Certain traits of electronic musician, Sohrab Nicholson, became clear within the first few minutes of meeting him around midnight at his laid-back apartment in Bandra.
His down-to-earth attitude and an inherent love for nature that was apparent with a nursery of sorts on his balcony that was being whipped by a sudden downpour.
“I love plants and trees. I’ve always had lots of plants wherever I stayed,” the 29-year-old musician says.
The plan was to meet Nicholson and the other half of the core duo, producer/drummer Rohan Ramanna. Ramanna was running late and we—slightly buzzed-- started talking about the singer and his allies.
Fortunately for Nicholson, all that mattered to him aligned favourably within the past two years; making heads turn with his mellifluous voice and international sound.
They released their EPs For What and Cold Water--followed it up with music videos, big ticket festival slots--and started peaking within a year of their debut at NCPA’s Experimental Theatre in early 2014.
Their recent gigs in the UK and Scotland, especially the rollicking Great Escape Festival and Southbank Centre gig has had a dopamine overload on the collective consciousness of the band.
“It’s a city festival. The whole of Brighton is taken over with every bar, pub and club turning into a venue,” Nicholson said sitting inside his newly done up home studio where he plans to record his debut album.
He explained that it’s basically a showcase festival for A&R (Artists and Repertoire) people and record executives and there was certainly an element of surprise for people to hear their music.
Tracks like “Rise and Fall” and “Badman” benchmarks their repertoire of sounds nudging minimal jazz with layers of synth mixed into an electro-organic space cruise.
“Rise and Fall is about a sense of disillusionment with people. It’s my least favourite and Rohan’s favourite track,” Nicholson said. I tell him that’s my favourite track too.
The singer feels that everything is from some sort of personal experience and at the same time it’s not so personal that other people can’t relate to it.
Allowing a glimpse into his personal life, Nicholson said that he had become disillusioned and had stopped playing music for a long period during his time learning Jazz Piano in Canada and later while working a marketing job in London.
“I had a bit of change of pace and direction after coming back to India two years back. There was no plan at that time, just some time needed for reassessment. I’m so glad that part is over,” Nicholson says.
Time flies and we wonder where Ramanna is. We step outside and Nicholson checks with his friend and manager, Tej Brar who was chilling in the living room. A couple of phone calls take place. Ramanna is stuck at the studio with no cabs to bail him out in the dead of night. Nicholson books an Uber and the driver cancels due to location complexities.
“Zero stars for this guy. This shit never happens,” says Nicholson.
He decides to drive and pick him up and I decided to tag along and continue with our interview.
Nicholson was somehow paranoid about having a flat tyre (Parsi genes) but we reached the studio after navigating through some deserted bylanes that gave an insight to why Ramanna was stranded there.
Visibly high on their international exposure, the core duo of Nicholson and Ramanna along with musicians Jehangir. Jehangir and Stuart Dacosta will be hibernating into song writing mode during the monsoon for their full length album.
“We definitely know more than what we did. I know his mindset now,” Ramanna said, to which Nicholson added that they will pick up from where they left off.
Do they get bored playing their music? Yes. The feeling is mutual for both musicians who are open to experiments.
Process on the new material has already begun in the form of recording a synth groove here, a lyrical idea there and so on.
That said, Nicholson has been planting some thoughts on Bollywood and commercial music.
His intent is to get on into the film writing space which isn’t commercial Bollywood.
Nicholson’s introduction to Cotton Press Studio--and Ramanna--as a client, quickly changed into a more creative and personal space.
“We were organically working on the EP. It wasn’t work; it was fun and happened pretty sporadically,” Nicholson says.
Ramanna sums up his thoughts and says, “I’m happy I’m part of it I guess. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a long time with electronic stuff. It was the perfect time to put in all my effort.”
An anomaly that works in their favour is their completely opposing ideas.
“We listen to entirely different music. The combination of the two is what makes it interesting. It’s not too experimental, it’s not too pop,” Nicholson opined.
As soon as JJ and Dacosta come into the picture, they bring in their distinct sound as well.
Behind their song writing process Nicholson says, “Everyone writes their own part. It’s not a dictatorial thing and everybody is very much integral to the creative process. The end product sounds like the four of us.”
The singer stifles nothing when he talks about his crippling stage fright and audience interaction skills, in this case, the lack of it.
“I have zero desire to interact with the audience when I’m playing. After and before, yes. It’s not a performance act. I’m not trying to show anything, there’s no showmanship.”
“It’s not in my nature to stand and sing. I’m very comfortable sitting and playing,” Nicholson says.
You can stream and download their EPs here: https://nicholson.bandcamp.com/
By: Mohan KK