Spud In The Box: All Grown Up
The Mumbai alt-rock band talk about their long-due debut album and sticking to their guns to make music they’re proud of
One look at the living room of the Juhu flat where Spud In The Box plot, plan and rehearse, and you have a feeling of an impending creative cloudburst. Of what sort we don’t really know. All we can see around the place is props – a metal cut-out of the title of their album, a defunct typewriter, some gear and other random interesting-looking stuff. And an inquisitive cat. If the painstaking scribbling on the whiteboard that is kept on the dining table is anything to go by, Spud have their exercise chalked out like a close combat plan.
The Mumbai alt rockers have been working on their studio album Lead Feet Paper Shoes for quite some time now. It was due in October-November but kept getting pushed. Says keyboardist/vocalist Rohan Rajadhyaksha, “We’ve realized that dates don’t mean much. Things don’t plan out the way we want to.”
Spud In The Box released the first single from the 12-track album in November, titled “Manic”. The single was meant to be a teaser for the album and it did its job well. “Manic” is a well-produced composition that highlights Spud’s biggest strengths – uncomplicated melodies, excellent harmonies and a clean, big sound. The album itself has a varied soundscape. “Some songs start in one place and go into another. They are all very journey-esque,” says guitarist Siddharth Talwar.
While some songs were written almost five years ago by either Rohan or Ankit Dayal [vocals, guitars] when they started out, some were penned just before going into Yash Raj Films Studio for the final recording. Over the past two years, the band has been going in and out of the studio, recording demos, hearing them back and re-recording stuff with their producer KJ Singh. The final drum-bass-guitars for the album were recorded last year and the vocals were dubbed earlier this year.
If you listen closely to “Manic”, you’d realize that the band have cracked the code to ensuring they are a success both on stage and on record. Each of their songs on the album [we got to hear a few!] is arranged in a fashion that makes it easy to play it live even as its production itself remains top-notch. All the back and forth in the studio has paid off. Says Rajadhyaksha, “We’re trying to put in as much ‘music per square inch’ as we can.”
On Lead Feet Paper Shoes , Spud sound all grown up. And not just because each of the members has come of age in the recent past; the band have been on a roller-coaster ride since they started out – there was an EP release [Attention Please, in 2012] and a lineup change followed by a phase of reinventing themselves. Apart from Rajadhyaksha, Dayal and Talwar, the band also features drummer Joshua Singh, guitarist Hartej Sawhney and bassist Zubin Bhathena. Says Rajadhyaksha, “The lyrical pattern on the album is the feeling of growing up. We were writing these songs when there were real world things happening in our lives.”
[youtube width=”640″ height=”480″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnrBmu4iUSU[/youtube]
One of the biggest reasons why the album’s release has been a complicated matter is because of the democracy in the band. The constant creative tussles among the members and with Singh meant that the band took longer than usual to lock a part. Says Dayal, “We have six people in the band who we unfortunately value. Plus a producer who we really trust.” Talwar chips in, “The thing with our producer is that if you fight enough for a part in a song, it will go in it but if you don’t then probably you’re not convinced yourself about it.”
Singh has been with the band for three years now and helped them with everything from producing to recording to handling sound at their gigs. “His attention to detail is amazing. He’s really honest. I don’t think enough artists focus on that [production] aspect of the album,” says Rajadhyakshya. He’s right. Not many bands choose to spend years working with a producer to shape a sound for themselves, especially when technology allows everyone to record easily these days.
Ask the band to name peers whose works they like best production-wise, and Dayal says, “The F16s and Skrat are putting out amazing material. Achint’s album was one of the better produced albums of last year.” “And Dhruv Visvanath…he had such a different personality on YouTube and he saved the best for the album,” says Talwar. Adds Rajadhyakshya, “Nicholson and Rohan Ramanna have been doing great, and even The Ganesh Talkies, who worked with producer Miti Adhikari.” Over the past two years, Spud In The Box have also followed a consistent strategy of seeking opinion from as many people as they could – be it Shantanu Hudlikar, senior engineer at YRF Studios or assistants Abhishek Khandelwal and Manasi Tare – to keep improving on their sound. Says Talwar, “The idea is to work with the right people. Once an album is recorded it’s there for eternity. We didn’t want to feel that a part could’ve been recored differently; we just didn’t want any regrets.”
Since recording can be an expensive affair, Spud took about six months off earlier this year to earn money doing “commercial work”. The boys, however, refuse to divulge any details about the nature of this work. “It just sucked the soul out of our bodies. We’d be sitting on our terrace and wonder ‘We were recording our album a while ago!’” says Dayal. The “commercial work” helped the band fund their recording sessions. “Ever since we started thinking about the album, none of us has taken home paycheck from our gig earning, other than taking money for our phone bills and all,” says Rajadhyakshya.
Currently, the band is working on putting together a tour and going back to chasing the old beast – a release date for the album. The band has a tentative schedule in place now. If all goes according to plan, Lead Feet Paper Shoes should be out this month.