Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Sri releases debut EP
Srijit Bhowmick has just joined a long line of singer-songwriters from Mumbai to release an EP this year. There’s just one difference: Sri’s more Conor Oberst than Jason Mraz or Ed Sheeran. There’s a certain rawness to his songs, both music and lyric wise, that has a unique appeal. We talked to Sri about how he makes such heartfelt music. Sri is as eloquent in his answers as he is in his songs.
Our Pick: Am I Here
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an indie singer-songwriter from Bombay. I tend to write songs about life and it’s never enough. And so, I have been writing for over 8 years now. It was only in 2016 that I felt I finally had good enough material to go live with and I’ve been at it ever since.
All your songs are mellow with dark undertones. Have you ever felt out of place in the scene that expects happy music, especially from singer-songwriters? Or do you think this is your unique selling point?
My songs are mellow but dark undertones would be too strong a term. I try to incorporate realism into my music, and melancholy, in that case, is an offshoot of depicting that very reality. I think life is upbeat and happy in moments, and I try to bring out those elements within a song sporadically.
My music definitely deals with what we are really thinking, feeling and observing and the likes, especially when we are on our own, or so I believe, such as a lover reminiscing about someone in Helpless, or an adult waking up to the reality of being a Yesterday’s Child, or the various interpersonal struggles in Am I Here, or our society going through the kind of socio-political changes where sadly Hang Him ASAP is becoming the clarion call of the misled masses, to name a few. There’s this occasional happy song one may hear live once in a while, but that’s that.
So, I wouldn’t know, since my music has been received well by folks wherever I have played. What I do know is that I like to stay true to myself and to my art. And by being honest in my approach, my music will be whatever it will be, but at least definitely my own.
I don’t fit into one particular cluster as I really admire things like free trade, no barriers, and the commonalities that exists beyond our social constructs and imagined communities. I think that has been my upbringing, and I embrace those ideals very dearly, such as the universality of what being a human being entails. Hence, I don’t see myself restricting my music to one type of audience and I’d love for anyone across the universe to dig my music. If it helps someone, anyone, then I think I’ve done my job as an artist, leaving behind a piece of work that affected or moved someone and mattered truly in the end.
You’ve a very unique vocal style. Who are your influences?
Thanks! I think my vocal style developed over the last few years as I started looking inward to develop my own sound, or writing for that matter. But I can’t say it’s directly borrowed from anyone as such. I mean, I have been singing for as long as I can remember and I have aped vocalists as a kid but that stopped eventually.
As far as evolution of my musical influences are concerned, it all began with me aping whatever Bollywood songs I would hear as a kid coupled with Robindro Songeet and stuff that I acquired from my Bengali parents and roots. That was followed by this period of boy bands and pop music in school, and a bit of Bangla Rock, and a lot of these came through from my elder sibling and cousins. By the time I hit puberty, my tastes evolved a bit more and moved towards the likes of Linkin Park, a bit of Pink Floyd, and all. By the time, I hit high school I was getting into classic rock, psychedalic rock, hard rock, a bit of metal and the likes. Most importantly, I started consuming urban indian indie music via sites like indianrockmp3.com, random blogs on the internet, and all.
Tell us about the recording process. Any interesting experiences to share?
Vocals and the acoustic guitar were recorded together simultaneously in one continuous take for each of the three songs from the EP, and this was done in a podcast studio! I wanted to capture the natural ebb and flow of the songs without making it sound way too perfect and too unnatural by recording it on the grid with clicks. Besides, I wasn’t interested in programmed drums and too much of instrumentation. So, I’m glad how it turned out eventually.
Rest of the instrumentation on the EP such as the electric guitar parts and keyboards, with additional acoustic guitar on Yesterday’s Child, were done by Hrushabh at his place. He is also the sound engineer on the EP who was working with IVM Podcasts at that point in time. We discussed a lot over the phone and mails for Yesterday’s Child, and I made him work on at least 5 or 6 versions before it seemed like we were close to how I wanted it to be. For the other two songs, we made sure that we met at his place and jammed and exchanged ideas in order to decide how I would wish for the mood or the climb or the falls and the likes to be in the songs.
What’s on your playlist lately?
Honestly, I’ve been mostly listening to myself since the last two years or so haha. But my playlist is very random and old like before. It’s got the same old songs and artists such as Cat Stevens, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Anjan Dutta, and bits and pieces of this and that. It’s got the usual music I’ve been listening to since ages or last discovered in 2014 or something. After that, it has been a lot of random YouTube/SoundCloud tracks I got a chance to listen to once in a while in recent times. I was listening to WIll Varley’s Seize The Night a few months back, and Persephone by Jay William Henderson long back when I discovered it on SoundCloud.
But I think this whole thing of just listening to my own music may have helped me musically to explore spaces within and not tie myself down or box myself within certain confines. But I do look forward to a time when I will take in a lot of new music, it should arrive soon.
What do you have planned next?
I’d love to come up with another release soon. I have a huge catalogue of songs, always increasing and piling up. Maybe I’ll release some in a format that’s raw and without many layers. There’s that certain hollowness to it, and it allows me to release a lot in one go. Or if I do find the right musicians, I’d go for songs or an approach that will require instrumentation and layers to make them sound just as hollow and yet, richer and fuller than otherwise. I’m on the lookout for such musicians who like my music and would be interested to join in. I’d be glad to have them on board.
As far as gigs are concerned, I’d love to fill up all my days with as many as there could be and travel around. I think my music is best experienced in the quiet embrace of a listening audience. It allows for my art to present itself in its truest sense. And many of the places I haven’t yet had the pleasure of playing at have such audiences.
Music and songwriting is time consuming and requires a different frame of mind from managing the business side of things. Hence, my business skills and networking isn’t great mostly because I cannot allow my musicality and songwriting to suffer. I’m managing myself well, but I’d be glad to have better choices if they appear in the near future so that it allows me to grow as a musician while keeping my business interests in place.