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Interview: Dymbur discusses new single “Back Home”, expanding internationally

Dymbur is an Indian experimental metal sextet based in Shillong. Since forming in 2011, they’ve changed lineups and simultaneously facilitated clear stylistic growth. The band would spend time revamping their sound to include influences of Khasi Thraat folk, a traditional style created by the Khasi tribe, who populate the state of Meghalaya, in Northeast India. The result reinstates familiarly dense, down-tuned guitar melodies with a spacious, atmospheric, and contemporary resonance, earning their recent material international acclaim.

Alongside a new sound, Dymbur also incorporates a socially conscious lyrical approach. Their latest single and accompanying video, “Back Home,” centers around a young man’s escape from a brothel back to his family, having previously been sold off as a child sex worker by his homophobic father. I caught up with Andreas War and Mayson Dkhar to discuss the single, as well as the rock scene in India, the band’s burgeoning international presence, and what they’ve gleaned in being together for over a decade.

Growing up, what was your earliest exposure to music?

Mayson: My dad inspired me to get into music, basically. He’d listen to these songs by Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Manowar. That’s how I really got into listening and playing music, and metal music, especially.

Andreas: For me, it was through my parents listening to Elvis and The Beatles – all the oldies, you could say. As I grew older, I got into classical music and church music. Then, most of my friends growing up became metalheads on the local circuit, and once I was introduced to a band called Pain of Salvation, that’s how I got into metal.

That’s cool! I know in India, there have been several big rock artists with hit songs that aren’t internationally known. Rock Machine had “Top of the Rock,” Gary Lawyer had “Nights on Fire”, and as far as metal, a prominent band also from the late 80s/early 90s was Millennium.

Both: Yeah, yeah!

It’s a shame, because even with distribution by EMI and BMG, the scene doesn’t get enough recognition, when the music is otherwise awesome. Were you guys aware of the rock scene over the years?

Andreas: Oh, very much so, dude. But even now, the country has been predominantly dominated by Bollywood; anything else outside of that, we don’t [gravitate toward], you know? Of course, the rock bands were who we’d follow. Rock Machine is now called Indus Creed.

Oh yeah, Indus Creed!

Yeah, in fact, those guys performed in our town a few years back. They’re good guys – really good friends of ours, and we keep in touch from time to time. But that’s what’s down to the rock scene.

At what point did Dymbur come about?

Mayson: Eventually, Cornelius [Kharsynthiew] and I formed this band, and we’re the only two original members in the band right now. We met each other back in 2011, and being musicians, we had to borrow instruments from others in the scene, because here in Shillong, it was hard even back in those days to buy instruments of our own. He wanted to form a side project, so he called me up and said “Could you please help me out? I’m searching for a bass player,” and I told him “Even I play bass!” So he was like, “That’s cool; come on over.” He invited me into his studio, and somehow, we just clicked!

Has it always been difficult to maintain a solid lineup, especially with these circumstances?

Mayson: Yeah, yeah. it’s very difficult, but I guess that’s all a part of being in a band (laughs).

It’s cool though that your chemistry with one another persevered. Even on your first album, you sound very tight. These days, what marked the transition toward the style you have now?

Andreas: That transition happened because of the pandemic. In fact, had it not been for the pandemic, these guys were lined up for an Indian tour; there were quite a few gigs lined up across several states in our country. But as we were in lockdown for these two years, that’s when Cornelius decided to change the direction to folk metal. That’s when the lineup changed, and four other guys (myself included) came into the band.

Speaking of your integration in particular, how did you come into Dymbur, as well as adapt to these changes?

Andreas: Me, personally, I’ve known the band a long time. I was supposed to manage them initially, but was too tied up with work. Then these past two years, when they changed their sound to folk, I became part of the band because I was also interested in their musical aspect.
As far as adjusting to these changes, it is different. There’s a technical aspect to it as well that’s very new to us. It’s not like when you break a string on a guitar, where you can easily replace it and fix it up. With traditional instruments, so many factors come into play, you know? If it’s too hot, for example, the strings on those kinds of instruments wear and break down and you have to retune the whole thing. Some of our instruments are made of wood, and our [jaw’s harp] is made of bamboo. I think we’re all still in the learning phase.

With your recent single, “Back Home,” and especially the video, your new phase of the band also centers around controversial subject matter. What kinds of challenges did you face in this process?

We had approached a few production houses, and with the heaviness of the topic, they simply weren’t comfortable working with the script for the video. So, we approached it ourselves, in our own studio. Given that our previous singles, “Rape Culture” and “Child Abuse” were also similar in subject matter, we felt we’ve had a bit more experience going into the video for “Back Home.”

As you’ve delved into more substantial themes, how do you feel your overall approach in the band has evolved?

Andreas: Over the past ten years, these guys developed their own sound, and the content of that material was different back then, but now with this lineup, our direction of metal with folk is a part of that change. Behind all of that, we also want to make it big as a band, you know? At this point, we made up our minds that if we were going to compile these songs into an album, it would deal with these kinds of subjects, and give people something substantial to talk about. Based on that, we wanted to go all out with these songs, and our future material will continue to deal with heavier content.

It has worked in your favor, as these songs have earned a lot more reception than your first album. Do you feel as though you’re reaching an audience now that you otherwise hadn’t once thought possible?

Andreas: Definitely. Especially with communities around the world, they’ve given us a lot of attention. They aren’t really aware of what’s happening in India, so a lot of what goes on here always seems to be brushed aside; it never makes the news, you know? We’ve got a mountain to climb yet, but a little bit of awareness goes a long way.

Mayson: Yeah, it’s a new kind of shift in the process, and it’s meant a lot to us. It plays an important role in spreading awareness, and I hope this extends throughout the world, so people are more aware of what’s really going on.

These days, what have you guys learned about yourselves, both as musicians, and as people?

Mayson: Personally, this band has taught us so much in terms of making sacrifices, and has changed us for the better as individuals. Music has saved us along the way, and we’ll continue to do this for as long as we can.

Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Thanks for all your support! We have more music planned for you in the future, and we hope to tour again and play live for you guys one day.

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About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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