Arts and Entertainment

Meet Chepang, the Nepali band in New York taking grindcore by storm

- Pranaya SJB Rana, Kathmandu

Feb 22, 2019-

Chepang take no prisoners. With two drummers and often two vocalists, this band of Nepali immigrants to the US produces music that is fast, hard and loud. Their first EP, Lathi Charge, came out like an explosion, with screeching guitars, pounding drums and a vocal style that switched effortlessly from growls to screams. With their full-length album Dadhelo—A Tale of Wildfire, the band began to dominate the hardcore scene in New York, where they are based. Dadhelo was hailed by a number of music publications, including Rolling Stone, Vice’s Noisey, and Decibel Magazine. They even got a shoutout from Anthony Fantano,  self-proclaimed as the “internet’s busiest music nerd”. The band — composed of Surya Pun aka Himalayan Leopard, Gobinda Sen aka Hammer, Sanket Lama aka Bhotey Gore, Kshitiz Moktan aka Captain Bhudey aka Tone Lord, and Dipesh Hirachan aka Mountain God — calls itself ‘immigrindcore’ and has toured across the US and parts of Europe, playing energetic shows that one Rolling Stone writer called a “a twisted, resolutely avant-garde sound that also happened to be a hell of a lot of fun”.

In this email exchange with the Post’s Pranaya SJB Rana, Chepang talks about their unique sound, what constitutes ‘immigrindcore’ and their approach to political music.

 You guys appear to have made quite a splash in the grindcore scene in the US. But I have read that you started in Kathmandu before moving to the US. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started and how you managed to all move to the US to form a band?

 We started the band in Queens, New York. We have known each other for couple years now and even decades for some of us. Since we all had mutual respect for each other, we did not hesitate to make this project happen when we saw the opportunity. Now, after all these years, more than a band, we are all a big family.

 So you have two drummers and two vocalists, which is quite a unique set-up not just in grindcore but any other genre. Why did you choose this set-up?

 We didn’t really plan for this set up from the start. In fact, our first EP, Lathi Charge, only has Hammer on the drums. But on our first tour Kshitiz pitched in an idea of adding Surya on the second drums to make it sound more dynamic, which it did. Now we just keep experimenting with different instruments and sounds to create this organised chaos.

 Your sound is really unique. It's heavy but I find it much easier to listen to, as someone who generally doesn't listen to grindcore. What do you think makes up your approachable sound?

 We have always focussed more on the ‘groove’ and the ‘flow’ while writing songs. Even though we like to play fast music, we do realise this is not a race to see who finishes first. Playing the right thing at the right time is our priority and we pay attention to every single detail. Maybe that’s what resonates with listeners who find it catchy.

 Your music seems to mix elements of grindcore, hardcore, punk and some other genres. Is there one genre you identify with?

 No. We don’t support categorising music or anything in general. The idea of separating things and drawing a line between them has done enough harm. Why can’t you be all genres at the same time or even none? There is nothing more in the world we hate more than elitists and purists. Every time someone uses the term ‘fake grind’ or ‘pure grind’, I just want to yell, “Who the fuck are you to decide that?” We play extreme music and that’s about it. If our music needs us to steal your chick to make our songs sound sick, we will do that.

 What's up with this 'immigrindcore'? How does your immigrant experience influence into your music?

 Our music projects who we are. We grind and hustle as hard as we can in our life and in our music. We are definitely not the kind to sit down, whine and give out excuses. We make the most of what is available to us and take pride in adapting to whatever the situation is. The only direction we see is moving forward. We believe the only thing that is stopping us from doing anything is ourselves. We do not take anything for granted and there is nothing more important than our friends and family. This is what immigrindcore is--a lifestyle.

You guys seem quite political in your music and your beliefs. I've read interviews where you've talked about the constitution and the recent changes in Nepal. Where do you think Nepal is currently? What do you think about the political situation in Nepal today?

To be honest, we feel very disconnected with what’s actually happening in Nepal. Some of us haven’t been back for more than a decade. We can only get an idea of the situation through the media and word of mouth. You don’t really get the entire picture until you experience it yourself. But it does seem like people have woken up post-earthquake and started accepting the reality and making positive things happen. Until the mindset of the general population changes, nothing will change. Blame it as much as you want on the government, but you won’t get a dime out of it. The system is flawed because the ideologies you live by are whack.

 In Trump's America, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are higher than ever before. Does this channel into your music? What is your view of the USA of today?

 It’s not a secret that the US has a dark history of racism. All things considered, Trump or not, this issue needed a major spotlight. People living here need to understand the level of ignorance the majority of the population has. After pointing fingers for all these years, the tables have now turned. It is an interesting time to live in and to see what the outcome will be.

 Do you believe music should be inherently political? Especially music like grindcore and punk that are aggressive and have a history of political activism.

 Not necessarily but it is an excellent platform to lay out your views, considering you find a lot of open-minded progressive individuals in this community. You can talk about whatever you want, but I prefer to see it as something positive and optimistic or at least enlightening to some extent. We have passed the point where talking about serial killers, gore and nonsensical brutality used to be cool.

 Are there any Nepali bands that you guys count as influences? What do you think of the grindcore/hardcore scene in Nepal?

 There are few bands that are creating quality music these days and they have our support. What I’ve noticed with most bands is they want to play big venues and stages with thousands of people. I don’t think that’s the right approach. Try to organise smaller DIY shows in bars and bhattis and create a solid foundation first. You’ll learn and appreciate what you’re doing more if you’re hauling your gear and trying to fix the sound yourself rather than posing as rockstars and demanding more shit on the monitor from the sound guy after every song. From the streets to the stages, this is how this game is played. On a personal note, Vishal Rai from I2ST/Jugaa/Neck Deep in Filth, needs to pick up his guitar again and bring back the hard style to the streets of Nepal.

 There are a couple of Nepali musical acts from New York, but they are completely different from your sound. Do you get along with other musicians in New York? Who do you jam with? Who influences your sound?

We are friends with a bunch of musicians living in New York City, namely Diwas Gurung, aka Himalayan Halen, who sometimes shreds his guitar with Chepang, and BZ Yonghang and his Baba G Society, who are repping the mean streets of Jackson Heights.

 What would you say has been the high-point of your career as musicians so far?

Every new day is better than the last and we are blessed to live to see it.

 You guys have enjoyed one level of success in the US and you've also toured parts of Europe. Do you think you will be coming back to Nepal for a show anytime soon?

 I’ve said this before and I am saying it again. Until someone drops some serious money on us, we are not coming to play Nepal. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is not about the money--we just want to see how much guts these ‘top dogs’ are packing. So far, all that has been seen is a whole lot of talk, which happens to be very cheap. Until then, our music is free on Bandcamp. Please enjoy!

A Chepang member performs in a concert in New York City, United States. Photo courtesy: Hillarie Jason

Published: 23-02-2019 08:00

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