When Chai Met Toast: Meet the young Kochi band bringing together the East and the West

In the short time that the band has been around, it has earned a loyal fan base for itself with honest, happy music they make.
When Chai Met Toast: Meet the young Kochi band bringing together the East and the West
When Chai Met Toast: Meet the young Kochi band bringing together the East and the West
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A boxer, a painter, a mime and a model – all of them have a struggle. The artists grapple to make a place for themselves and their art in society, on one hand. On the other hand, they must also fight the internal battle against the conventions they have been conditioned into.  

This fight is something that almost everyone attempting to create art experiences relates to, says Achyuth Jaigopal, who works the guitar and banjo for the band, When Chai Met Toast. “But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Because at the end when you create your art, the struggle is worth it,” the 21-year-old says. And this is precisely what the band wanted to portray in their recent music video Fight.

Released on August 15, Independence Day, what sets apart Fight from many other portrayals of artists’ conundrums is the colourful, pop-art theme. Directed by Ganesh Raj of Aanandam fame, the video features some foot tapping music with the refrain “Fight a different war”.

Watch it here:

Fight is the band’s first single after their EP Joy of Little Things which was released last year. The Kochi-based band is a four-piece project with Ashwin Gopakumar on vocals and guitar, Palee Francis on the keyboard and Sailesh G Pai on drums, apart from Achyuth.

They describe themselves as a “band from the land of coconuts” which takes inspiration from “the lighter side of life” to create “heart-warming, happy and smile worthy” music.

Early beginnings

When Chai Met Toast was initially a two-piece project consisting only of Achyuth and Ashwin. The duo met in 2014 at a music café in Fort Kochi when Achyuth was doing an internship. He asked Ashwin to do the vocals for some music he was recording. That’s when the two realised that they worked well as a team.

They came up with the name When Chai Met Toast which represented the coming together of Indian (chai) and Western (toast) influences in their music. “Ashwin was the chai and I was the toast,” laughs Achyuth.  

They were soon joined by a common friend Richy who played the keyboard. However, when he left for Australia to study and Ashwin moved to the US, the band disbanded temporarily. Meanwhile Achyuth joined the Raghu Dixit project and toured with Dixit from May 2015 to August 2016.

 Once Achyuth returned to Kochi, he and Ashwin decided to get together again and expand the band.  They were joined by Palee and Sailesh through mutual friends – and that’s how When Chai Met Toast as we know it, began.  

Now, most of their music sessions start on WhatsApp, says Achyuth. He and Ashwin generally work together through voicenote recordings on rough tunes, and refine it when they meet. Palee and Pai come in at this stage and put the track together with the keyboard and drums. “Palee is a programmer as well, and takes care of the recordings and ‘magic’,” Achyuth says.

Achyuth adds that they do not want to compromise on the production and mixing quality, which is why they have another team member Vivek Thomas, who does precisely that.

While all of them are full time musicians, Achyuth is still studying some online courses from Berklee College of Music. 27-year-old Palee is also a freelance programmer and Sailesh (26) teaches drums at a music school.

Apart from being the vocalist and social media manager for the band, Ashwin is also pursuing playback singing in the Malayalam film industry. The 27-year-old lent his voice to Payye Veeshum Kaatil in Aanandam and Dulquer Salman’s upcoming Solo will also feature his song Roshomon.


Lend an ear to their previous tracks like Firefly and Joy of Little Things, and you’ll realise that their description is reasonably accurate. Their music reminds the author of folks rock bands like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, sometimes crossing with the likes of John Mayer. With a definite Indie bent, Achyuth describes their genre of music as ‘neo-folk’.

“We do have Western influence in our music, but we draw heavily from our Indian roots as well,” Achyuth says. “Our instrumentation would appear Western, but our vocal lining and structure remains Indian,” he adds.

While their songs are in English, they do interject a Hindi or Tamil line at a place or two.


While the band itself is only over a year old, When Chai Met Toast has gathered a loyal fan base with their pleasant, relatable music. Their music video Fight has been doing well too, having garnered almost 70,000 hits on YouTube in less than a fortnight.

They are currently on the Fight tour and would also be performing at NH7 Weekender in Shillong later this year. 

“It’s been overwhelming to see the love and appreciation we have received in such a short time. It reflects in the scale of shows we are being invited to play at. We only hope to continue making more happy, honest music,” Achyuth smiles. 

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