By Aaryaman Trivedi
Thursday evening, roughly four in the late afternoon in the almost unanimously perfect year that was 2016. I’m walking back to my college dorm room with my roommate Veer through the grassy patch next to the then-tallest flagpole in the country, according to former Member of Congress Mr. Naveen Jindal. He turns to me and without missing a beat, goes on one of his soon-to-be classic rants about an artist that changed his life. This is our first year at uni, everything I’m introduced to seems like it’s going to change my life but god fucking dammit, little did I know… This is the story of how I was introduced to the music of Peter Cat Recording Co.
You know how when you’re in the initial stages of making friends, you casually lie about having similar interests? Veer was 7mins deep into a rant that I would only truly come to appreciate 3 years later, but I played along and pretended to understand every word he was saying. He started talking to me about a song by this jazz band from Delhi – a city that I had only recently been introduced to a month ago at this point. He said they’re relatively unknown (cue your eyerolls) and only gigged in venues near Hauz Khas. I tried to match his enthusiasm because, well, this is what the college experience is supposed to be right? I don’t know about you, but pop culture and hollywood sold the university experience as underground bands and offbeat subcultures. So I strapped on my whimsicality and prepared myself to go down this hipster rabithole.
But then things started to get…real. What began as a music recommendation, spiralled into a glimpse into this guy’s insecurities; his passions. Somehow I was aware of all of this subtext throughout it all?
“It’s not just the fact that it’s a melodic jazz track. It really got me through a tough time bro, when you’re looking straight into the jaws of your own mortality and the only thing that strings you forward is a pair of house flies distracting you from your primordial thoughts? That’s doesn’t just come out of a vacuum, that makes you wonder what those fucking flies were doing in the first place!
Useless fliesThey’re in my houseThey make me lieThey make you doubt”
Veer had described to me, in the 7 minute walk to our room, what the song “Flies” from the 2010-2016 album “Portrait of a Time” meant. As soon as we reached our room, he connected his phone to my JBL Go and played what I can only describe as the most blissful intersection of worlds represented to me in a 6 and a half minute track. It felt as if for the first time in 18 years, I was experiencing my own unique musical personality develop, right in front of my eyes. I didn’t know what to say. I had only known this long-haired, black t-shirt clad, liberal arts poster child for a month and suddenly I’m agreeing on the tenets of existentialism with him? Was this normal? No. Was I beginning to become a “fan” of this local indie band? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Cut to 2 months later, our university’s music society (that both veer and I were members of) was organising its debut music festival, “Rhapsody”. Our winning personalities scored us leadership positions on the social media committee and you wouldn’t guess who was headlining the fest. As if the universe had aligned to deliver this experience especially for me, we managed to confirm Peter Cat as our headlining act. Mind you, this is 2016 when all of India’s Gen-Z hadn’t jumped onto the PCRC boat quite yet, so they were open to participating in more college gigs. We squeezed our way into being their band handlers and escorting them from the entrance to backstage, providing them with cigarettes and recreational drugs while nervously fangirling our way into photographs.
Frontman/national heartthrob Suryakant Sawhney (or as the stoner finance majors know him as, “woh Lifafa waala banda”) and former pianist Rohan Kulshreshta asked us where we were drinking that night in preparation for their concert. We took them to our local watering hole besides a sarso ka field in rural Sonipat, Haryana where our fellow students poured copious amounts of spiked Old Monk down these musicians’ throats. Only for these absolute champions to rush on stage, piss drunk, and proceed to deliver the single greatest live concert of our lives. Dhruv Bhola swaying back and forth with his bass, Karan Singh hitting the snare like he was sent onto this planet solely for the single purpose of nailing “Clown on the 22nd Dance Floor”. It got so wild at one point, the bandmates decided to switch instruments and perform a revised version of “Happiness”. It was legendary. Don’t take my word for it, there’s a VH1 interview of them saying “yeah we did one gig at sonipat that was probably my favourite we’ve done so far.” You can imagine my giddiness.
From that moment onwards, this band and its irreplicable style of 30’s swing married with new age disco-pop was innately tied to my college experience. It reflected everything beautiful and ephemeral about being desperate to understand myself. We continued, in our limited tenure as Music Society members, to call members of Peter Cat and spin-off ensemble Begum, to come to our university as often as we could. Reconnecting with our favourite musicians and still fangirling just as hard as when they first came in 2016.
When their second studio album “Bismillah” released in 2019, I had the beautiful opportunity to become what Veer was for me to someone else. And that’s when I finally understood what he meant with that introductory rant. This newly released album has reached the gold standard for everyone’s summer playlists, with “Floated By” somehow perfectly encapsulating static, photographic nostalgia that the entire album sets out to do.
It was set in stone. Every psychedelic experience, every budget boy’s trip, every heartbreak, every budding romance – Peter Cat was always there. It began to morph into the soundtrack through which I viewed my life and continues to be so with every newly released track. I get the once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the parallel growth of my favourite band and…myself. My youthful exuberance projecting itself onto every note these artists produce. If only I could go back to that first meeting with Veer and say to myself, “listen hard and listen softly. These flies aren’t as useless as you think”
“I’m gone, but youWon’t let me goThese bones won’t tell the truthDon’t let me go”