Manas Jha Enlists Blackstratblues, FuzzCulture and Keshav Dhar on New EP ‘Trifecta’
The three-track record also includes performances from Jai Row Kavi and Siddharth Basrur
Mumbai-bred and New York City-based singer-songwriter Manas Jha began working on his third EP Trifecta in March 2020, in the throes of the pandemic. He says, “Lockdowns were taking effect. It had become clear that studios were going to be shut for the foreseeable future.” Nevertheless, the situation didn’t deter Jha, and instead, he decided to work remotely as he’d done for his 2016 debut EP The Remote Collaborations Project.
Like his first record, Jha enlists a host of household indie names on his latest EP. The singer-songwriter called upon New Delhi guitarist-producer Keshav Dhar, whom he’s been a fan of ever since he heard the musician’s rollicking track “Evolution” by his Indo-American prog-rock outfit Skyharbor in 2014. “I feel it’s that album [Guiding Lights] that seeded the whole idea of US-India collaborations in me.” Also on board is Mumbai vocalist-producer Siddharth Basrur (of rock project Runt), someone that Jha has been watching perform right from the artist’s early bands in the noughties such as Kinky Ski Munky. Joining Dhar and Basrur is New Delhi-bred guitarist-producer FuzzCulture aka Arsh Sharma. “I knew of him (Sharma) since his Circus band days. I’ve always been a big fan of Delhi alt-rock bands, going all the way back to Orange Street and Nightmare on Elm Street,” says Jha.
Closing up the collaborators is Mumbai/New Zealand guitarist Warren Mendonsa and his blues-rock band Blackstratblues’ bandmate; drummer Jai Row Kavi. Jha recalls growing up on Mendonsa’s earlier rock group Zero and tells us that he’d be in awe of the musician’s “guitar hero solos.” An anecdote that sticks out for Jha is of several years ago when he and his brother went to watch Zero perform at Mumbai’s Fire N Ice with just one ticket between the two of them. He recalls, “Upon seeing our predicament, [the band’s manager] sneakily handed us two passes on the side. It’s these small gestures that remain etched in my memory forever.” As for Row Kavi, Jha counts himself a fan of his work sitting behind the kit for acts such as Pin Drop Violence (PDV), Pangea, Indus Creed and Blackstratblues.” Jha says, “I still remember the dust clouds from PDV mosh pits.” He adds, “I’m forever grateful for partnering with them on this EP.”
Trifecta opens with the cinematic “Nukkad Closed” that showcases Dhar’s exquisite touch. The track itself is an ode to the late chef Garima Kothari of the Nukkad Restaurant in Jha’s neighborhood in New York City. “The epic feel really suits the lyrical theme and echoes who Garima was,” says the singer-songwriter. The more dancey and joyful “Myrooh” calls upon Basrur on vocal duties and showcases the artist’s pop singing chops whereas FuzzCulture’s combination of electronic soundscapes carries the track. “’Myrooh’ celebrates our two-year-old baby girl Myra,” says Jha. He adds, “As a toddler, Myra digs the danceability of breakbeat, and our hope is she’ll continue to enjoy it as an adult.”
The EP closes with the dark and moody “Liberate” and features heavy guitars courtesy of Mendonsa as well as a thick drum sound from Row Kavi as Jha addresses alcohol and drug dependence through his steely vocals. “I’d say this song is the closest sound to my original set of influences, Nineties grunge,” adds the singer-songwriter.
With a versatile EP and each song sitting in different genres, Jha decided on releasing the record in a piecemeal fashion. “It made sense to release them as singles, as the songs are driven by the featured artist, and later compile them into an EP,” he says. He adds, “But the gel that holds them together as an EP is the similar mindset that we all share.”
With Trifecta recorded remotely, the production process usually began with Jha sending acoustic demos to his collaborators and then working through a series of calls with them to get to the finished product. U.S.-based Morningstar Studios mastered the EP.
Jha doesn’t have any live gigs planned to promote the record due to the pandemic, however, he’s already released music videos for all three songs and plans to continue pushing content out on social media. Next, he wants to put together an acoustic EP. “Being a huge fan of singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, I’ve always been amazed at the power of vocals and acoustic guitar.” He adds, “I’m currently lining up an unplugged set of some older songs and writing some new material too.”
Stream ‘Trifecta’ on Spotify below and on other platforms.