Spud in the Box on their debut album, being full-time musicians, and Baba Sehgal
Posted on 24 November, 2016 by Team Wishberry
Image credit: Parizad D/Spud in the Box
Mumbai based Spud in the Box released their debut album, Lead Feet Paper Shoes, in September. In my letter to them about it, I had asked them if we could sit together and have a chat. They accepted. I was invited over to their chilling pad in Juhu where I met vocalist/synth ninja Rohan Rajadhyaksha, guitar player Ankit Dayal, and drummer Joshua Singh.
This one was much unlike other interviews. It was not a conversation between me and the band. It was a conversation between the four of us, with me mostly playing audience. The Spud boys are so beautifully conversant and incredibly clear about what they want to do with their music and the way to do it. I was taken back to the days when Spud in the Box was a band fresh out of college, making waves in the Mumbai indie music circuit. They have stood up to that reputation with everything they have done so far, and I am sure they will continue to do so even in the future.
Here are the excerpts of my conversation with Rohan, Ankit and Joshua.
How did you guys come together? You guys met in college, right?
Ankit: Yeah. Well, he (Joshua) was still in school.
I was in my first year of college. Basically, the college was putting together a band for college competitions, because the entire band which was competing for Jai Hind till that point had graduated. So they had all these auditions and stuff at the time. On my first day of college, someone came up to me and was asking, “What do you do? What talent do you have?”
And then they would tell you to go to this room after college... And then I met Sid, Vivaan and Zubin. We were a part of the college band for a while. Next year Rohan joined Jai Hind and Teji joined Jai Hind. At that point, both of them were also in the band. So, we were the Jai Hind College Band for a year...or two?
Rohan: A year.
So you basically just changed names after that.
Ankit: We didn't really have a name that time. Nobody really cares about names of a college band.
No, but after that.
Ankit: Ya. So, the first few gigs we got were a different thing altogether. Like that Revival of the Bandstand thing.
Rohan: That was our first gig actually. Though, before that we had done a couple of acoustic gigs, before I had even joined Jai Hind. Like the Early Set at Blue Frog. A couple of originals I had and a couple of originals he had, so we did those.
Ankit: Blue Frog had a rule that time for the Early Set. You had to have originals to be able to perform for that one. I think Zain, when he was programming, he had this rule. If you have a couple of originals, come perform and we'll pay you five grand (five thousand rupees). As a college student that was awesome, you know, to do an hour long set and get paid five grand. But I think it died out after that. Like, anyone could approach them and do an early set. Then after a year or two, the Early Set itself died out.
But ya, that's where we started. So as and when gigs came, we played.
So, all of you are full-time musicians, right?
Ankit: Basically, ya.
Sid is the only guy who has had a few jobs. He worked at a magazine; he was working in a hotel also.
Rohan: But that was also early on. It was right after college that he worked for a while. Then he did TSM (True School of Music), and now he has also moved full-time into music.
Ankit: Ya. Now he is doing music for ads basically, with Zain.
How does that feel like, being a full-time musician?...
Rohan: It is interesting.
...I mean, do you think it is still a far-fetched dream to be a full time musician with an indie band in our country?
Rohan: Not really. Plus, one needs to define indie. What do you mean by indie? Everyone uses that word differently.
Yes, it is thrown around quite a lot.
Rohan: Yes. But, it is also open to interpretation.
Basically, everyone without a major label is an indie artist, right?
Ankit: I think for Indian musicians, it is now possible to have a full career.
Rohan: People are making money off YouTube, man. Indian people, just off content, and the commercial work/corporate work that comes off content, are making money. That's a way to monetise your talent and that's fantastic. So it’s happening.
Ankit: How far they get, in the commercial space or the indie space, is a different thing altogether, because there is a lot of them.
Joshua: Even when you say ‘full-time musician’, I don’t think anyone is categorising them as only an indie musician or only a commercial musician.
Ankit: Indie bands are also different. I mean, there’s a chance that the band won’t survive past the first two years. Everyone is iffy about, you know, knowing that this band is worth investing your time and money into.
But, now there are so many bands like us which have been around for 5-6 years.
So ya, it is becoming more and more commonplace now for musicians, at least, to be sensible enough to balance it so that they can do both (indie and commercial) consistently. So, I think consistency is the only difference.
Joshua: And also opportunities. Like he said, YouTube and all these things.
Earlier, either you were in Bollywood and there was HMV or something. Or there was Magnasound and stuff like that, and there was Alisha Chinoy and the others; that was a whole new tree of things. But, outside of those two square boxes, there wasn’t much.
Ankit: There was Baba Sehgal those days.
Since we have chanced upon that, what do you guys think of Baba Sehgal? There are too many people hating on him.
Rohan: I don’t hate him at all.
Joshua: I think he is an entertainer.
Ankit: How can you hate him, yaar? He is so honest about what he does and he knows he is an entertainer. He played at NH7 (Weekender 2015, Pune)...
Rohan: Oh, dude! That set!
Joshua: Bro, people loved it!
Ankit: And at the opening of the set only he was like, ‘you people are too fancy and shit; I don’t give a fuck. This is my music.’ (sic) And he just did what he did, man.
Oh, yeah. I was there. It was a ball!
Rohan: It got so crowded for me. Like, I started retreating towards the back; after some 4-5 songs, I was like, chalo, things are getting wild.
Joshua: I literally had a bucket, and I lost all the people I was with. So, I was just sipping on my bucket standing there, watching Baba Sehgal. I was in a happy place.
I think everyone has a weird story from that set.
Let’s move to your set. Lead Feet Paper Shoes is kickass. I think I have said it all in my letter about the album.
