The SWIT team utterly love the sophisticated indie sound of Black Letters, the recent singles – “Landscaper” and “Falter” from their upcoming LP suggest to us that it will be something very special indeed. Black Letters hail from Bengaluru, India. They released their debut album “Shapes on the wall” in 2014 followed by an EP “Petrichor” in 2015 to widespread acclaim. We were delighted to catch up with Arjun from the band to talk about musical backgrounds and new releases.
Why did you decide to be a musician?
It was never a conscious decision. Music was always a big part of growing up for us and making music came very naturally to all of us. So it was more of a natural progression than anything else.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
The first piece of music we all remember is probably Indian classical music. Whether it was through the radio or our parents singing to us or taking music classes when we were very young, Indian classical music is our first memory of basic music concepts. We were exposed to 90s pop & rock music when we were teenagers when CDs & Internet became accessible to us and that broadened our horizons.
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. We are incredibly proud of the new album that we have right now and every single track in the record is a favourite.
What’s the new album like?
Pretty weird! We have experimented a lot on this album with drum sounds, guitar sounds & the electronica elements. The approach to all the songs was quite instantaneous and not really planned out. In all our previous records we chased sounds that were pretty clear in our minds. We knew how the album or even each song had to sound before we recorded it. We had no idea how each song in this record would turn out and that was very exciting. We also have Sharath producing the album which is a very big step for him and the band and that has made the process more interesting.
We are also releasing this record via our new indie label – Overfeed Records. That’s another direction we are heading to which is really an uncharted territory for us but we are working with a lot of exciting artists in such a short span of time already.
How do you know when a song you’re working on is complete?
It is usually a subtractive process for us. We record a lot of elements when we are making the song and usually end up editing things out in the end. Once the song is structured we remove elements that don’t contribute to the song and doesn’t have a balance with the other instruments. The whole thing needs to make sense for us and in this record Sharath is doing that producer role very well so far.
What’s the music scene like there?
The indie scene is still very nascent. It is always very small when you compare it to regional film music & Bollywood which pretty much dominates everything in radios & television. However we have incredible indie artists in India and that has made a lot of people realize the potential of the indie scene in the country. So things are really looking very positive right now.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Celene Dion – “My heart will go on” or any of Keny G’s elevator music. Just for the money that would let us do good music for the rest of our lives I guess.
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
We all have different influences but Radiohead is a shared one. You can learn a lot of things if you look at their careers, most importantly how to break genres and experiment in every album while still making it unbelievably good. Even in their financial aspects, they have such a sound and effective way everything is managed. I think every musician should read about that.
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
Simple. Pharrel Williams – Happy. Quite obvious really.
What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?
An artist we found last week is “Sampa the Great”, she’s got something very interesting going. “Whitney” is a band that released a lovely album just last year along with Anderson Paak & Chance the rapper who are quite new-ish. In the Indian scene – PCRC, The F16s, _RHL, Disco Puppet, BlindNight, Space Behind the Yellow Room, Aerate Sound are all very promising artists who are also relatively very new & young as well.
What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?
It’s great for the consumer because as a listener it is much easier now to have access to new music through such sites. As a musician it’s a great place to get new listeners as well but it has to pay a lot more money to the artist to make it viable for them to survive. It’s a very fine balance that streaming companies should get right and hopefully will get it right in the future.
What’s your idea of success?
As a band, the most important thing for us is to be able to create new and different music as long as we can. After recording an album if we can listen to it and be able to tell ourselves that we have done a decent job on it, that’s what defines our success. After that every other person who enjoys our work is a bonus. I don’t think there’s any other way to quantitatively define success.
Arjun also did this rather natty sketch for us which is now hanging tough in our gallery. Class.