Photograph by Rozbin Najeeb
There was never a shred of doubt that the alternative rock/electronica sound of Black Letters would emerge from and succeed in Bangalore’s thriving music culture that celebrates everything the band stands for. Sharath Narayan, Sarang Menon, Arjun Radhakrishnan and Akash Chacko already have the crowds nodding their heads to the rhythm of their eerily soothing yet upbeat sound and they’re not going to be stopping any time soon. Their new music video for Falter, the single from their upcoming full-length album is only one of the many things they’ve got planned in the near future. The four-piece rock act has been wowing the music circuits ever since their 2014 debut album, Shapes on the Wall which was followed by their Petrichor EP only a year later, which also received an equally widespread acclaim, if not more. Ahead of their album release that is slotted for some time later in the year, the band take us through their tryst with music and the journey so far.
How would you define your sound?
I think the music we’ve been making recently has drawn elements from Leftfield Hip Hop, Psychedelic Rock and various forms of electronic music. In terms of the mood it sets, if I were someone hearing the new album for the first time it would feel broody.
Black Letters is quite the name. What's the story behind it?
It was the name of a song we’d written a long time back when we were going to high school. We liked it for some reason and it stuck with us for long, and we named the band after it.
What inspires your music? Alternately, what do you hope to inspire through it?
Film, art, life, people and music inspire us to create something of our own. It is the most familiar channel for us to create, express and relish. It brings great joy to us when people resonate with the music we make; it amazes us to hear how people perceive our music in ways we haven’t imagined.
Photograph by Rozbin Najeeb
Take us through the journey of writing and recording your upcoming LP.
We wrote and recorded most of the songs in Sharath’s studio. We wanted to change the space for a couple of songs so we went to Sarang’s in Chennai.
All the songs usually started out with one or to of us mucking around with sounds that I had recorded from around, and tweaking stuff on Ableton, synthesisers and samplers. After that all of us would sit around and record ideas we came up with spontaneously. Then I’d sit on it, arrange it and give it a form. It is a different approach from how we used to make songs. It worked out beautifully, we think.
Is the creative process this time around any different from the previous times?
Yes very much. Our tastes have matured and our approach to music has become genre-less. That has reflected on how we create and record. For example, while we were writing the previous records, we knew exactly what we were going for in terms of textures, layers and how it should sound. And we’d have these set ideas and try to bring them to life. But the new record is the opposite. We don't know what we are going to do with the sounds, we don't know where we are going with the ideas. We record when something we play/do feels great, play around with the elements in different ways without having any preconceptions and without letting traditional methods affect how to go about it. And when we sit down with everything we recorded the previous day, it is more of a subtractive process at first, we start to simplify things, and keep only the best ideas and the parts that raise the hair on my arms, start building around it and sort of let the song tell me what needs to be done than the other way round.
Artwork by Sachin and Sanjana Bhatt for Black Letter's latest single, Falter.
What themes or stories do you usually like to communicate through your music?
Songs speak out to us in musical expressions. The musical language and elements that move us are what we are after, most importantly. The stories usually come from a more subconscious space based on events that might have left an impression. They’re usually open ended for people to interpret in their own ways.
Are there any collective goals or dreams you've always had?
Yes obviously. We’d love to play festivals around the world, and travel around. We’d love to sit and have a nice meal with Radiohead. We dream about it often haha.
What have you got planned for Black Letters?
Album tour! Akash is working hard to make it happen. We are putting out another single first, then the album.
Text Shristi Singh