Raghav Meattle on Recording New Album: ‘As A Musician I’ve Grown 100 Times’
The Mumbai-based singer-songwriter breaks down tracks from his debut LP ‘Songs From A Matchbox,’ crowdfunding the record, competing on ‘The Stage’ and more
We caught up with Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Raghav Meattle at his Bandra pad a day after he’s returned playing the Pandora Music Festival in Hyderabad. He says, “It was a great thing for me, I was feeling proud and it was the first time I took the band out.”
Meattle’s success has been gradual – from his days at the start of this decade fronting New Delhi-based prog rockers The Uncertainty Principle and later part of electro-pop duo Meattle & Malik with producer Nikhil Malik, he’s also juggled moving between his hometown to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and now in Mumbai over the last five years.
The musician’s stint on singing competition The Stage in 2016 also helped gather a few eyeballs. Meattle – who made it to the Top 6 on The Stage – says, “It got me a bit of exposure but mostly it gave me the confidence.” That confidence is what pushed the singer-songwriter to quit his job at tech startup Instamojo in Bengaluru and move to Mumbai in late 2016 to pursue music full-time. “It was literally starting from scratch and I played everything I got and slowly started getting better,” he says.
Last month the New Delhi-bred singer-songwriter released his eight-track debut album Songs From A Matchbox. The recording process began at the then newly opened Island City Studios in Mumbai this past June. The band comprised bassist Nishant Nagar, drummer Karun Kannampilly (from rockers The Koniac Net), keyboardist Nirmit Shah (of live electronica outfit Ape Echoes), guitarist Jishnu Guha aka Short Round and vocal harmonies by Hitesh Kumar aka Peaking Panda. “When we started sitting down with Jishnu and Nirmit I realized that I wanted to be a part of the process where we sat down and each part we made ourselves, I didn’t want it to be just random things,” says Meattle. He adds, “That was a good process too because I felt I was writing parts with people and asking them to change it, it gave me more confidence.”
Songs From A Matchbox opens with the folksy “Bar Talk” which was born out of Meattle’s frustration at the constant chatter he would have to endure while performing at club venues. He says, “I would go to these bars, play these songs and there is a guy who is talking on top of his voice and doesn’t give a shit.” While listening to the flavorful “Two Left Feet” you can instantly hear Meattle’s prog and metal influences creep in the track a tad bit while he jokingly admits, “It is about how I can’t dance.”
The next track, the angsty “I’m Always Right,” is a song Meattle penned to challenge authority; be it his parents or the government. “Indian parenting, when you don’t have a justification sometimes, they say ‘Beta we mean the best for you we are always right just listen to us.’” The gypsy leaning “She Can” was written for Meattle’s sister’s wedding in 2013, originally with Meattle & Malik. “The version on the album is the way I play it with the band,” he says. On “One Sided Stories” the singer-songwriter is back to his angsty self and almost brings out his punk side through the song. “It’s a dig at the government, a commentary on the press and I wrote this song in Delhi at that time when there was pollution.”
The sixth track on the record is the head bobbing “Stood up & Fried.” Like the title gives it away, the song is about being stood up on a date and features some stellar keyboard work by Shah. “It’s basically conversations I’ve heard with my friends and is basically [about] the Tinder culture. Meattle adds, “With Tinder also it’s made everything fun – like even going for a date is extremely exciting and fun. You can actually be sitting across a creep and not know – it’s a joke.”
Probably the most honest song on the album is the penultimate track, “Better Than It All,” in which Meattle’s graceful vocal delivery and heartening lyrics speak volumes of him as an artist. “I wrote it when I didn’t have a house when I moved to Bombay. I was literally like ‘Fuck, what have I done with my life?’” He adds, “I’d come down for meetings, people had told me come and meet them and stuff like that – everybody’s canceling on me and [in the song] I say I’m not waiting for a phone call, but that’s exactly what I was waiting for at that time.”
The record closer, “Please Come Back To Me,” is the musician’s battle with relationships, he says, “It’s about being desperate. I’ve had those experiences where I’ve had fights with my current or my ex-girlfriend and then suddenly you don’t know what’s going to happen. Like suddenly you’re dating and suddenly you’re not dating and it’s like just that feeling of desperation but I’ve just said it in a more fun way.”
Songs From A Matchbox is co-produced by Meattle and Zain Calcuttawala. The record – also mixed by Calcuttawala – has been mastered by Frank Arkwright from Abbey Road Studios, London. Another proud moment Meattle counts is the very successful crowdfunding campaign he ran for the album earlier this year, which received an astounding ₹4, 62,000, going over his initial target of ₹3, 50,000. The musician ran his campaign through his former employers Instamojo because even if he didn’t reach his target he would still get to keep whatever he raised. He adds, “I’ve been couriering t-shirts to [backers from] Mizoram and Dehradun which is awesome, I love that.”
After a seven-city tour with house gig series LVNG between September and October that allowed him to connect to new fans, Meattle plans to unwind for a bit before planning a four-city tour with his band. Also in the pipeline for 2019 are three single releases as well as a collaboration on fellow singer-songwriter Vernon Noronha’s song “Dream Sandwich.” Meattle says, “I’m getting to learn so much and I feel like there is always a line between what you want to play and what you can play, I’m learning to bridge that.”