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Half Step Down Captures Open-Ended Approach on Debut

Album Overtures to Outerspace
Due Out July
Producer Gaurav Chintamani, Sidhant Mathur

Jun 21, 2009

As a Dave Matthews number streams from the speakers at Delhi’s Turquoise Cottage, guitarist Karan Dutta, vocalist Dhaval Mudgal and drummer Srijan Mahajan of Half Step Down share a subtle nod of approval, taking a moment to acknowledge the favourable change in music. Dutta in his loose T-shirt topped with his distinctive Rasta cuffy headwear and Mudgal with his long coarse hair look more like they belong to a reggae outfit, but that is not the case here. While Half Step Down started off as a blues outfit in 2006, today, blues is just a bleak reference in their music. “We consciously started off as a blues rock band but later we decided not to be genre-specific at all. We are not a blues band at all as you can hear. We have one blues song ”˜Girl Not Guitar,’ ” laughs Mudgal.

It’s essentially a mash-up of various genres owing to each member’s distinct musical sensibility, and the reggae and funk factor does play up thanks to Dutta. Having coursed through the standard indie band trail, with fair share of wins at competitions and touring through the country, now they seal it with the release of their debut album – provisionally titled Overtures to Outerspace – next month. Over the years HSD has worked up a chockful of originals, from ”˜Overtures to Outerspace,’ one of their older and more popular tracks to the more recent ”˜Working Hour’ and ”˜Story of the Sun,’ which will feature amongst the eleven tracks on the album. Through various line-up changes the band has “finally found its feet” in the current lineup of Mudgal, Dutta, Mahajan, keyboardist Shiv Lumba and bassist Carl Abraham.

Poking fun at each other is the norm through this conversation which swerves from mindless balderdash to insightful grabs to revelatory moments. All in all HSD doesn’t take itself too seriously and this is to say in a good way. “We recorded songs sporadically for about a year, finally stepping into the studio we tried to change stuff on some tracks, the ones you’ve heard long time ago with programmed drums have been re-recorded completely,” says Mudgal who takes full responsibility for lyrics. “The lyrics are mostly fun, one of our songs ”˜Knocking On the Back of My Head’ basically references Almost Famous. It’s got Penny Lane, my aura is purple and things like that. I think a lot of people write in monotone, I write in colour,” he says.

The conversation takes a comical turn when Mudgal cites a track he wrote, and Dutta cuts in with a bemused look, “I didn’t know that until now.” But he quickly takes it upon himself, “In my defence, I don’t care about the lyrics of a song, as long as it sounds good to me.” “Which explains your love for Slayer and 10 Ft Ganja Plant,” Mahajan sneers at him. “10 Ft Ganja Plant is a good fucking band dude!” Dutta retorts. Though in all this ignorance Dutta might display he is the man who brought a constructive change to the HSD sound. “For me, influence has more to do with old blues players like Robert Johnson and George Benson. I try to bring as much of that into the band, but work within the entire structure because you don’t want to make it overtly that and mimic a sound,” Dutta elaborates. One track the band is fairly excited about is ”˜Story of the Sun’ which it has just started playing live. “It’s a riff that KD wrote out and out”¦ there is this line which runs “the sun is growing old because of the stories that it’s told.” It’s like looking down on all that’s been going on,” says Mudgal. The album was produced and recorded by Gaurav Chintamani and Sidhant Mathur at their Quarter Note studio. Requesting the last word on the album, they leave us with the burnt-out slogan of this generation: “Buy it, steal it, download it.”

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