In 2018, 12 independent musicians from various cities in India had descended in Chennai, as had music producers and students from Queensland College of Music in Australia. What followed were days of collaboration and recording sessions, the result of which is finally ready.
EarthSync, the production house behind Chennai’s annual IndiEarth XChange festival, is all set to drop its Indie 100 India 2018 album later this week. Scheduled for release on Bandcamp on October 25, the album features 12 artistes: Big Sam, Banat Bagga, Parth Zeth, Quarth, Hari Prasath Subramani, Utkarsh Tiwari, Rodaam, Bjorn Surrao, The Doppler Effect, Tazim Sheikh, Gopi/Louis and Cam Messer.
This comes right on the heels of EarthSync’s announcement calling for entries for its next (2019, to be released in 2020) album, and if the 2018 set of musicians is to believed, the collaborative experience is one worth competing for.
Bringing it to light
As Mumbai-based Parth Zeth explains, “A songwriter can only do so much. Beyond a point, it is the music producer’s vision that has to come into play.” Parth, who had also been selected in the 2017 edition, says he got to work with producer Dan Pratt both times. “He brings his vision and decades of experience into the song, and understands what treatment to give it, how to get the best out of different instruments,” he says, “Also, my ability to perform during recordings has improved. The idea is to capture the emotion of a song… this experience taught me how to effortlessly emote even while the clock is running and the money is invested and the whole room is watching.”
Before musicians can get to that stage, however, there are a number of steps like filling forms, mailing of sample tracks, and of course being selected from the host of applicants. But it seems to be worth the effort and the wait.
For example, Chennai-based Samuel Vijayan aka Big Sam, frontman of the band of the same name, considers the one song that they recorded with the producers’ help, to be a veritable window into a gamut of technical expertise. “He not only helped us with the song arrangements, but also sat with us to look at the lyrics, even though we only had a few hours to work together,” says Sam. That song, ‘Midnight’, is now a part of their album Stay, which the band is currently releasing track by track. “The remaining songs of the album, including ‘Midnight’, will be released by the end of the year,” he says.
Even before the artistes get into marathon recording sessions, however, there are pre-recording sessions where musicians and producers sit down to discuss things like vibe, genre and treatment. “My track ‘Smile Away’ is bang-on rock,” says Parth, “It has soft lyrics about self-realisation, and I wanted to make it a pop song. But my producer suggested rock and I wanted to see what he does with it.” The result, he says, is intriguing to say the least.
Focus on collaboration
Chennai-based singer/songwriter Bjorn Surrao, on the other hand, came up with an acoustic, “relaxed” song called ‘Hilltop’. The singer, songwriter and producer has worked with names like Benny Dayal and is also part of an alternative/electro rock band Franks Got The Funk. “My intention behind trying for IndiEarth XChange was just to work with new people,” he says, adding, “It was a huge learning process for both parties, with the exchange of ideas and the differences in approach to music.”
For Bjorn, like for most of the artistes in the project, the song release itself takes a backseat — it is collaboration that is priority. Having said that, it does not hurt to have your track polished and recorded by experienced professionals, and then released as part of an album drop. Though Bandcamp, as a platform, is not the preferred one for most artistes when it comes to song releases, it is more accessible than, say, Spotify or Apple Music. “For those two, you need to go through distributors,” explains Bjorn, “So usually, when we release songs by ourselves we opt for YouTube and Soundcloud which are far more accessible and hassle-free.”
Applications to the IndiEarth 2019 programme, presented by EarthSync, KM Music Conservatory and University of Queensland are open till November 8. Visit earthsync.com for details.