The Psychai Shop : Reflections-Part 2
I started writing this piece before part 1 but felt it was too long and condensed it into this. This was the original copy which I assumed would be too long but in retrospect I think I enjoy it better than the abridged version I put out before. Psychai was my first band and like a first date I find comfort in going back to the music I wrote with the band.
<Cue scene >
I’m rummaging through my cupboard. Trying to locate an old diary. I carried this diary to all my rehearsals. It has a part of me in it. Notes from The Psychai shop, my first band. I’ve located it near a bunch of old books I’ve kept for posterity’s sake. When I open it I’m surprised to find a bunch of neatly organized poems I wrote with the band and some newer stuff I’ve written over the past few years as well. The newer things don’t seem as interesting because I haven’t made as many memories with them as I have with the earlier music. We lived those baselines, that interlude, the lyrics, the emotions they evoked and the stories they relayed.
I was initially introduced to the guitarist Nikhil David and bassist Leo Joy when I came to jam with the group. I don’t quite remember how it went but I do remember us fixing another time and another jam pad that very day.
* I’d like to add that we also had a number of awesome drummers who were part of the ensemble and they added so much to the sound. I haven’t really delved into the musicians who came in at different moments or how their styles enriched our sound as a band.
This is purely about the written /sung material from my POV. A shout out to the musicians that were a part of the band : Ish ,Varun, Shashank, Vankoor, Vasu, Ankit and so many more . The musicians we met along the way who inspire us even today. Begum, PCRC, F16s,Bonobo, Fink and so many others..Thank you for the music, truly!
I was 19 when I joined Psychai and as the band matured so did I. I found myself falling in love with so much of the music we made. I sometimes still do.
When I was able to relocate this book of poems/notes, I wondered what my thought process was , during those 3 years I was with the band. Unfortunately with time, memories disappear but somehow it made sense to go over each piece and reflect on the words and memories attached to the songs.
To preface this article, I would like to add that after I left the band, I chose to study Music Therapy, a field that concerns itself with the intentional use of music to address a client’s needs. A large part of the work we do as music therapists revolves around activities like song sharing, lyric analysis, songwriting and so much more. And therefore this present reflection may have sprouted out of my education and life experiences.
I have divided my music chronologically, but it’s been so many years that it seems like I’m reimagining some of it. Its familiar but also distant.
As I started writing , various themes arose. Some which came to fruition last year(when I began writing this piece). The seeds of which had been sown as early as 2013. I did not have any of these recollections before I wrote this and it has given me so much to think about now!
Lets begin with the first song : Reflections
Background : I wrote the lyrics for this on the initial few jams, somewhere in Malviya Nagar. Sitting down on the floor with my notebook and letting the guys play out a riff and jam on it.
You pretend to listen
While my words feel pathetic
Trying to sound sane
In all this bitterness
Thoughts : Every time someone hears this song they tell me how dark it is. A lot of people who’ve been in an abusive relationship can relate to it. For me it came at a time when I didn't have that , and even if there were elements of it in my life (as is true for most of us) I wasn’t consumed by an abusive relationship. I just want to make that clear. There is an assumption that artists must experience every single emotion that they write about but if that was the case so many stories would be impossible to write.
Yes a large part of what the writer talks about is based on their experience but for me , songwriting with Psychai was not just about the words but also a feeling. The song is about a relationship. If you think about it, our entire life is about a series of relationships. Being able to reflect on the feeling just happened and I found myself singing as a character that stemmed from a feeling rather than an experience.
Second Song : Feels like a movie
Thoughts : Around the same time I wrote reflections and then sang it with the band we were also starting to align as a group. A lot of our music was inspired by trip hop bands like Massive Attack and Portis Head. This song was both a result of our growing love for down tempo chill tunes and the constant sharing of music. Nikhil and Leo shared their musical influences with me and my repository just grew. My early years were inspired by old school jazz tunes and this was my alter ego. Someone who went to learn music at night school while the day was spent churning numbers and tallying account books.
