Delhi-based band Begum talks about their upcoming album, Are you ok?
We speak to Kartik Pillai, vocalist and musician of Delhi-based band Begum, about the band’s journey as well as their upcoming album 'Are you ok?'.
Delhi-based band Begum comprising Kartik Pillai (vocals, guitar, synthesiser), Karan Singh (drums) and Dhruv Bhola (bass, synthesiser, guitar, backing vocals) often describe their music with words such as “lo-fi, dreamy, and experimental”. Formed in 2012, after an impromptu jam in Okhla, the band members routinely cling to their gut instinct when it comes to writing songs and composing music. The band released their lead single Better Person from their upcoming album 'Are you ok?' last month. In this edition of Soundscape, we speak to Pillai about the band’s journey as well as their upcoming album. Excerpts……
Tell us about working on Better Person.
This song has been around for a few years. Having played it in several different formats, the last two years was when this [the current] version of the song really took shape. Initially, it was just something that came to me. Some friends and I had been going through our individual struggles (which I wouldn’t want to mention), and I think that infused itself into the words and initial mood of the song. Once I started playing it with the rest of the band, everything just kind of fit together.
Better Person’s video adds to the surreality of the song. What was the idea behind it?
We were happy to let Sachin [the director] take charge of it. We trusted him blindly, and he gave us a great music video; we didn’t have a single edit. The more we watched it, the more it sunk in that it speaks a little beyond the concept of the song. It is almost kind of a reply—from unconditional love to the pressures of becoming someone and how that affects a person.
Your music has a certain sense of intimacy to it. (The track Marry Me, for instance, includes a conversation between the members at the end of the song). Is this a part of your musical style?
I think that intimacy comes from the songs being honest. The banter, well, sometimes we keep it, usually we don’t want to cut the reverb from the cymbals off early. I don’t know if it is a part of our style. Sometimes it just sounds nice, especially if it is a joke or something succinct. The first two albums were basically live albums. Everyone played at the same time, so you end up talking. The new album is mostly multi-tracked except for a few songs, so there is not much banter to keep. We retained the idea for two songs because it felt natural; those two songs are actually the only ones that are not on click/metronome.
What can listeners expect from Are you ok?, your upcoming album?
Are you ok? has taken a while. The songs have been around for at least five to six years, but the recording only started in 2019. Then, with COVID-19 and us being stranded in different parts of the country, we ended up taking a long break till winter 2020. That’s when we started again and went into post-production in 2021.
The album will be of ten tracks, the ones we’ve had floating around for a while but finally brought together to put into this collection. They feel like they belong together, at least for the moment. When the music was done, our drummer Karan came up with some ideas for the artwork. Once we started, everything fell into place. We’re glad it is finally coming out; we’re looking forward to touring it and, starting work on the next album as soon as possible.
‘Better Person’ by Begum is available on all major streaming platforms