Rock’n Roll Renaissance Man: Vir Batra
Rock'n Roll Renaissance Man: Vir Batra
From flying drones in Malta to reading the entirety of Leo Tolstoy’s 1300-page War and Peace, Vir Batra does it all. By day, he’s a third-year Bandier student learning every nook and cranny of the music industry. By night, he’s a rockstar, jumping, singing, and playing guitar on stage with Studio89 or Picture Us Tiny.
But today, he’s at home taking it easy, sinking into a comfy brown couch with one leg crossed over the other. Self-assured, yet unassumingly, he says, “I’m just trying to dip my toes into everything.”
Batra’s electives alone give you a sense that he really means it: Conversational Spanish, Writing about Music, Philosophy of Feminism, Emerging Media Platforms, and Russian Literature – twice.
After conquering War and Peace last semester, Batra enjoyed it enough to retake the class with a whole new list of books — Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and In the First Circle, and more.
Ironically, Batra, 21, doesn’t consider himself a big reader because “that’s a lot of pages.” But if there’s anything he’s in for, it’s a challenge and a new experience to broaden his global perspective.
Batra was born in Kolkata, the vibrant city known as India’s “cultural capital.” He and his family soon moved to Mumbai for a few years where he grew up on old Indian movie soundtracks and classic rock. But as he got older, garage rock, punk, and grunge became his thing.
“Green Day was one of the first bands I ever properly listened to,” Batra says. “Still do. Still love them.”
You can hear the influence in Studio89, Batra’s band with Bandier classmates Nick Beebower, Jesse Herman, and Sam Parrish.
Studio89 brings out an Arctic Monkeys angst in “Casual Conversations for the Sake of Conversing,” and jams with a Sugar Ray spirit in “Jesse’s Song.” Yet they still find that in-between sweet spot with “On Your Own.”
After moving to Singapore in 2013, Batra has gotten used to the omnipresence of western music and culture.
“Singapore’s a very westernized version of Asia, so the step [to Syracuse] wasn’t that different. In fact, it’s almost like I stepped back a little bit when I came here since Singapore’s way more developed than the US,” he explains.
Yes, it is hard to beat Singapore’s fast and reliable public transport. However, Batra has a Toyota Corolla.
“Having a car is super great, super helpful. Basically, whenever I can, I leave Syracuse,” he laughs. When the weather’s right, Batra and his friends hop in the car and get out of town for a weekend of camping in Watkins Glen, Ithaca, or Niagara. For people as curious about the world as Batra, there’s always somewhere to go and something to do.
Batra lists off: camping, soccer, video games, and impromptu construction projects. “What else do I do in my free time?” he asks himself.
Someone walking up the hall chimes in, “You don’t have any free time, man.”
That’s Lucas Aguilera, one of Batra’s seven roommates (eight if you count their cat, Cleo). They all live together at “Oz,” a multi-story duplex on Clarendon Street nicknamed after a Wizard of Oz-themed graffiti mural left behind in the attic by previous tenants.
“We were like ‘I guess we have to carry the name forward.’ So we do, and we do a good job with that,” Batra says.
Oz has become quite the party house. Thanks to the basement’s high ceilings, spacious dancefloor, and ambient green and purple light bulbs, Batra says they can bring in up to 250 people on a good night without it feeling cramped or overwhelming. Whether he’s hosting a guest DJ, supporting his friends’ bands, or fronting his own act, Batra certainly tries to make Oz the place to be.
Bill Werde, director of the Bandier Program for Music Business and the Entertainment Industries at Newhouse, calls Batra a natural showman. “So many student bands get on stage, and they’re too cool, you know. They act like it would somehow be an awful thing to act like they care about what they’re doing. Vir is just of a different kind of vibe. He lays it out there,” Werde says.
And as a creative, that’s all you can really do — give your all in all you do. Batra works part-time in the Newhouse recording studio, interns for Venice Music Collective, a digital distribution company, and juggles anything else he can squeeze in time for.
“Vir’s a charismatic dude,” Werde continues. “He’s the kind of person that if he puts his mind to it and decides that’s what he wants to do, he could literally do anything.”
That includes his lifelong dream of living and working on a large homestead with a music-themed Airbnb.
Batra clarifies, “I don’t want to hide myself off the grid somewhere crazy. I just want to be sustainable.” Keeping an open mind and a level head, he says, “The main goal is just to be happy and not get lost in some routine I don’t want.”
Given his track record, there’s no doubt that wherever Batra goes, it’s bound to be as adventurous and interesting as he is. If you can keep up, follow him on Instagram @virbobbatra and @studio89band.