The Playboy Psychonauts: Sitar Toting Indianapolis Lounge Music

Deep in the swank island nation of Casanovia, there was a fabled club called Club Ishtar, home to the suavest musicians this side of Barry White. But the suavest of the suave was Ravi Sinatra, a groovin’ sitar player who plucked the hearts, minds, and libidos of the patrons of Club Ishtar. Flanked by his associates and friends, bassist Bootsy Bishop and drummer Buddy Martin, Ravi Sinatra put the island country on the map before sinking it in a wash of fire, brimstone, and bass lines. So goes the story behind The Playboy Psychonauts, a sitar based Indianapolis band. Sure, it’s absurd, but once you see the Psychonauts live, you just might believe they came from a mythical lady-killing paradise.

The Playboy Psychonauts ostensibly play lounge music, but it’s lounge music fronted by an extremely talented sitar player, something you don’t see too often. While lots of sitar music operates on a different tonal scale than we Indianapolis residents are used to (probably because it’s an Indian instrument) and includes a heavy drone element, frontman Ravi Sinatra plays the sitar like Eric Johnson plays the guitar. Heck, the Playboy Psychonauts have even been known to play a pretty good cover of “Ring of Fire.” Melodic licks merge into scaling solos, free form noodling somehow coalesces into  full fledged jam outs without warning, and the strong rhythm foundation provided by Bootsy’s bass and Buddy’s percussion turn the whole performance into a cohesive, head nodding experience. It may be relaxing Indianapolis music for a lounge, but it’s incredibly well put together lounge music.

Video of The Playboy Psychonauts performing a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” live at Radio Radio in Indianapolis


If you haven’t guessed from the mythical, tounge in cheek backstory of The Playboy Psychonauts, this is a band that’s prone to goofy displays of energy and oddball humor. Obviously, a Playboy Psychonauts show, while not the most intense of Indianapolis events, is a great way to kick, back, relax, and have some light hearted fun. The band even has a pair of Go-Go dancers, Betty and Veronica, at each one of their shows. Though the lounge trend among Indianapolis bars may have disappeared sometime during the 80’s, the vibe continues today with The Playboy Psychonauts.

The Playboy Psychonauts have performed at a number of different Indianapolis music venues and Indianapolis fairs and festivals. They were a part of the Indianapolis Theater IndyFringe Festival in 2008, where they instantly drew in passerby with unique sitar action. Other Indianapolis bars and Indianapolis nightlife venues the Playboy Psychonauts have frequented include The Melody Inn, Radio Radio, the Vollrath Tavern, the Knickerbocker in Lafayette, Indiana, and many more. A popular part of the Indianapolis music scene, The Playboy Psychonauts have performed with Mumbai Taxi, the Leisure Kings, Mucca Pazza, and many other Indianapolis arts groups.

Though their native land of Casanovia might have sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, The Playboy Psychonauts braved the rough Atlantic Ocean, the soul-swallowing temptations of the East Coast, and miles of Midwestern farmland to reach their new musical home, Indianapolis. Now that they’re firmly planted in the Circle City, perhaps it’s time to re-open Club Ishtar?

For more information on The Playboy Psychonauts, including news, concert dates and locations, song samples, and more, visit the The Playboy Psychonauts’ homepage.

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