Suryakant Sawhney on Peter Cat Recording Co.’s upcoming album, Bismillah, and his solo project, Lifafa
When it comes to the indie music circuit in India, Delhi-based Peter Cat Recording Co., with their kitschy-cool aesthetic are the heroes of the genre. Their characteristically retro Hindi music-inspired electronica meets Sam Cooke vibe is complemented by their eclectic album covers. The band recently announced their new album, Bismillah, that they define as a culmination of their journey. We speak to frontman Suryakant Sawhney ahead of the Bengaluru gig, where he will also be playing tracks from his solo project, Lifafa’s new album, Jaago.
You've just announced Bismillah with PCRC. You said it's a "culmination of your journey". How so?
For us it's the culmination of a sound. The idea of how we made music itself. So much of our ideas are rooted in the past and we’ve explored those in a newer, refined way but I think we all realised, that we’ve come to a point, where we were ready to truly explore a new, unencountered musical and artistic space. This album rounds up what we had left from our past and is an album of transition leading us into a completely blank canvas. It's a celebration of the voyage.
Are you addressing any particular issues or themes through the music?
I think while the album generally has a mood of celebration, the writing is extremely personal and very inward looking. I like to explore issues of lifelong guilts, the guilt of holding people back or ignoring the mass injustices we see daily. Being used as an instrument of labour. PCRC’s music has generally been very philosophical, aimed at the hearts of individuals as opposed to larger societies.
What's the story behind the name of the album?
The cover of the album has my father in law on it. He enjoys saying “Bismillah” as a replacement for “Cheers” before drinks.
How much of a departure is it from the band's earlier music?
There is a significant jump in the production quality, which came from a combination of finally raising our own production skills and also having the fortune of recording some of it in Paris at a lovely studio called Spectral, courtesy our label Panache.
Tell us about Jaago, your latest album with your solo project, Lifafa.
You can call it music from an India that we wish existed.
What were some of the inspirations that have shaped the album?
There's far too many, but a few really key things which struck home for me were bhajans, Vrindavan, my parents, clips from old Bollywood films - ala Muqaddar Ka Sikander, and of course having the fortune of being exposed to so many different cultures from around the world.
The album has been said to have "bizarro-electronic soundscapes", tell us a little about the thought process behind this.
It's a long process, borne of both thought, planning and chance. Some of the music comes to me while walking the streets; some is a happy accident, some simply a case of making music for something else and ending up in a place I actually liked. There is no fixed process. I do treat it like an art form responding to mainly those things I feel were telegraphed to me from my soul.
What's the story behind the artwork?
I reached out to a young artist from Ahmedabad, Vivitsa Kohil. I found her on Instagram painting incredible paintings, and I just felt she had this touch which would suit my music. She has just started an amazing ceramics studio. Check her out.
What can we expect from the gig in Bengaluru?
I think Bengaluru hasn’t seen either the latest incarnation of PCRC nor Lifafa. They can expect almost three hours in a roller coaster of emotions serenaded by many bearded men.
Rs 800. March 2, 9 pm. At Fandom, Koramangala