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How Derek & The Cats Journey Injected ‘Soul’ Into Their 8-Minute Debut Single 

The project is the brainchild of Bengaluru pianist and producer Derek Mathias

David Britto May 04, 2022

Bengaluru pianist and producer Derek Mathias. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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Through the lockdown, Bengaluru pianist and producer Derek Mathias accumulated a bunch of instrumental songs just for the sake of pure creative expression. At the time, Mathias had released material under four minutes long and subscribed to the pop-song formula. He says, “But there were these other songs I used to create freely without any regard to these standards.”

After letting those tracks collect digital dust for two years, Mathias is now ready to showcase them to the world, as part of his collaborative project Derek & The Cats. While an album is due later this year, his recently released debut single is the expressive instrumental jazz offering titled “Soul,” which oozes lush musicianship, solos and more. Apart from Mathias on piano, the track also features keyboardist Anand Murali, saxophonist Gautam David, guitarist Adesh Vinod, bassist Vishal Varier and drummer Jason Sharat.

Mathias says, “The idea was to provide a space within the music where a dynamic range of artists can bring their [individual] flavor to the table. These songs wouldn’t have sounded the same without the musicians playing on it.” He adds, “Each musician has injected their personality into the songs, elevating them to a level beyond my imagination.”

In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Mathias talks to us about the making of “Soul” and more.

When did you write ‘Soul’?

‘Soul’ was an unnamed demo on my laptop for the longest time. This song was the reason I even thought of starting this band because even after a year, I would keep coming back to it. So, once I formed the band, I sent the demo over to them. I had written the entire structure and the main melodic lines, but I had left space for the solos. When we jammed for the first time, the song had already been elevated as the musicians had added their own flair, not only through their solos, but they also added their own subtle parts while still keeping the original idea and mood intact. These jams happened before the second wave of Covid. So, the jams stopped for a while but after the second wave, we began the recording process.

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What was the recording and production process like?

Initially, the idea was to record the entire band live in the studio but with each musician having their own schedule, it was a little difficult to get the right day. Also, it was much riskier, in the sense that everything had to go right. So, I then changed my mind to track the songs one instrument at a time. We started with drums. Jason Sharat tracked the drums for all the songs of the album using the demos I had. We recorded at Stained Class Production LLP. [and the songs were] engineered by Mrinal and Leslie Charles. Now that the drums were recorded, everything else could be recorded at home. Keys, guitars, saxophone, trumpet, congas, everything has been recorded at my home or the respective musicians’ home-studio setup. I had already decided on who was going to mix the album – Nirmit Shah. Although he lives in Mumbai, he was part of the process the entire time, with weekly updates. While Nirmit was mixing the album, he also joined in to co-produce it and help with the sound design of the synths and guitar tones. This gave the album an extra push in terms of production.

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What can you tell me about ‘Soul,’ your debut single?

In a world where song lengths are decided based on reels, shorts and declining attention spans, we aim to take the listeners through an unrestricted journey of ups and downs akin to life. The secret ingredient in this musical mix was soul. In a society where we all live capitalistic lifestyles [nothing wrong with that], a certain soulful element seems to have been lost along the way. This eight-minute journey hopefully offers listeners a different route to reconnect with themselves and add a little bit of life into what they do.

What’s next for the band?

We are currently working on releasing a follow-up single, ‘Morocco,’ along with a music video. That will be followed by the entire album release. We are also planning on taking this live and playing a few shows along with an album launch. 

Watch the music video for “Soul” below:

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