One of my most common rants about steampunk style involves long-winded kvetching about the forgotten Eastern influences on the genre. I'll spare you the snarky details, but it comes to this: I want to know why I practically never see steampunks tapping into the deliciously decadent culture of India. I want to know to where Captain Nemo disappeared. Considering the rule of the British Raj in India from 1858 to 1957, Victoria's title of "Empress of India", and the 200-year force in the country of the British East India Trading Company (who dealt in tea, silk, cotton, indigo, and opium as well as political oppression), I am rather surprised that very few steampunks reflect this in their garb and choice of music.
However, a band called Sunday Driver was brought to my attention1 this week, and let me tell you–these folks are definitely doin' it right. Their music is a careful and delicate fusion of Indian chant and English folk, laden with formidable female vocals and subtly morbid and mad lyrics (their band name supposedly came from a gene commonly found in mice!). The sound is energetic, crisply recorded, and each song is entirely different, keeping Sunday Driver on rotation over my speakers all week.
Besides being a real, honest-to-god, talented ensemble, judging from Sunday Driver's promotional photographs, they're also a gaggle of snappy dressers. Vocalist Chandrika Nath appears in a brilliant silk sari with the pallu draped over her raven hair, surrounded by bandmates in corsets with parasols, linen tunics, and turbans. Notice the distinct lack of functionless gears here! Take note, my friends! Sunday Driver manages to hone their own perfectly unique iteration of steampunk without touching on many of the overdone cliches.
You can listen to some samples of their music at their MySpace page, or on the embedded player at their website. I recommend "Rats" and "The Gayatri Mantra", which are both available for free download here. As they have "almost – but not quite – earned enough to cover the cost of tea and biscuits at band practices", you might also consider throwing some money at them for their full-length record on iTunes.
1Thanks to Evelyn for the recommendation.