How long did it take to make the album?
Rohan: All our lives.
Ankit: Yes, this… this feels like it has been all our lives.
Rohan: That’s the case with every first album, I believe. I mean, if a band cares, an artist cares, it is your whole life, because it is your entire experience up till that point resulting in that thing.
Ankit: It’s been...basically, it’s been two...a little more than two years that went into the studio to record the basic stuff like drums, piano, guitars, acoustic guitar and all that.
Joshua: 2014… September-October 2014.
Ankit: September we went in, and mid-October or something we got out.
Then we took a break to make some money for the album. About 6-8 months later we recorded vocals in Hariharan’s studio in Powai.
Then it took a while to get to mixing. When we started mixing, we took our own sweet time.
Rohan: 6 to 8 months.
Ankit: We finished recording in March and we thought…
Rohan: We thought we’d finish the mixing by October. Geniuses.
Joshua: We thought we’ll release it a year before we actually released it.
Rohan: We could have released it, you know.
Ankit: Ya, we could have. The songs were there, the parts were there. But something else to make it more than just ‘a’ recording; or just more than just that there were six people playing on a stage, because people had already seen that. We knew we had to take it a step further from what you experience when you see us live is one thing, but what you experience when you hear a song over and over again is going to be a different thing. Should be a different thing; should be something that lasts more than just two hours on stage.
Rohan: And we arranged and recorded the songs in a way that, you know… keeping in mind that we want the listener to keep coming back to it and finding new things in it. So, around last year when we wanted to release it in October, we hadn’t realised that we would need time and space in the mixing and mastering process as well to make sure those things came out.
So when we were coming up against that date we were like, ‘oh, shit. It’s sounding good, but it is still not telling the story we wanted to tell a 100%’.
Joshua: Like a lot of production work of the recording process happened in the mixing stage. Before that we were like, we have our instruments and we are going to play the songs like this. For example, Use Your Words, man. That song turned around a lot.
Rohan: It turned out exactly how I wanted it to.
Joshua: No, I mean, I did not imagine the synths and all in that one.
Ankit: But, that’s what. A lot of those things happened while it was happening. We had also planned a little bit, in terms of, you know, we want to layer things; we want to have that, you know, multidimensional thing to this part or this part should sound like this.
Rohan: Like, I knew I wanted an arp, I knew I had my voice sample, I knew I had a pad. Now, which hard and what pad was something we had to look at.
Ankit: We had the instruments, but we had not tried all of that stuff happening together at the same time. So it kinda gave us the freedom to, you know, to make it sound like what it was in our heads.
Joshua: Even Bullet Points, man, and a lot of those songs. Now we implement a lot of those dynamic changes or whatever you’d call in our live sets.
Ankit: Which is why for the Bombay launch, we had to take out like a good two week to figure out how we are going to translate the album now live. Because we can’t go back from the album.
Yes, because people start expecting that.
Rohan: And also because we have played these songs before to the same crowd and to different crowds over the years in a lot of different forms. But since we had not played Bombay for a while and since we had this album out, we thought we should try to be as true to the album sound as we could. So that even people who have heard it before are hearing it in a fresh light, they’re hearing it as a fresh package and it feels new.
Joshua: And it actually made it sound fresher, man. Like, the Kochi gig did not feel as fresh as the launch gig.
Rohan: I swear I have had this anxiety and this weird thing about, you know, the last time that we played the launch gig for the EP, like literally the next day after launching the EP, playing those songs felt weird. Like, they didn’t feel right. Before that day, it was fine. It is a psychological thing.
But, thankfully, this time it didn’t happen.
As in? The album felt right to you and that’s why it didn’t affect you guys, is it?
Ankit: Yes. For me, at some point of that whole last mixing stage or the mastering stage, I got there psychologically that I am happy with this album now.
Rohan: Same here.
Ankit: Like, ‘it is giving the information I wanted it to, it is giving the feel that I wanted it to. So now I don’t want to worry about it. I just want to make sure that the components that are doing that in the song, we are able to do live.’
So from that point, once all of us got the focus of, you know, making this work live…I don’t think we got that time to do that during the EP. We released the EP and went on tour the next day, and then 5 days later, the tour is over.
Which is why the time between recording, releasing, and launch is so important.
I am glad you took so much time. The album does sound fresher, and a lot different than what has been going on. I mean, most bands either go into that really mellow post-rock kinda zone or they stick to the in-your-face, hardcore stuff.
Rohan: I feel, and I might be very wrong here, but I feel that those genres are getting more and more popular because that’s what’s easier to make at home. The thing is you could play your guitar, use your soundcard and make a lush pad or make a super gritty tone. But, finding that middle sweet spot and that dynamic, and something that requires that much range is harder to do at home.
Rohan: And we have been lucky enough to have spaces where we could jam and to record stuff, even in a simple way, you know, on a soundcard, one by one, whatever. But because in our heads, we are stupidly set so high in general, we kept our music so open to the idea that you can capture so many things in audio. And, you know, actually do these things and not be limited in general.
So, I guess in that way, the process is different so it would sound different.
Joshua: Also, like earlier you said, when did we start writing the album. Only with the second album now we will know the day we start.
That’s when we will have an answer.
As the sun set on the horizon across the Juhu waters, our conversation had to end. Things were to be done. I got myself a signed copy of Lead Feet Paper Shoes, and all felt well with the world.
A few days later, the band left for an album tour across the country. The country deserves to see what magic they have put together in Lead Feet Paper Shoes and they deserve to show the country and the world. With bands like Spud in the Box, it is safe to say that Indian indie music is well and truly on the rise qualitatively. And we know we need it.