A Conversation with Bloodywood’s Raoul Kerr on Songwriting and Music Being a Force for Social Change

Folk metal band Bloodywood crafts songs that navigate complex and important issues like political corruption, mental health, and oppression. They also have a distinctive sound that blends traditional Indian instruments and rap with the intensity of metal. They released their official debut album, Rakshak, last year, and they are currently in the midst of their US tour with the same name. Later this summer, the band will be returning to Japan for two shows. APA spoke with Raoul Kerr from Bloodywood about the band’s experiences on tour, their collaborative songwriting process, and the message behind the music.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

APA: Congrats on embarking on the Rakshak tour and on releasing the debut album! How has the tour been so far for you all?

Raoul Kerr: It’s been pretty great. We just played our two first shows and they were wild, especially Seattle. Portland kept the party going, but Seattle was arguably our loudest show. Because it’s so fresh in the memory, we’re calling it our loudest show ever, but I think it’s a close tie between Glasgow and Seattle. Like it was fucking loud!

Also, this was the first time we’ve been to these two cities, so it was one hell of a welcome.

APA: How does this feel different from the last time the band went on tour?

Kerr: We went on our first ever tour in 2019. And then COVID hit, of course, but we were fortunate enough to be able to woKerr on our debut album during that time. After the album release, we toured consistently since last July. And we go home this July, so it’ll be something like nine or ten months of the year that we’d have been on tour. So, yeah, it’s been a crazy run.

We’re really happy with how our amazing supporters and the press have received this album and how it’s done online, but it’s great to be back in person. We did like four shows in India to start with, then we went to Japan for the first time, which is crazy. And then we did a festival run across the UK and the EU. After that we had our first ever U.S. tour in September. 

I don’t know how many people know that our support base has been at least 50%, if not more, from the U.S. when the band started. They’ve really helped us get where we are today, and we finally felt that in person. So much so that we knew we had to come back and do another tour. And we’re here less than eight months later–back for more!

APA: It must have been very exciting to perform in Japan and several other cities for the first time.

Kerr: Yeah, exactly. The [supporters in the] U.S. have been the backbone of the band ever since we started out, and Japan is like the most recent love story. After traveling abroad quite a bit, a lot of places began to feel like home. For example, in Germany, we kind of knew our way around and had spots we wanted to go. It feels very normal to be in those countries now, and this is all thanks to the amazing support and love that our supporters over there have given us. 

For Japan, even though we’d been fans of Japanese culture, there we rediscovered that excitement of traveling abroad and seeing something completely new to us. And the love we felt from the audience there was amazing so that we knew we had to come back for more, similar to how we felt in our U.S. shows. So we’re doing both those things right now in the final run.

APA: The band writes meaningful lyrics that are grounded in personal experience, and I can imagine the writing process is probably also very emotional and cathartic. Can you talk more about how you all come up with lyrics?

Kerr: We try to cover issues in both the individual and the collective, whether that be from a political or social point of view. For songs about individual challenges, it either had to come from our own experiences or the experiences of friends and family, and sometimes even our supporters. We’ll reflect on how we felt and the experiences we had, and come together to combine those feelings during the songwriting process.

Actually, our songwriting starts off with the instrumental. We all listen to the instrumental and decide what the song’s message will be based on the feeling of the music. Oftentimes, we’ll do our own things and then meet to put together the song as a whole. 

One song that comes to mind is “Endurant,” which is about bullying. And I think we had one of our most open, heart-to-heart conversations, where we opened up to each other about difficult experiences we’ve been through. After that, we stayed in the studio for 72 hours until we finished the song. 

APA: It’s neat how you draw inspiration from your supporters, who in turn find strength and meaning in your music. And there’s such a strong, brotherly bond between the bandmates, how did you build that, or did you all click when you first met?

Kerr: The one thing which we will take credit for is that we always make the effort to have honest and open and unfiltered conversations, whenever the need arises, good or bad. But at the same time, I’d say 90% of it is just pure chemistry. We just got lucky that all of us clicked.

APA: Going back to the lyrics, you all sing in English, Hindi, and Punjabi. How do you decide which parts will be in which language? And are there things you feel like you can express better in one language rather than another?

