(from left) Andy Mayer, Joe Harbulak, Rishi Bahl
Interview by Richard Schmid
Eternal Boy front-man and founder of the Four Chord Music Festival Rishi Bahl has taken on a new venture in the form of Four Chord Music, an indie record label based here in Pittsburgh, PA. Recently I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Bahl to discuss his latest foray into the music industry. Eternal Boy will be releasing their debut album since changing their name from The Spacepimps July 15 at The Smiling Moose. Here are the highlights of that discussion.
SSE: So, you’re Rishi Bahl?
RB: Haha, yes I am. Dr. Rishi Bahl
RB: I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I mean I am a doctor, I have 2 PhDs.
SSE: What are they in?
RB: I have a PhD in Marketing and I have a PhD Rhetoric and Philosophy.
SSE: So, you founded the Four Chord Music Festival?
SSE: You’re also the front-man of Eternal Boy?
SSE: Is there anything I’m missing?
No, those are the three things, Eternal Boy, Four Chord Music, Four Chord Music Festival.
SSE: Why did you start Four Chord Music?
RB: I originally wanted to do a record label rather than a music festival, but it was so hard to convince bands I was a good person to work with and sign them, so I did the festival first to help build leverage, and Eternal Boy picked up so fast, I figured it was the right time at age 29 to do the record label, because my PhD is in marketing and a record label is a way to market the music.
I signed my first band in May, they’re called A Summer High, and they’re a poppier punk band.
Their manager has been in the music industry for 40 plus years in very, very large capacities and they wanted to punk up the band, They wanted the band to have a punk ethos, and so they wanted to go on an independent label before going on to a major. And I had a conversation with them when Eternal Boy was recording in New York, where their manager is from, and I told him what I thought I could do with the band and he called me the next day and said that Four Chord Music would be the right place. First band, flagship band, they want a lot of attention to it.
SSE: How long have you been a musician?
RB: Define a musician, I guess that is the question.
SSE: Let’s go with performing in public.
RB: You know what’s funny, is that I feel like I was more of a musician when I didn’t perform in public than now when I do.
I played piano from first grade to 10. I guess early 2000, like mid-2000, that I started the Space Pimps, and got stuck with the name. And then things kinda really picked up quickly with the Space Pimps and decided we couldn’t grow under that name.
SSE: Does your love of politics ever influence your music?
RB: Good question, I uh, no. I try to keep politics and music separate. It’s hard to. Ah, only because if I take what I learned in marketing, which is don’t alienate the consumer, I don’t wanna. Music can be for Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, progressives, you know, libertarians. I would rather music just affect people in a positive way. With Four Chord in 2014, we had Anti-Flag, I love Anti-Flag, I love political music, but in our music, it’s not. It’s more about nostalgia, growing up, how bad it sucks growing up, and so on and so forth.
SSE: What are your favorite bands of all time?
RB: My favorite bands of all time are Blink 182, New Found Glory, The Starting Line, The Ataris, those are my favorite bands of all time. Politically, my favorite punk bands of all time are NOFX, Bad Religion, Anti-Flag. But like I grew up mid early 2000s like you did, so the big record label that I’m trying to mirror with Four Chord Music is Drive Through Records…. The early 2000s record labels really influenced me.
SSE: How have your experiences in Eternal Boy/The Space Pimps affected your decision to launch Four Chord?
RB: It’s pretty much the only reason I did launch it. I guess I hadn’t really thought about that. If it wasn’t for being in a band I never would have gotten into anything musically at all. The festival, the record label, any of the above. I mean, the band was the impetus for it, you know. Oftentimes, with all my PhDs, I feel like I learned more being in a band than in school. Just cause, it’s about the grind being in a band. You gotta love going on tour and love selling your cd to strangers. It’s so much a grind and if you don’t love the grind, you can’t own your business or start your own business or do anything in the music industry. I love that word, “the grind”, too… Like, think about if you’re going to med school. IF you don’t love chemistry, biology, microbiology, like you’re not going to survive. What’s the point in doing it?
SSE: Whats the meaning behind Four Chord?
RB: Oh, great. You know, I’ve done maybe a hundred interviews about Four Chord, you’re the first person to ask about how it came to. So, there’s this joke in pop punk, that it’s super easy to play. And it certainly is.
SSE: There’s only four chords in any song.
RB: Right, exactly, so you only need 3 to 4 chords for any song. One of my favorite bands of all time, The Ataris, they have a song from 2000, or 1999, it’s called Four Chord Wonder. That’s the derivation of the label and the festival. It’s kinda like a play off that. Some of your favorite bands that you listen to, they use those four chords. They’re part of this festival. This is what the community is about, it’s about simplicity and feeling. It’s not about complexity and musical theory, you know what I mean? And that’s what I think the staple in pop punk is, it’s simplistic but it makes you feel so much. There’s not many genres that can make you do that.
SSE: What do you have in store for Four Chord Music?
RB: For the label or the Festival?
RB: So, the festival is going to be on the 10th of September. Same venue as the last couple of years, and then we’re probably going to grow. I would love to do Pittsburgh and one other city, or a larger version of it in Pittsburgh.
For the label, I’m still figuring it out as I go along, but the goal is for Eternal Boy to chart on Billboard for our new release, which comes out on July 14th. That would be probably one of my lifelong things I’ve wanted to do in the Music industry… So if you have a top 200 album like that, for an independent band that’s never happened. And same for A summer High. I would love to see A Summer high chart Billboard. But you know, it’s my first two releases, I think those are really ambitious. I just want to continue releasing music that I like a lot… that’s what the point of the label is, to develop bands… I just want to help bands a bit. Nurture their sound and get the most people to hear them.
Four Chord Music is currently a one man show operated by Rishi Bahl. The company was officially incorporated May 1st and announced in mid-May 2017. The label currently hosts two bands, A Summer High and Eternal Boy, and is looking to add on two more acts to hold four acts in general. The associated Four Chord Music Festival will take place Sunday, September 10th. Eternal Boy will be releasing their latest album, “Awkward Phase” July 14th, and flagship band A Summer High will be releasing their CD this summer. Eternal Boy’s website is www.eternalboymusic.com, and A Summer High’s site is www.asummerhigh.com.