Sahaj: vocals, guitar
Skoota Warner: drums
Ben Carroll: guitar
Sean Corcoran: bass
The sun god. Every religion has one in some guise or another. Think life force. Think birth, death and resurrection. Think all-consuming passion. The ancient Egyptians called theirs RA. It's a fitting name for a band, especially one that generates such passion with its dynamic, multi-dimensional sound--and one that has cheated death in a sense. "Naming the band RA wasn't about tying it in with the Egyptians," says vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Sahaj. "It was more about the actual sun god. The solar system and our planet's ecosystem is completely dependent upon the sun. Plus it's a fiery, passionate image."
Greet RA. The band has revolved around Sahaj in various forms since the late '90s. The real story, however, began in early 2002 when RA's current line-up solidified. It was then that Sahaj and New York drumming ace Skoota Warner were joined by upstart guitarist Ben Carroll and veteran bassist Sean Corcoran, both from the Boston area. The quartet began gigging on the east coast. Soon after, an early recording of FROM ONE's first single, "Do You Call My Name," entered heavy rotation at one of Boston's top commercial stations. In radio parlance, the track received "crazy phones" via request lines. The fans' enthusiasm was not lost on major labels.
When the froth finally settled in the wake of a signing frenzy, RA had aligned with Republic/Universal. Working quickly to capitalize on the momentum, the band entered the studio with Paul Logus (Limp Bizkit, David Bowie), who co-produced the band's debut alongside Sahaj. The success of that creative marriage is apparent throughout the disc's twelve tracks.
It almost didn't happen, though. "I knew I was able to connect with people, but I felt we were never given an opportunity," recalls Sahaj of his early struggles with the band. "After working at it for five years, I finally told myself that unless something amazing happened at the NEMO festival in Boston, I was basically quitting. As with the rest of my life, it all came down to the wire. We played that show, and a month later we were receiving major airplay."
"Do You Call My Name" marked the beginning of RA's rise. The song reflects facets of the diverse cuts that make up FROM ONE. It's exotic yet familiar, heavy yet funky, direct yet sophisticated, sensual yet soulful, unrelenting yet cathartic. It takes only one listen to realize that the question in the song's title is purely rhetorical, and the answer, of course, is "yes." Elsewhere, "Rectifier" combines eerie guitar atmospherics and peddling bass and guitar rhythms that burst into a cloudscraping vocal melody. The aptly named "Fallen Rock Zone" marries raga-esque guitar runs with a stuttering riff tattooed by Skoota's deft snare work and Sahaj's ganged vocals. And the aching "On My Side" chimes to life, gradually climbing to a windswept chorus that's bound to produce classic lighter-waving moments in concert. It's a varied collection of songs, for sure, and yet it all sounds unmistakably like RA.
"Our music can be played alongside that of any contemporary band, and it sounds like all of them and none of them," says Sahaj. "That's the key. I tried to make the music sound familiar yet different." It's all the product of a mind that reconciles opposites with ease. "I wanted to hear Metallica with the Police's Andy Summers playing guitar and Sting singing. It bothered me that there wasn't a band like that, so I formed one," he says with a laugh.
Both Ben and Sean had the benefit of seeing Sahaj perform before joining the band. As a result, they became fans of the music before they were even playing it. "It was heavy but melodic at the same time, and the hooks were totally there," recalls Ben, who first heard the bludgeoning "Fallen Rock Zone" via the Internet. "The music couldn't have been any better for me; it was a perfect match." "I fell in love with the music and the way it was approached and performed," says Sean. "The fact that it was all so new and crisp and clean was a real turn-on. Sahaj is an interesting guy. He thinks a different way. I like that."
Lyrically, Sahaj excels at writing "perspective songs." He gets inside the heads of characters and unlocks the doors that hold back so many people. Not surprisingly, his lyrics feature recurring prison imagery. On "Rectifier," he sings, "I'm stuck on a chain with no linkage, a vagrant lover prisoner." On "Do You Call My Name" he sings, "Nothing ventured nothing gained. You see your fear is your cage." "A lot of rock songwriters have extensive experience with either addiction or bad relationships or something equally destructive," he says. "I don't, so I rarely write from my own experience. I spend most of the time observing the circumstances of those around me. It just became a habit and now I report those observations."
Despite the often dark content of his lyrics, RA's songs usually resolve on a positive note, returning--like the band's namesake--to deliver hope. "Every song has a resolution, even though it may be implied more than literally described," he says. And if his lyrical cadence and word choice sounds somewhat familiar, that also has to do with his observational skills. To pay the bills, Sahaj spent a few summers working for the New York Shakespeare Festival. As head of security, he experienced Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies repeatedly each day. He absorbed the Bard's work through osmosis. "My lyrics don't read like Shakespeare, but he's definitely influenced my work. I learned the rhythm of words from watching his plays."
That interest also informs the band's striking visual side. "The music is dramatic, so there's a theatrical element to our show," says Sahaj. "There's also an element of majesty that needs to be portrayed in the music's presentation. One of my favorite movies is The Matrix, and the look of that film is a real inspiration. A lot of the concepts presented in the film are ideas that feature in our songs." Ambitious? Sure. But Sahaj is confident, not cocky. And now that RA has the opportunity to rise, the sun may never set on the band's output.