Kerr: It’s actually pretty instinctive–there’s very little pre-planning that goes into figuring out what language we are going to use for which part. We’ll go with whatever we feel works the best, and usually it’s not something we have to talk over much. Before this album, we’d spend all our time in the studio to jam out a song whether it took two days or two weeks. But for the album, because of the size of the task at hand, we’d worked individually and came together to put things together.

APA: Sounds like the group is on the same wavelength most of the time! Do you ever disagree on things while writing songs?

Kerr: Yeah, and maybe the most “hardcore” disagreements occur when two of us prefer something but one of us disagrees. But if someone is completely opposed to something, we’ll respect that and make sure we’re doing something that everyone is on board with. It’s a rare case though and has happened only like twice, and usually finding a compromise is pretty easy. And they’re fun compromises; it’s like two sides of the coin since we tend to have similar preferences. And the results are really cool.

APA: They are indeed. I really appreciate how even though there are a lot of layers in the sound, it’s always clear what you should be listening to and how the parts fit together.

Kerr: That’s really great to hear, and there’s actually an interesting story behind that particular concern. The one song we took the biggest risk with is “Dana-Dan” because it has a very complex arrangement with many parts, vocal tones, and instrumental sections. There are a lot of parts flowing into each other, and to us, the pattern of the song is clear, but we weren’t sure how the audience would respond to it and if they would feel like it was too much. So we were really happy when the audience was able to hear the song in the way we intended.

APA: Do you ever ask your close friends and family for feedback on your songs?

Kerr: We do, but to be honest, we never changed songs based on the impression of friends and family. We’ll mainly just gauge how much they’ve enjoyed it. Their reactions don’t always predict the public response though, like our friends and family tend to be very right or very wrong. So it ends up being down to the three of us, like if we love it then it’s going out there–simple as that.

For example, when we showed our song “Ari Ari” to our friends and family, they just said “Yeah it’s cool, it’s nice”, but I and the band absolutely loved it, and we figured it’d be a bit wild, especially for international audiences.

APA: And when the band really believes in the song and the message, the audience feels the authenticity behind the music.

Kerr: Yeah, and there’s no other way to do it. In my opinion, you can’t write about feelings or experiences you haven’t had before. We also address issues and challenges worldwide. A lot of people assume that “Dana-Dan” is about sexual assault only in India or that “Gaddaar” is about religion and politics only in India. These problems definitely manifest themselves in our country, but the reason we write about them is because they’re global problems. If you look at the lyrics, they’re really written from a global context.

APA: Do you see yourselves as activists, and how do you maintain hope in the face of global injustices that we hear about daily?

Kerr: There’s this quote from Interstellar and also a poem that goes “Do not go gentle into that good night, / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” For me, it means that you’d rather go down swinging instead of living your life with a sense of defeat. I think if you can do something about it, you should. 

We’re also the biggest fans of anime and superhero movies, and we want to channel that attitude in real life. Going against impossible odds and doing everything you can. We’re really inspired by stories of our supporters and by the opportunity to take action. Our supporters are much more than people who vibe to our music, they also respond to the message beyond just the music. So that’s a massive inspiration for us to build a coalition of people around the world who are ready to create change, and we want to become big enough to use our position to make an impact beyond just making music. 

We were really grateful for whatever we’ve been able to do so far, but we also have much, much bigger ambitions.

APA: Is there anything you can share about your goals this year and what the band is looking forward to?

Kerr: Honestly, we want to create a better world. I say it in a very general way, because it is general, because the problems are so pervasive. Even when we’re talking about the climate crisis, we have to have the collective compassion to do something about that. We have to first overcome stuff like racism, corruption, and so on. We want to attack on all fronts and overcome every single challenge. And even if that doesn’t happen in our lifetimes, we still know that our ambition will live on through our music. We’ll die fighting if we have to.

APA: I love that spirit, so inspiring. Before we wrap up, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?

Kerr: We’re touring the U.S. as we speak with a stacked lineup, and this will be our last run before we go home to make our next album. We’re going coast to coast until the end of May, and we’re planning to go out with a bang, so catch us while you can!


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