, we even find verses from Bhagvad Gita in Destiny. This EP is as metaphysical and metaphoric as it can get. If Vultures is about repentance, Destiny is about misplaced priorities. Relentless is about self-discovery and Paralyze is about surrender.

Karthik feels that musically every song in the EP has seen rules being broken, barriers being crossed as the band has let go off any inhibitions they have had until now. “We’ve always been advocates of change and breaking barriers.”

Relentless, according to everyone in the band, is the most sophisticated, theoretically sound among the tracks in the EP. It has a lot of shifting around of scales. The verse, pre-chorus, chorus all emit different vibes. While most of the song is on C sharp, KC’s verse is on G sharp.

Vultures on the other hand toy between the 5/8 and 4/4 time signatures. During the outro, the guitars have been down-tuned severely and therefore it sounds really brutal and heavy.

Destiny has gangster rap sections for which it was important to nail the crowd/ choir sound. KC had a voice processor called the TC Helecon Voice Live which he had sold to somebody else. We got it back for a few days and made a new preset on the voice processor and that’s how this huge sound was created”, elaborates Yogi.

Paralyze as a song, is the most accessible track with a catchy hook and therefore would cater to those listeners who are prog beginners. This track has Jimmy handling the English lyrics.

“We’ve collaborated with some wonderful artists and friends on the EP. Shravan Sridhar played the violin on Destiny, and Walk the Waves did additional arrangements on Paralyze. Also, the album art was done by Sushant Vohra. We saw it and knew it was exactly what we wanted. I think it perfectly represents the sound and the metaphorical themes of the lyrics”, adds Ritwik

Passages has been mixed by Adam Bentley who incidentally worked on their single Anthem in 2018. Yogi himself executed the mastering duties for all the songs.

At the moment the whole stream video of the EP is up, similar to Uplift. Some online gigs might be in the offing according to the band’s manager, Mr. Subhash Rao of Gravity Talent.

The serious followers of this brilliant set of musicians have something to look forward to with the band revealing that they are already working on a full length album, “We can't talk about release dates as of yet but we are excited to take this journey forward!”

Pineapple Express is a Modern-Fusion, multilingual band with a quirky blend of emotions and genres with catchy hooks, sing-along melodies and unique songwriting. Visit official website here.