*From a Good Family, the debut album of Doctors and Engineers, coincided with the 2016 election. As we find ourselves in a troubling regime, it’s a good time to revisit their music. Kajal talked to D&E band member Jayson Joseph about why their work remains salient.
The first thing I noticed about LA-based psychedelic garage punk band Doctors & Engineers is their tongue-in-cheek name.
“[Our keyboardist] Azeem threw it out as kind of a joke. But it resonated in such a funny and painful way true to our experiences…that it stuck,” band member Jayson Joseph told Kajal.
The bandmates’ families encouraged them to pursue music as children, only to tell them as adults to follow the stereotypically stable South Asian path of a good job and family.
Doctors & Engineers combines the talents of Sri Panchalam on vocals, Joseph on guitar, Azeem Khan on synth and keyboards, Sumi Dave on drums, and Scott Okamoto on bass. The members come from a range of mostly South Asian backgrounds and gravitated towards one another through geeking out over obscure psychedelic bands at Eid parties, connecting at historic open mic events in LA’s Little Tokyo, or inviting one another over to jam.
In the fall of 2016, the band released their debut EP, *From a Good Family, a project that grew out of their experiences as immigrants or children of immigrants in the U.S. Each song on the record draws from band members’ personal histories.
“Sri originally learned ‘Adi Ennadi Rakkamma,’ the Tamil filmi song, so she could serenade her mother at a school graduation party. Sumi grew up touring in Gujarati garba bands since he was a teenager, which inspired the metalcore rendition of the garba song, ‘Mahisagar Ni Aare.’ I fell in love with ‘Karle Pyar Karle’ playing the original version of it in my uncle’s band growing up,” Joseph explained.
The band favorites their original song “Resident Alien.”
“It takes the building blocks of the past, our own experiences, and the strange America we find ourselves in, and creates something beautiful out of that mess,” Joseph said.
The song showcases the band’s ability to merge digital, spacey synths with gentle interludes flanked by ominous, high energy punk rock and sharp riffs. Folk-metal hybrids flow seamlessly into calming lullabies and surf-rock as Panchalam’s voice glides across Tamil, Gujarati, Hindi, and English.
Now a year and a half after the release of their debut EP, Doctors & Engineers is reflecting on their debut release, which coincided with the 2016 US election. Much of the urgency in their music comes from the state of the country and the ever-increasing tension.
“Everyday this administration presents a new challenge to human rights, human decency, and even common sense. We are channeling our fear and stress into making good and inspired music to provide a mirror for these feelings we are far from alone in,”Joseph said.
“We also strive to support our communities in all the ways we can through the music, whether it is holding space at live shows for our communities to be together, fundraising for grassroots causes, or spreading good information, resources, and prompting conversations through our platforms about the roles of progressive desis in fighting this administration, which unfortunately, sometimes includes our own community members,” he continued.
Outside of music, the band’s members find ways to maintain balance and happiness.
“Some of us have other art outlets, like our own solo projects, painting, or recording music for others. Some of us spend time with our animal children. Some us spend time with our human children. Some of us play hockey. Some of us seek out the perfect Los Angeles dosa on the weekends,” Joseph said.
After making their mark on the local scene with their release and knockout live shows, Doctors & Engineers is back at it, writing a new album to be released in 2019.