During summer 2008, Arthi Meera went on a national tour as singer and keyboardist with the band 1997 (Victory Records). During an 11-week tour, Arthi and the band did 35 shows in 24 states, spanning the continental United States from Washington to California to Florida to New York.
And in October 2008, Fair and Kind—the duo of Arthi and her brother, Anand Subramanian—released its debut CD, A Little Past Twilight. Arthi’s voice is clean and pure with zero vibrato. Anand’s voice is reminiscent of that of Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay, and the two siblings’ voices complement each other beautifully.
I first interviewed Arthi for India Currents during summer 2007 (“A New Voice: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Arthi Meera,” June 2007). At that time, she had just released her self-titled debut solo CD, and she had begun working with Anand under the name Fair and Kind.
In this recent conversation with Arthi, we discuss her just-completed tour with 1997, the debut album of Fair and Kind, and her upcoming plans.
I understand that the tour with 1997 was your first national tour. What did you enjoy about it?
I loved being in a different city every night. I loved meeting all of these people I would not have otherwise met. We traveled in a van, with a trailer for our equipment. There were seven of us—the five guys in the band, me, and a merch (merchandise) girl. (laughs) It was a life-saver having another girl there!
Did you all get on one another’s nerves?
These guys have known one another since high school, so they are like a family. Once I got used to being with them, it was great—it was like having five little brothers! Certainly, little brothers can sometimes be annoying, but at the end of the day you love them.
What did you dislike about touring?
Driving at night meant that you couldn’t see the country. For example, in the west we’d be driving all night through the mountains, and you could tell we were driving through mountains but you couldn’t experience their beauty .
What did you and the band do for lodging?
We mostly stayed with fans. Sometimes fans would buy us hotel rooms.
When we spent nights on the road, I didn’t mind sleeping in the van. There was a bench in the back of the van that I liked. And I had an amazing sleeping bag that I bought for only 30 bucks!
Did you learn anything technical from the tour?
I learned how to properly sing into a mic when you can’t hear yourself well. We didn’t always have a good mix through our monitors, and a rock band can get really loud. Learning how to sing under those circumstances was really useful.
Have you started working on your second solo album yet?
I’ve written most of the songs and now I’m practicing them. I expect to start recording in early 2009. Also in 2009 I’ll be playing solo shows with a full band around Chicago and regionally.
Let’s discuss a few of the tracks on A Little Past Twilight. Why did you open the album with “The Signal”?
We opened and closed the album with “The Signal” and “Last Song for Now” respectively because they both exemplified the airy, dream-pop sound we were going for with the album.
In “November,” you and Anand sing the same notes an octave apart through the entire song.
Yes, a lot of bands with a male and female singer do that. We love that sound, but we didn’t want to overdo it, so we limited that technique to that song.
“When We’re Good” has a different feel from the other tracks.
Yes, we wanted that song to sound like a ghost prom.
What’s a ghost prom?
(laughs) You know, a prom for ghosts! Or maybe the regular prom is over and then the ghosts come out and have their prom.
Now that you say that, I can actually picture ghosts slow-dancing to the song! So what’s next for Fair and Kind?
In 2009 we’d love to do a few mini-tours in the United States, as well as some acoustic shows in India. In the meantime, we’ll try to get the album out there, try to get it written up in blogs, and so on.
Is there a story behind the name Fair and Kind?
Yes. In the American TV show The Office, there’s an episode where Kelly invites the office staff to a Divali function. Michael Scott thinks it’s like Halloween, so his girlfriend wears a cheerleading costume. Kelly’s parents ask Michael whether she is his wife, and he says not yet. Then Kelly’s father says, “She’s very fair.”
And Michael says, “Yeah, she’s very fair. And kind.”
|Ranjit Souri (rjsouri [at] gmail [dot] com) teaches classes in improvisation, comedy writing, and creative non-fiction in Chicago.|