Tejas on New Album: ‘This is the Perfect Documentation of My Twenties’
The Mumbai singer-songwriter’s full-length record ‘Make It Happen’ plays to his strengths and offers some pleasant surprises too
When Mumbai singer-songwriter Tejas Menon booked the city-based Cotton Press Studio for a couple of weeks to record his debut album Make It Happen last September, things didn’t quite go as planned. Menon recalls, “On the fifth day, I was recording the guitars and was like, ‘Man! I’m not feeling too well.’” The musician realized he was burning up with a fever that hit 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit in no time. “I was laughing and thought it was hilarious,” says the singer-songwriter.
He was diagnosed with dengue and had to move to his sister’s house in Pune for three weeks. “I was pretty disillusioned at that point and a lot of things went for a six,” confesses Menon, as he chomps on his chicken salad at Mumbai’s Khar Social. Seated across the table is Pune singer-songwriter Gowri Jayakumar, who is presently enjoying a smoke before she gets on stage with her new act Run Pussy Run. Menon cites Jayakumar as his hero. “It’s because of her I started playing music live.”
Playing live and getting noticed eventually led the singer-songwriter to release his debut EP Small Victories in 2014. “That EP came from a working professional who had a hobby.” The next year, Tejas would quit his job in advertising for music and eventually co-found a pop culture media house Geek Fruit with fellow nerds Dinkar Dwivedi and Jishnu Guha (both of who are also guitarists) and media professional Basabdatta Dasgupta. Menon says, “I thought I’ll give myself a year; I was 25. I had two great years after that and played so many shows!”
The 28-year-old singer-songwriter is now ready with his 10-track debut album Make It Happen which releases on September 15th exclusively on Apple Music. The recording process started in January this year with a band comprising Guha, bassist Adil Kurwa (from alt rockersÂ Last Remaining Light), percussionist and keyboardist Aalok Padhye and drummer/co-producer Jehangir Jehangir (best known for their work with jam band Something Relevant). Menon jokes about the recording sessions with an impression of his co-producer: “Every month, JJ would be like, ”˜This month, we have to finish this, we have to finish this, nothing past March!”
Make It Happen opens with the bright and sunny title track that is almost like Menon’s self-injection of motivation. He says, “It’s mostly about me or me six months from now.” For people that have followed his music, the second track “Come On Love (Give Me A Reason To Want You)” will pleasantly surprise: it’s a flamenco-flavored tune with a catchy cadence.
The next track, the sprightly crowd favorite “You Want,” is a song that Menon penned when he was in the 10th grade. “I wrote it about a couple of friends who were sleeping around a lot. The song is about sex, that’s all I can say.” On “Kindness,” the vocalist/guitarist channels his punk side even as he demands “a little bit of kindness” and samples a voice note sent by his mom on WhatsApp where she summarizes why, according to her, religion is important for humanity. “I don’t particularly get along with my parents, and I fight with my mother a lot about religion,” he admits. “She is uber-religious; this is just my response to that. I got her to WhatsApp me what she thinks about religion and I put that in the song.”
The fifth track on the record is the viral car jam, “Wine.” The album version of the song is now a seven-minute banger with a horn section by Rhys Sebastian on alto saxophone, Ryan Sadri on tenor saxophone, trumpeter Meera Fernandes and trombone player Ramon Ibrahim. “This song is a mystery to me; I thought I started writing it about a bunch of people I’ve known who’ve changed over time or maybe I was none the wiser. The nice thing about this song is that the metaphor is ‘wine.’ If you leave something over time, sometimes it sweetens and sometimes it doesn’t.”
The mid-album ballad “Foresight”–which features English singer-songwriter Heather Andrews–is proof that Menon can do more than just the regular pop-rock stuff. “The song has become a good symbol of our friendship [with Andrews]. It’s an ode to time itself,” he says. “I Can Be The Night” looks back at Menon’s advertising days and compares the long work hours and little pay to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “I felt I was being transformed into something I didn’t want to be,” he says. The track also features a sublime guitar solo by Mumbai guitarist Warren Mendonsa. (For the uninitiated, Menon features on the track “Love Song To The Truth,” off Mendonsa’s recently released fourth Blackstratblues album The Last Analog Generation).
The eighth song, “Slow Me Down,” is the kind of ballad the record was crying out for. “I’m glad this song made it to the album,” says Menon, who wrote it for his workaholic dad. “He doesn’t know how to take a break. I thought it [the song] was about me, and then my dad was in hospital and I was like, ‘No, this song is about my dad.’”
On the penultimate track “Falling Out,” Menon addresses loneliness and losing touch with loved ones amidst a voluminous arrangement that goes full throttle in no time–strings, keys, tambourine, raging guitars, what have you–before gently saying goodbye. But it is on the final track, called “Maybe We’re Not Enough,” that you can feel the full weight of the album, with just guitar and vocals. “I just feel sometimes, there is a purpose to our lives I can’t explain,” says Menon.
Make It Happen has been co-produced by Menon and Jehangir, and mixed by Mendonsa. “The problem with working with Warren is that he’s always right,” jokes Menon, who got the album mastered by 360 Mastering’s Dave Turner in the U.K.
Clearly, a lot of good things have happened to the album courtesy the super successful crowdfunding campaign that Menon ran earlier this year, which received a staggering ₹4, 40,000, smashing the initial target of ₹2, 00,000 in six hours.
Once the album is out, Menon might head out on a tour, but he is in no hurry. “I want to give people a month before I play shows. I want them to loop my album and loop songs they love. There is a huge context in this album.”
‘Make It Happen’ is available for streaming exclusively on Apple Music for the first week of its launch starting September 15th.