The indie scene is really filled with immense talent. Some of the acts make their mark soon after they start performing while others take their time, working on their craft till they are finally ready to awe listeners with their first release. Jishnu Guha a.k.a. Short Round is one such example. Having performed abroad for the last 8 odd years, even on the streets initially, this singer-songwriter is finally here for good with his debut EP ‘Desperate Times’. Stripped down and filled with vibrant instrumentation in equal parts, Short Round’s passionate vocals takes us on a roller coaster ride through life, exhibiting the highs, the lows and everything in between in this small, albeit brilliant, package of impeccably produced tracks. His journey as a musician seems to be an integral part in this heartwarming recipe as his experience as both a busker as well as a member of a backing band, among other things, has clearly lent his music a unique and soul stirring edge. From the energetic chorus of ‘Ex’ to the driving tunes of ‘Golden’, the EP grips you right from the start and refuses to let go, till it is the only thing playing in your head as you go about your day. This uplifting EP is almost educational in a way since there’s always a valuable lesson to be learned from each track. The instrumentation on each record, coupled with the arrangements, is really a breath of fresh air with no two songs sounding the same. Short Round has really made a strong first impression on the scene with this wonderful debut and it will indeed be easy to forget about the ‘Rainclouds’ if we get to see more such records in the future.
We got to speak to Jishnu about ‘Desperate Times’, his stay abroad and his journey as a musician. Here’s how it went:
Q) From playing on the streets, opening for bands, doing covers to having your first EP released. How does it feel? What’s the journey been like till here?
Playing on the streets was a dream of mine that came true out of necessity when I couldn’t find any steady pay while living in England. It may not have been the best circumstance, but it was an incredibly joyous and educational experience nonetheless. Playing with a cover band was a great way to let off steam and be reminded of the euphoria of playing alongside other like minded musicians and great friends and re-instil a drive in me to write and record music of my own. Getting to record and release this EP in the company of some of my dearest friends whose talent I respect to no end has been incredibly rewarding.
Q) Why ‘Short Round’? And why the EP name ‘Desperate Times’?
Short Round was a name that my friends in college gave me and kind of stuck ever since. When it came time to start performing and recording professionally I chose the pseudonym because
a) it was already given to me.
b) I’m really bad at naming things.
c) I thought it would a lot easier to spell than ‘Jishnu Guha’, easier to remember.
d) I find it mildly amusing.
Desperate Times functions as a thematic umbrella for these five songs. In one-way or another every song is about a breaking point, a turning point or a moment of desperation in ones own life or a relationship between two people.
Q) Could you run through the EP and tell us about the idea behind each of the songs?
Ex: Relationships (romantic or otherwise) will often be faced with a moment where both partners have to speak their truths, even though things might get ugly, intentionally or not and for any number of reasons. I wanted to speak about the feeling of swallowing your pride and pleading as you search for answers in that conversation. One way or another it inevitably will be for the best.
Rainclouds: There’s a great book by Leonard Cohen called ‘The Favorite Game’. In it is a very short chapter that talks of a young boy hiding under his bed with the girl he is too scared to confess his love to, but enjoying biding his time in her company nonetheless. Rainclouds is a short song that tries to find the silver lining in the darkest clouds.
Three-Minute Record: This was written and recorded within 24 hours of its conception. I had another song (that will definitely feature on my next release) that I was considering for this EP, but I wanted to include a song that specifically paid homage to the streets of Portsmouth, England where I started to write a lot of the music I play today. Nobody, including the band, heard or even knew of its existence, until after it was recorded. Maybe not the most advisable way to go about producing a record, but this will make things interesting moving forward when the song goes live.
Lies & Promises: One of the few instances where the lyric got penned in a matter of seconds and the music was very easy and quick to follow. The whole song is just three sentences; “should I lie and promise more than I can deliver, or tell the truth and disappoint you before I begin? Hello invisible friend, I haven’t seen you in a while. Not since you left me to fend for myself in my lonely mind.” The music needed to be just as sparse and sparing as the lyric. The sentiment is very simple, yet a cumbersome and an unwieldy challenge to figure out how to tackle.
Golden: “You’re golden if you try”. We often feel the urge to compare ourselves to others, and we rarely ever see ourselves in the best light because of it; at least I don’t anyway. So long as we keep sweating through it we can at least say that we’re not done yet, and that they have yet to see everything we’ve got. The days that I can honestly say that I’ve done that are followed by the nights that I sleep well.
Q) You’ve lived in the US for a fair share of time. How do you feel your stay there and here in India have influenced you and your music?
Living like a nomad makes you pause for thought a lot, maybe a lot more often than I’d like, but it is great fodder for the muse. There are nods to certain specific instances of my experiences in various places, but what I find encouraging is that the sentiments, questions asked and lessons learned are the same no matter who the people are or what side of the road they drive on.
Q) Who have been your influences? Have there been any from the independent music scene?
I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to be in the company of people who I respect and have such adoration for. All three musicians who featured on this album, Adil Kurwa, Aditya Ashok and Rohan Rajadhyaksha continuously astound me with their talents, dedication and ingenuity. I’m an ardent fan of all of their various musical incarnations (The Colour Compound, The Koniac Net and Spud In The Box) and when the guys who have my back have that kind of a résumé it’s hard for me not to stop and say ‘thank you for toughing it out with me’. I have to also mention Blackstratblues even though my work scarcely enters in his blues-driven instrumental soundscape. It’s his impeccable melodic sensibilities and command over his unique approach to songwriting that continuously inspires me. I want to write music that makes my audience feel the way I do when I hear Blackstratblues. As for my influences that I haven’t (yet) met: Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Frames, The Traveling Wilburys, U2 and Van Morrison feature at the top of the list.
Q) What’s your thoughts about the scene as someone who has been an active member? Do you feel differently about entering it ‘officially’ with your EP release?
I’ve had a very on-again-off-again relationship with my involvement in the music scene in India. For the last ten years I’ve been in India for just a few months, or even weeks at a time, which didn’t give me too much of an opportunity to make an impression. I could only play a handful of shows at a time and record very infrequently. Now that I’m settled in my ways and am in it for the long run, I’m nothing but nervous, excited and anxious to sink my teeth into it.
Q) How do you think has Jishnu Guha the geek, filmmaker and photographer influenced Jishnu ‘Short Round’ Guha the singer songwriter?
The songwriter has always come first. I started writing songs when I was about 10 years old. I shared them with my most trusted friends when I was 15. I set out to record my songs and share them publicly when I was 25. The filmmaking, photography and geeking will always play second fiddle at the end of the day. Some days will challenge that notion, because a guy’s got to eat, but with everything I do nothing compares to songwriting and performing.
Q) What’s next? How much are you planning to tour in the forthcoming months and what can our readers expect otherwise?
Kadak Apple Records is prepping for a soft-launch ‘Kadak Nights’ gig that will feature myself and a few other artists from the Kadak Apple label. Details will be posted in a few days. I’m looking forward to playing as much as we can through April and May until the majority of performance opportunities get washed away with the rains. Come September I will have more content to share and use that to fuel my performances through the festivals.
There are already a number of live performance videos that are waiting in the wings and shall be released in a matter of days. There are a few further still waiting to be filmed. And if all goes well a music video might just follow.
Cheers to Jishnu for that great interview! Don’t forget to check out the links below and make sure to like Short Round’s Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his YouTube channel for the latest updates.
You can buy ‘Desperate Times’ on OK Listen!
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