The beauty about singer-songwriters is that their songs are mostly based on a unique individualistic perspective but somehow everyone seems to connect to it, making it magically universal. Mastering this art of reaching out, Pune based Tejas Menon with his songs about love and life seems to connect to every listener with his boy-next-door voice and catchy, yet meaningful, lyrics. His songs can be packaged and tied neatly with a bow, but individually they simply seem to have separate aesthetics. In previous interviews he mentions how he doesn’t want to be a part of a particular genre and wants all of his influences, like blues, rock & bossa nova, to plug in. He does this gracefully in his EP “Small Victories” which apart from being mammoth win in itself, was produced by the legendary Warren Mendonsa. From the unique sounds in ‘Philosophy’ to guitar parts in ‘Brave’, this EP is fresh, vibrant, colourful and groovy. While his vocals and guitar patterns make for a tremendously charming experience by themselves, his backing band simply takes it to the next level. The melodies will surprise you to the point that you never know what to expect from this young artist. With the sonic variations seen in tracks like ‘Until The End’, this talented singer-songwriter finds himself a new fan with every listener. A self proclaimed geek, he is invested in a lot of creative avenues which contributes to the musician in him. His live performances have wooed audiences and he has opened for Farhan Akhtar and played with the likes of Uday Benegal and Zero. Surely, he is the ‘The Next Best Thing’.
We spoke with Tejas about his journey, the indie scene and more. Here’s how it went:
Q) In your own words, you started off playing to friends, family, disinterested audiences and the staff of restaurants when people didn’t show up. You’ve come a long way and clearly garnered quite the following. What’s the journey been like?
I started performing live in 2011 and though it’s been almost 5 years since then, the real bulk of my work began in 2013 after shifting to Bombay. Still feels super rushed though, things have happened so quickly since I’ve decided to make this a full time profession of sorts.
Q) Musicians are always asked about their international musical influences. One of your major ones being KT Tunstall, amongst others like Sara Bareilles and Paolo Nutini. But we want to ask you; who are your inspirations from the independent music scene of India?
I’ve always kind of mentioned Gowri as a strong influence for believing in your own style and uniqueness and making that the primary focus of your art. I’ve always enjoyed her music and her commitment towards the art form. Then obviously Warren from Blackstratblues has been quite a pivotal figure in my growth here in Bombay. When he produced my EP with me, he pushed my music in a certain direction which has really worked out well. Apart from that Uday Benegal, Zero, and the Cotton Press Studio boys Tanmay, Aalok, JJ and Stu have been really inspiring and influenced my sound.
Q) In the podcast of ‘Maed In India’, a while back, you talked about the Rolling Stone article and you ferociously argued that there is no dearth of talent in the scene. According to you, what lacks in the scene is actually the infrastructure to promote and support the artists properly. What’s the indie scene like now? Are there any other things that should change?
I was a little annoyed about the fact that there were two different points being raised; one being the lack of headliners. That may be completely true, and I do believe that criticism and good journalism in the community helps it grow and refine itself, but I completely disagreed with the fact that there isn’t talent here. I see it everyday in songwriters like Meera Shenoy, Maalavika Manoj, Easy Wanderlings, Aditi Veena. If I’ve found their music I think anyone can. Good acts here are waiting to happen, and they need to be fostered by publications (like Indie Bullhorn!) and journalists alike to help them grow. The one thing I’d like to see are more music videos (for myself included).
Q) You recently opened for Farhan Akhtar. What was it like? What are your views about the film industry’s influence on musical artists and are you open to performing in it?
Man, that was surreal. It felt bizarre in a sense to open for an act that was nothing like mine, but then music is music, and I played to young people who seemed to have a great time. I think the distinction between the kind of music and quality of music needs to be made. I think there’s some decent music in the Indian film industry, and I’m not opposed to doing it either. I just want, in the end, for it to all go into what music I really want to make, and what reach and access it helps me acquire.
Q) Even though you are a full time musician, you are creatively invested in a lot of other things, like your forum ‘Geek Fruit’. Tell us more about it. Also, do these avenues consciously or subconsciously influence your music? Or is it only your personal life?
Geek Fruit is a dream project I have harboured for a long time being a nerd, and never did anything about until the Force Awakened. It’s just about helping and creating indigenous Sci-Fi content and also being a complete fan boy and discussing and geeking out over things that my co-workers and I love. Sci-Fi has influenced my songwriting because of patterns and motifs I’ve picked up while watching/reading a lot of it. I enjoy the subject matter I suppose. Also I’ve been opening with The Powerpuff Girls theme song for a bit now! We even play the Imperial March in our cover of Kunj Gutka by my fellow nerds The Lightyears Explode.
Q) You’re also the man behind ‘Kadak Apple Records’. Could you tell our readers about it & your ‘Kadak Sessions’? Is there any way that an upcoming musician benefit from it?
My ex-manager and BFF Krish Makhija and I started Kadak Apple Records to help younger musicians benefit from the little experiences and contacts we have made over the course of being in the ‘scene’. Good quality videos are easy to make if you are committed enough to it, and so we decided to make our ongoing web series to showcase singer-songwriters exactly as they should be seen; in an immaculate setting with HD video and audio. It has really worked well and we get a good number of views for our videos which tells us that people definitely do appreciate quality of content. We’re busy with one of our new artist’s Short Round’s debut EP release. It’s a beautiful record and people are really going to love it.
Q) One of my personal favourites from your EP is ‘Until the End’. You apparently wrote this when you were having a tough time in the scene. Tell us about that struggle. What advice would you give to upcoming musicians?
Until the End was kind of the opposite way I deal with struggles now and then. I usually am pretty happy-go-lucky and self-deprecating about my situation and the trials that any artist goes through. And I’m fine with it, I feel like it’s a rite of passage for all musicians and it teaches you far greater a lesson. But then there are some times when things really get to you and everything seems to get muddled up. I began feeling that way about singer-songwriters and how they didn’t get enough importance in the scene, but that quickly escalated into how I felt as a citizen in an independent scene vs mainstream, and then as a person who is powerless in a country which has stronger forces that I can deal with. It started pretty defeatist and then moved into a space of an uprising. Hah, not usually my style but sometimes you feel things, and if you put it down quickly enough, it’s preserved. Until the End is that quickly preserved emotion.
Q) You were going to release your full length crowd funded album which is to be called ‘Make It Happen’. What’s the progress so far? What’s 2016 like for Tejas?
Well I was going to crowd fund it until the opportunity for being funded recently arose. So now I’m busy working out the details of the said opportunity. It may work out, it may not, but I’m committed to releasing the album this year, later if not sooner. The album itself is written and 80% complete in my mind, but as time goes by new songs start to fit the context of the theme, so I might just add some more tracks to it. I’m also working on a solo tour to visit cities I haven’t yet. So work is cut out for me.
Cheers to Tejas for having that interview with us! Do check out the links below and don’t forget to like Tejas’ Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to his YouTube channel to get the latest updates.
Check out his website.
You can buy the Small Victories EP on:
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