Toto Funds The Arts: Peter Cat Recording Company
“I have noticed that across the years the one thing that gets the jury’s attention is willingness by a band/musician to go beyond a certain comfort zone, and to put in some work exploring that territory,” says Abhijeet Tambe, musician/theatre actor and trustee member for the Toto Funds The Arts program – a Bangalore based Arts-trust fund. “Quite often you can tell that such musicians identify closely with a certain genre, but through their exploration they find something that is truly their own, and they manage to put a unique stamp on it.”
This unique initiative aims to encourage young Indian talent in the realm of art and music, through workshops, awards, public presentations and monetary grants. In fact, Abhijeet’s association with the fund first began when his band Lounge Piranha won the award and a cash prize of 50 000 rupees, in 2007. “With Lounge Piranha it was clear that the cash helped us record our first album and that gave us the impetus to do the tour that followed. It also gave us a much needed boost in confidence. But cash apart, I’ve noticed over the years that the award is being monitored closely by the Indian indie music industry. Bands that win, and also the bands that make it to the long list, all seem to get more gigs during the year that follows. I think that’s great, it’s exactly what the award is about.”
For the Toto Funds The Arts jury of 2012, it was Delhi based band Peter Cat Recording Company who stole the show – with the act’s potent elixir of multimedia experimentation, DIY inspired creative processes and raw artistic appeal. Two years after having won the award, the four members of this unique collaborative project are well on their way to establishing their own individual niches in the Indian indie space – with every member also pursuing solo paths that they ultimately bring back to their Peter Cat creations.
“I’m currently curating a bunch of shows for Budweiser,” Rohan Kulshreshtha, bassist for PCRC told IndiEarth. “I’ve also supporting Bangalore based experimental arts outfit Kuru Circus – we finally got down to doing recordings this past week in Bangalore. Ultimately down the line with our individual work, we always plan to bring it back to PCRC. There are some crazy techniques we individually bring back to the band, by simultaneously working on our solo avenues.”
“The period since the Toto Music Award has been a period of learning, as opposed to creation,” reflects PCRC’s frontman Suryakant. “When we won the award it was early, we were raw – and suddenly we just won the award! Since then it’s been a period of internal learning and growth.”
Suryakant has since started performing solo under the moniker Lifafa, which provides him with an avenue for individual expression, and has seen him through tours across Europe. “I wanted to experience the act of conducting a performance alone,” he says. “There were several ideas I had, and when I started it was just about exploring the electronic side of sound – but I found it wasn’t really resonating. I also wanted to sing, I wanted to write stuff, explore Hindi as a medium of lyric delivery. For some reason I ended up playing a lot of shows in Europe – I played in Berlin at a concert hall called HKW, three to four shows in Italy, Amsterdam (on RED Light Radio), Portugal, and Sweden. It was well received, so that was encouraging – but I want to explore the alternative music space more in India, it resonates with more people here I feel.”
Band members Karan Singh and Kartik Pillai have also forged their own side projects and are part of Begum – a Delhi based experimental rock outfit that just recently released its first album titled Bagh. “Karan’s also working on a project called BasicShit.org,” elaborates Rohan. “He’s been working with NIFT graduates on this design project aimed at making cost effective urinals and addressing sanitation issues in India. They’ve been sourcing funding, speaking directly with MLAs, in fact at the ZIRO Festival of music they installed all the bathrooms – cost effective, recyclable loos.”
Cut to a behind the scenes look at the PCRC workspace – “Peter Cat’s setup is definitely what you would describe as a ‘home office’”, says Suryakant, “I live in a terrace flat in Hauz Khas village, so do Karan and Kartik, and there’s a big ecosystem of artists and musicians in the area – we keep collaborating with people, and a lot of production work and experimentation happens. Kartik and Karan’s band Begum – the whole album was recorded in their house, in their bedroom, it’s very DIY – we do everything in our own homes, in our own spaces. We actually don’t have the money to go to studios [laughs] Anyway, it has to reach its maturity, right now it’s in the early collaborative stages.”
“Most of what we create, we do in house,” continues Rohan. “Album art, productions, videos – we have a storage in the studio, and all of the band exists in the space most of the time. We’ve also launched these Peter Cat House Parties – we got sick of the usual house party scenes, so we started organising our own nights at home, curating our friends like Hoirong, and Teddy Boy Kill to play. The last one we did in Bangalore – in one room, Suryakant did some stuff with a harmonium, in the other room Karan did some of his electronica sounds – it was fun.”
And what’s in store for the foursome’s immediate future? “Peter Cat Recording Company are currently working on a Dibakar Banerjee film,” reveals Rohan. “We are looking at doing a Bollywood score for that.” “The newest things we plan on doing also include organising a fringe, finishing the new Peter Cat album, and touring across the country,” adds Suryakant. “All the bands involved in our group are going to tour through North West and South India by road very soon!”
For more on Toto Funds The Arts and to apply for this year’s award, check out the website here and the Facebook page here. Deadline for submissions is October 21st, 2014.
For more on Peter Cat Recording Company, check out their website here.
Find them on Facebook here.
Photos Courtesy: Peter Cat Recording Company