Sandunes Explores Electro-Pop on New EP ‘Nowhere to Stand’
The four-track record features vocals from Landslands, Half Waif, Sid Sriram and Ramya Pothuri
“It’s been a whirlwind, to be honest,” says Mumbai-bred producer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes while reflecting on the last two years she’s had. During that time, the artist released two EPs; 11:11 and Spare Some Time, a full-length album with U.K. drummer Richard Spaven titled Spaven X Sandunes and even put together an exquisite pianistic live project called Hand of Thought. Ardeshir adds, “The perception is that it’s been busy. But honestly, a lot of the music that has been rolling out over the last few years has been gestating for a lot longer than I was earlier used to.”
Last month, Sandunes returned with a brand new four-track EP called Nowhere to Stand – out via !K7 Records – in which she’s roped in four distinct vocalists to feature on the record. The seeds for the new music however were planted while the producer was putting Spare Some Time together. “I wasn’t able to shape that [piece of music] into anything. So, I said, ‘Okay, let me leave this tune out and it will kind of enable me to commence the next body of work.’”
After wrapping up on Spare Some Time, Ardeshir found herself tapping into full-fledged songwriting like she used to do while playing in a band during her college years. “I was just kind of writing whole songs with verses, choruses and bridges.” This was a completely different shift for the artist, who over the last few years, has been mainly focusing on a production-oriented writing style. On what she set out to make with Nowhere to Stand, Ardeshir says, “What I was going for was just writing better and trying to write songs that were emotionally conveying.”
That emotion can be felt wholeheartedly on Nowhere to Stand’s dreamy opening track titled “A Little While” featuring Sandunes’ frequent collaborator composer/singer-songwriter Sohrab Nicholson aka Landslands. “It’s pretty much a song about falling in love,” says Ardeshir. On the effervescent and bold “Shadow,” Sandunes enlists Hudson Valley-based musician Nandi Rose aka Half Waif. “I think it’s fair to say that Nandi wrote all of ‘Shadow’ in terms of lyrics and melody, it was basically like I gave her the bed of music, and she worked within that,” says Ardeshir.
The record’s title track finds Indo-American artist Sid Sriram on vocal duties. The spacey and vibrant offering has been co-written by Sandunes and Sriram. The wistful closing track “Ghosts” calls upon singer-songwriter Ramya Pothuri’s elegant voice. Apart from Landslands’ vocals recorded in London in 2019, everything else on the record was done remotely. Pothuri sent her vocals from Hyderabad while Sriram and Rose recorded their parts from Los Angeles and upstate New York respectively. Ardeshir says, “It’s funny when somebody sends you files and when it’s voice and you’re hearing their voice through your speakers, it’s as if they’re there in the room with you. I was just very moved by the whole experience.” She adds, “It’s just so amazing to work with vocalists.”
Lyrically, Nowhere to Stand covers themes of uncertainty, wistfulness, longing and “the resilience that it takes to view those things from the lens of knowing that, that is reality,” explains Ardeshir. The producer says further, “The impermanence and the uncertainty is what makes up life.” Sonically, Sandunes has explored plenty of electro-pop soundscapes on the record, something that’s been building up gradually for her as an artist.
Through our nearly 30-minute Zoom call, Ardeshir’s responses come across as very emotional while she talks about the new EP. Ask her if that’s how she feels about her latest body of work? She says, “Now from the writing point of view, if something is not coming from my core, if I’m not writing emotionally and I’m not either moved to tears while I’m writing the song, it’s not going to cut it for me.” Ardeshir explains that lately, she’s only dipping her toes into the process if she’s emotionally moved. “I guess this is my most emotional piece of work,” she says.
With Nowhere to Stand now out of the way, Sandunes’ attention is focused on compiling the music she performed at her Hand of Thought concert in Mumbai in 2019 into a record. It’s coming up on five years since she wrote that material, and Ardeshir says, “I know that if I don’t wrap it up and put it out soon, I’m going to be very unsure of it.” There’s a full-length album in the works too that the producer is building around storytelling and vocals.
Another project Ardeshir has been working on with her partner Krishna Jhaveri (bassist from Indo-American prog-rockers Skyharbor), is a field project that involves archiving natural sounds to act as a catalyst to create conversations around climate change. They’ve traveled across south Goa through Karnataka, Kerala and even into Tamil Nadu creating a sonic map of sorts. Recently, a coffee estate in Karnataka where they were stationed late last year came across their first tiger spotting in 68 years. Both Ardeshir and Jhaveri were chuffed to learn about the incident. The producer says, “The tiger was just on the path where we recorded the sounds.” Although they haven’t come across any clips of tiger roarings from their hours’ worth of audio recordings, Ardeshir tells us “it was pretty cool to think about the idea that we could have.”
With this bank of sounds soon to be available for people to listen to, Ardeshir and Jhaveri are also keen on finding meaningful ways to give back to the communities they visited. “A lot of them are super rural communities. So, we’re looking at opportunities [to help them].”