True musicians have never been bounded by the formal genres created by journalists over the decades. They very naturally respond to their artistic instincts, utilize every sound motif available to them and successfully create masterpieces along their way. If it wasn’t for this very ethos followed by these artistic individuals, a Delhi singer songwriter wouldn’t have had the courage to turn into an electronic producer, he wouldn’t have had the courage to use frying pans and bathroom tap noises in his songs and we, at the losing end, wouldn’t have had the pleasure to listen to five incredible EPs. Thank God that did happen, cause looking at the mark Nikhil Kaul has left in the past four years, it is very evident that the Indian indie scene needed his alter-ego, ‘Frame/Frame’ (Frame by Frame). With five EPs under his belt along with numerous collaborations with his fellow indie brethren, you never know what to expect from a Frame/Frame song. There are so many intricate noises along with detailed textures which are beautifully interwoven with trip-hop and deep house influenced sounds. Some of my personal favourites are hard-hitting tracks like ‘Rogue’ which sounds almost like a robot war chant and ‘Feather’ which is such an amazing embellishment of guitar parts, ambient tones and water noises. To top it all off, Nikhil is the man behind the upcoming record label ‘Lowlit’. Clearly, there’s no stopping this powerhouse of an artist.
We got to speak with Nikhil about his journey as a musician, his influences and his record label, among other things. Here’s how it went:
Q) From a debut gig with FuzzCulture in 2012 to not only being a household name in the Indian electronica scene but also founding a record label namely Lowlit, what’s the journey been like?
I wouldn’t say I’m a household name by any stretch. But I have managed to make exactly the kind of music I’ve wanted to make at any point of time and I suppose that’s the biggest reward of it all. With Frame/Frame, there have never been compromises with regard to fulfilling my personal vision to the best of my ability. The fact that I can sit in my bedroom and pretty much do whatever I like is pretty amazing. It’s all because of these wonderful people sitting probably in their own bedrooms listening to this kind of music. Lowlit aims to find all these people and put them together in a one room metaphorically and if we’re lucky, maybe someday, literally.
Q) You mentioned how your initial influences were acts like The Doors which you were exposed to because of your dad and that your recent influences are Trentemoller and Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ album to name a few. Could you tell us about your influences from the Indian independent scene over the years?
Some of my favourite music makers from the country are Big City Harmonics, Soulspace, _RHL, Kumail, Nicholson – honestly there are a lot of amazing acts. For a better idea of who I’ve been listening to lately, the upcoming Lowlit compilation tells the complete story.
Q) You’ve collaborated with the Keshav Dhar, Imaad Shah and even with the likes of Talvin Singh. What does a collaboration mean to you? Are there any special memories attached to the collaborations so far?
Each collaborative experience that I’ve had has been vastly different from one another. Writing with Big City Harmonics was a walk in the park. Whereas Imaad and I went back and forth a few times before deciding the final fate of ‘Hard Boiled Wonderland’. However, that is not to say that I enjoyed one more than the other. It’s really not easy to pick so simply. I believe that for musicians like me – who hole themselves up in dark rooms making beats – it’s important to step out of that comfort zone once in a while and try a new process. Whether a great track comes out of it or not, the worst possible scenario is that you end up learning something, which really isn’t a bad place to be.
Q) The golden rule to your song writing process is that at the core there must be some kind of musical sensibility. You’ve used a frying pan for high-hats on ‘Feathers’ and your bathroom tap for ‘Swimmers’. What’s the songwriting process like? How does your past history as a singer-songwriter affect it?
I think coming from a singer-songwriter process has been extremely vital to Frame/Frame – and that influence finds itself appearing in my music all the time. Being a solo acoustic performer meant that I often found myself in a situation with just a guitar and voice. The idea was always to make just those two elements sound as rich and full as I possibly could. It’s the same philosophy that I apply to writing music – that sometimes you might just need two or three simple things to make it work. I spend hours and hours trying find the perfect melody and the perfect sound to go with it that serves the song. This could be whole sequence of notes to just a one shot sample – but it has to fit like a piece in the puzzle, nothing bigger or smaller.
Q) Not only as a musician, but also as a record label owner and an active member of the independent music scene, what’s the scene like now? How far has it come from the time when you started back in ’12? What are the things that you feel should change?
There’s a definite sense of growth – both in terms of the number of artists as well as the number of artist managers, booking agencies, blogs and festivals operating within the independent electronic music community. This has led to the independent music scene turning into more of a “music industry” which is very interesting to watch from the vantage point of an artist. The influx of so many quality international acts to India is also a testimony to the fact that this market is definitely growing.
I do however think that this growth is a bit chaotic and definitely needs to be catalogued and presented better. The domestic pool of artists is just getting better and better, but the number of outlets for this art are limited. Creating content that documents our scene is definitely the right way forward – so that a global audience is educated about some of the amazing stuff that’s happening here. Thanks to the internet, the world is becoming a smaller place everyday. I think the responsibility is in our own hands as both artists and listeners to take control of this situation and create awareness about the music.
Q) Coming back to Lowlit, could you tell our readers about it?
The idea for Lowlit really stemmed from this void that seemed to be the electronic music scene. Vishnu (Soulspace) and I founded Lowlit as not just a record label but also as somewhat of a curator for the scene. While Lowlit Records definitely is an amalgamation of our combined taste in music, Lowlit as an idea goes much further. Our goal is to get to the very grassroots of the Indian electronic community and be able to create a platform for communication and collaboration for both artists and listeners – BeatDesk ver 1.0 was our first attempt at doing something like this and we will definitely have more such gatherings of like-minded individuals in the future. There is really quite a daunting but hugely exciting task we’ve set out for ourselves.
Q) For someone who has left his mark on the scene, what advice would you give young, upcoming musicians?
As clichéd as it might sound, I think constantly learning is the key. I don’t think one can ever stop doing that. In one word – YouTube.
Q) What’s the rest of the year like for Frame/Frame? What can the fans expect?
I’m slowly working towards developing the idea for an album. However, I do think it’s going to be a long time coming. However, I might get impatient and release a fifth EP because I like to get things out before I start to hate them, something that happens a fair bit when I’ve lived with a track too long. However, there are some remixes that I’m working on and they’ll be out soon enough.
Cheers to Nikhil for having that interview with us! Be sure to like Frame/Frame’s Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his YouTube channel to stay up to date with his latest releases.
Check out Frame/Frame’s Bandcamp page.
Thank you for reading! If you want to talk about a band you love, or a band you think everyone should know about, please leave a comment or send in your mails to . You can also mail us if you have any articles you’d like to send. To see more cool stuff like interviews, album reviews, release updates and lots more, stay tuned. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.