Storytelling is wonderful and while I learn more about it as an adult it’s also something that had to be more organic at that moment for it to make sense to me . Yes having a narrative helps but making up the story along the way has its own charm too! This was my attempt at following the hero on his journey without really knowing where they were going.
Song 3 : Gambler
Song 4: Cocktail Cubano
Background : Before I even wrote this song I knew what drink I was writing about. Years back in Hauz Khas Village there was a place called The Living Room, above which you might now find Elma’s Bakery. I remember going there once and overhearing someone order a drink called the daiquiri . When I saw their drink arrive I was mesmerized by it. I only glanced at it for a brief moment but eventually I wrote this song and gave a little nod to that daiquiri in my lyrics. It’s also essentially a song about love, a theme we intentionally or unintentionally often find ourselves wanting to write about/or reimagine. Scenarios are sometimes a big theme in songwriting.
Everyday I wonder…yeah
What is it your thinking about
Everyday I wonder..yeah
Why you do the things you do
And now I know
Why you wanted to be with me
For you loved me, unconditionally
For you loved me…
If you know me so well
Why don’t you take a lead
Pour me a glass of daiquiri
And now I know
Why I wanted to be with you
For I loved you momentarily..
Thoughts : What started as a song about love turned into one about infatuation ,with a person that you thought you were meant to be with.
I want to end this article by diving into one of the most organic songs I have ever written which is on a playlist titled : Chapel Recordings
Background : At the time Nikhil, the guitarist, would go to St Stephen’s college and knew some amazing musicians who studied there. This particular day we went to the chapel and had an impromptu jam. Nikhil had a melody in his mind and I had the other guitar with me. You can probably tell by listening to the track which part was played by me and most of those beautiful guitar lines are courtesy Nikhil David. I heard him play the tune and thought of singing over it. Much like you do on a therapist’s couch ; reflecting or just letting thoughts arise. I didn’t really stop and reflect about what I was singing until we played back the track later because thankfully we had recorded it. What you hear is an improvisation completely inspired from where we were and where our lives were headed.
Here are the lyrics for both the songs. Again I suggest listening to the song and then reading the lyrics, but hey if you prefer to read and then listen be my guest! This song was organically written and I would hope that I’m less rigid about how someone chooses to consume it.
Song 5 : Still Time (2014)
I often wonder
What it would be like
If I didn’t know you
I often wonder
What it would be like
To be away from you
Life’s a maze
And I’m often confused
How to come back
To where I came from
I often wonder
Will I ever know
Who i am what I'm meant to do
And who I'm meant to be with
There are so many….things
That I wish to understand
Song 6 : Commotion
There’s a break of day
And I wonder
What I did yesterday
There are so many
Questions in my head
There are so many
Voices in mind
Who should I..listen to?
Who should I…respond to?
Questions are so many
And answers so few
If there is someone from the beyond
Why doesn’t he answer me?
Its a break of day
And I often wonder
Are you ever gonna be here
There are times that I want to let go
Surrender my soul
But I wonder, is it any good?
Thoughts : I have so much to say about this song and so much of what I think it may have been about. But in a sense I do hope that the interpretation I attach to it will change as I grow older. I hope that you as a reader take from me it what you please.
While it has been wonderful to rediscover these songs after almost 8–9 years I can’t help but wonder whether I could have documented the music making process to be able to see my journey through these years. I wonder if other musicians find themselves pondering about this or reliving the memory of a song.
In time I hope to look back at more of my music and compare and contrast it. Even if I’m the only one reading it. :D Although I hope you got something out of this too. Maybe it sparked a memory, or sparked an interest in documenting your songwriting process, maybe it made you wonder about the story behind your favorite song or what that artist was thinking when they wrote about Lucy in the sky with diamonds’
Thanks for coming on this journey with me today.
Love, light and all things bright! ✨