Interviewed by Zarah Noorani (@zarahnoorani)
Stream Milk Teeth here
Find Shantanu here
Z - As a (beyond) curious listener, there’s a lot of questions i’d like to put forth to you after listening to the album. But for the sake of your time and our readers’ ever-decreasing attention span, I’ll keep them concise.
The album reeks of a certain sense of childlike wonder. It brings one back to spending your nights out on playgrounds just… being. What truly inspired you to bring the idea of Milk Teeth to life? I'm glad you see it that way! Spending nights out downstairs with my VK friends playing hide and seek and chor-police was my entire life as a kid, and I can't help but look back and feel stuff. I didn't have a choice really, the songs just poured themselves out of me, and I knew this had to be my life's mission for the next couple years. I think the songs are what truly inspired me to see the bigger vision and bring it down to earth.
The last few months leading up to a release can be nerve-wrecking for some and unbelievably exciting for others. What were the past few months before the release of Milk Teeth like for you?
My Grandmother recently bought me a motorcycle, and I've been on the road now for like 4 months. It started with me and a friend deciding to do this 10-day ride/trek to Panchachuli base camp. By the time we got back to network (25-26 April), the second wave was in full force and going back to Delhi was out of the question. I ended up finding a nice room in Munsiyari, where I stayed by myself for 2 months. I went on so many walks and treks, it was beautiful. I ended up getting pretty lonely though, so I rode 1200 km to Himachal over 3 days to meet a friend. Did a month of riding and trekking around Himachal and eventually made it to Leh, where I've been for over a month now.
I'm so lucky to have the good folks at Pagal Haina take most of the burden from the release off my chest. I find the whole slow release thing very stressful and irritating, and being A-wol for a lot of it is my screwed up/selfish way of dealing with it. It did pose a whole bunch of new challenges though, I wouldn't recommend.
Your first release from the album was Aliza Don’t Count on Me which came out on June 18th. What was the story behind it? Could you break it down for us?
I think it's about a relationship I had with this girl in 11th grade. I caused her a lot of pain. It had been many years between that and when I wrote the song. Guilt has a weird way of festering inside you.
The album was years in the making. Now that it’s ready, how does it feel?
It's been ready for a year. Now that it's finally out, I feel so nice. Feels like closure. Sitting on these songs for so long messed me up. Now I can finally move on with my life.
Music is something that finds its way into all our lives. As a musician, I'd love to know about your relationship with music.
(additional notes for Shantanu: This question makes sense, I promise. To elaborate further on this - I’d like to know how you feel about music, it could be anything. Making music, listening to music, finding music, learning music, anything at all.)
I have a really weird relationship with music. I go on these long breaks, from playing music to even listening to music. Kinda like a detox. I don't enjoy music in the background. Most people like doing tasks to music, but I can never get myself to do that. For me, music is a task in itself, and if I'm listening, then I can't do anything else. It actually takes something out of me.
I have phases where I'll go hard listening to new music, revisiting old music, looking for inspiration wherever I can, writing a bunch. Then there'll be months where I don't even look at my instruments, let alone pick them up. When I'm travelling, I don't even carry earphones. I still barely use Spotify or any other music streaming platform. The only music I have on my phone currently is Milk Teeth (lol).
When I'm with my friends, I'm almost never the one playing music. I don't even care anymore, I know what I like, but I'll listen to anything and find something there for me to appreciate or empathize with.
Making music helps me a lot, like a lot-a lot. It's cliché, I know, but it really is therapy for me. I'd be a chut if I hadn't picked up a guitar. I was a weird jock type dude in school. Music tamed me. But it does come with its own weight.
When I meet new people, and they ask me what I do, I always lie. I tell them I work in research or that I'm a content writer, blah blah. I'm always trying to hide from people that I'm a musician because I'm terrified that they'll ask me to sing or they'll start playing my songs on their phone in front of me. I know I should be owning it. It's something I gotta deal with.
[ thank you for this question (: so glad you asked it ]
As in-person gigs continue to feel like a distant dream, let us go ahead and reminisce over ‘what once was’. As a performer, what would you say was your favourite part of a gig?
There's some gigs where you start and end, but the middle feels like a dream that slips away the more you try to remember it. Those are my favourite. They come easier when you're playing with other people, like in a band. I guess you can call it flow state or w/e. When you're well-rehearsed and tight enough to go into autopilot. I imagine jazz musicians tap into this almost every time (I'm so jealous :P).
If it's a normal gig, I'd say the moment it ends. When it's good, you feel like a G and walk around the venue with your chest out. When it's bad, at least you got through it, and you can go back to your hotel room and cry yourself to sleep.