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Hear New York Indie Pop Act HOAX’s Shimmering New Song ‘Could’

Frontman Michael Raj talks about making ‘empathy pop’ and growing up in a South Indian household

Anurag Tagat Jul 30, 2019

New York indie pop duo HOAX's Michael Raj (who is Indian American) and Frantz Cesar (who is Haitian-Puerto Rican). Photo: Courtesy of the artist

About two years ago, New York pop duo HOAX – Michael Raj and Frantz Cesar – went to Leh and the Indian-origin frontman says it “birthed most of the inspiration” for their debut album b?.

Raj is a first generation Indian American whose mother moved to the U.S. when she was five years old and his father as a 26-year-old. He has roots in Tamil Nadu but notes that his favorite Indian film is the cult Seventies hit Sholay. He recounts, “There’s this one scene where the character Jai (played by Amitabh Bachchan) plays the harmonica to Radha (played by Jaya Bhaduri), and it’s sort of this hauntingly melancholic song, and I always remember thinking, ‘He is literally communicating all of this deep rooted emotion without saying anything’ – an anecdote on music’s power I keep close to me.” He adds that perhaps Jai would have been a fan of HOAX’s “beautiful sound of sadness,” referring to the way a friend termed their wavy soulful pop.

Informed by R&B, Motown and more, HOAX convincingly balance the vintage with the modern, oozing emotion on popular songs like “Barely” (off their 2016 EP Words That End with Wh(y)), the feel-good “Indian Summer” (2017) and the million-plus streamed “Beach House,” a perilous love song that introduced the world to the duo in 2016. On the forthcoming b?, they have penned a song called “Beach House (pt ii).” Raj says, “I was 21 when I wrote ‘Beach House,’ and there was always this sense of unfinished business with that song. So when we began writing songs for this project, I felt like we could finally write the response to all the unanswered emotions of ‘Beach House’ – and that’s when ‘Beach House ii’ was born.”

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Watch the video for “Beach House” 

Two years in the works, b? is a concept album about “the end of reality and the world as we know it.” The frontman is quick to add, “But it barely focuses on that grandiosity. There’s characters they’ve created (through what Raj calls “method writing” akin to method acting), with the lyrics tracing how they respond to “the events they’re thrown into.” It all stems from the duo’s philosophy about identity, the self and questions that arise out of being. “If more people just sat with themselves in states of discovery, it would lead to a path of more self-awareness and hopefully inspire more empathy amongst all of us,” he says.

HOAX has opened the door to this world once so far, with the release of their breezy, laidback song “Could” on June 13th, via the Interscope-owned record company KIDinaKORNER. The label is co-founded British superproducer Alex Da Kid, who’s producing credits include Imagine Dragons, Nicki Minaj and Dr. Dre.

They have “Unamerican Dream” coming out next in August, followed by another song called “YGSAS,” all off b? which is being released song by song at the moment. Meanwhile, tours are being plotted out for 2020, with the duo hoping to make it to India, this time for a few shows. Raj says, “I would love to play all over India! It will most likely be in winter of 2020, after releasing b?

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Listen to “Could” below. Find it on more platforms here.