Photo Credit: Keegan Crasto
We sat down with Aditi Ramesh, of Ladies Compartment, Voctronica fame to discuss her journey so far and upcoming project.
Can you tell us more about Ladies Compartment, the intent behind the project and how you transitioned from there?
A: It started a few months before I started my own project. The line up when we started is not the line up we have today. I used to be a lawyer and never had the opportunity to jam or make music but I’ve always wanted to – I was fed up with there being only boys to jam with and they didn’t seem as enthusiastic or serious about what we were doing. The larger vision was having it be something beyond a band – a space where female musicians can collaborate. The first recording we did was with a friend and where I met my current management (Nrtya) – also where my solo career started.
And how did your EP ‘Leftovers’ come about?
A: The name Leftovers comes from a bunch of songs that I wrote a while ago. Since I couldn’t record them right away, they’ve sort of grown since then in terms of their nuances and their flavours. Hence, the analogy of Leftovers. It also symbolises the coming together of my band.
Your sound also changed with this EP significantly.
A: ‘Leftovers’ is the best representation of what my live sound is like right now but I think, that will also keep changing.
What sort of themes do you go back to in your songwriting?
A: The context through which I see things is my own life and the themes are ones, which anybody can relate to. I like to look at larger themes, observational society, generally anything anybody goes through. When people hear it, it’s something that gives them hope; it relates to somebody else who’s had the same kind of experience. Identity, definitely. All the hustle of life, things you face everyday living in a big city, trying to do your own thing – it’s cathartic to write about that stuff. When you grow and have more experiences, it’s interesting to see how it comes up in different points of time and comes out in a different way, how it progresses.
How do you tackle a writing block?
A: Just put whatever thoughts I have down and listen to music.
What sort of artists do you find yourself going back to?
A: So many different artists. I’m currently working on a reggae-influenced track and so i’ve been listening to this artist called Ernest Ranglin – the guy who invented reggae. It’s a mix of reggae and jazz.
What kind of an impact would you like to have on the Indian jazz scene?
A: Jazz has always been restricted to a niche audience and so it’s been misunderstood…not as inclusive as it should be. I believe that anybody can listen to jazz and relate to it in terms of the music itself. But I definitely want to make it more accessible; I try doing that by talking about very ordinary, relatable things. I want to bring it to more people and break down people’s perceptions of it.
Does that tie into the fact that you want to do your next project in Tamil?
A: Definitely. I want to reach a lot more people. English is limiting to a smaller group of people. After Tamil, I want to do something in Hindi as well. It’s a challenge for me because I’ve developed a style in English. While there’s an influence of classical and old Tamil film music when I write Tamil songs, I still have some things I like to go back to like chord changes or jazz solos. It’s different but very interesting. Even I don’t know what it will sound like when it’s done.
What are some of the difficulties you’re facing while composing in Tamil?
A: The lyrics are something I’ve worked on with my dad. We haven’t done it in colloquial Tamil but it’s quite poetic and some words can be verbose. To fit it into a melody and groove that’s western influenced is definitely a bit difficult. It’s a lot of fun though because there’s no deadline or rules as to how to write these songs.
Is there a particular sort of sound you’re drawn to with the new project?
A: I’m using a synth that Roland gave me. With earlier songs and EPs, I just used the keyboard. Didn’t really explore making sounds and tones. Now, every little bit I’m putting in, I’m making myself. It’s an interesting process because you can find something that totally fits the mood. I played one of my unfinished tracks for a friend and even though he doesn’t understand Tamil, he could understand the mood. For earlier songs, I’ve taken the piano and vocal versions for my band and sat with them. Especially for “Leftovers” (not for “Autocorrect”). But for this one, I’m producing the project at home down to every little nuance and detail like with film music. Once I’ve released it, I’ll re-arrange and have a different live version with the band.
Do you see yourself composing for films?
A: Definitely. I’m actually going to be working on a Hindi indie film. They start shooting in January 2020. The director came across my work on Rolling Stone. It’s in Hindi so completely different from what I’m used to but it’s indie so I still get the space to go about it the way I want to. If it ever gets to a commercial space, that could be challenging.
Best gig experiences?
A: There’s been so many. First gig in Sri Lanka this year was the first gig outside India as well. Really pretty stage right by the ocean. We could hear the ocean from the stage in-between songs. It was really special because we drew the crowd in to the story and I’d just quit my day job after a lot of hustle. It finally happened and immediately we went to Sri Lanka. I really liked Echoes Of Earth festival too.
Any dream collaborations?
A: Prasanna; the guitarist.
Any Tamil bands that have influenced you for your upcoming project?
A: Influence of old Tamil music that my Dad watches a lot. It’s a thing that plays in our house a lot. That mixed with contemporary jazz, reggae, and western classical.
You grew up in Bangalore and Buffalo. Do you ever think of crossing the pond and giving this a shot there?
A: Giving this a shot there – definitely not. I’d love to perform there and that is something we’re looking at. Either do US or Europe next year.
How has growing up in Buffalo influenced your musical style?
A: A lot of my musical development happened after I came back to India. But, I learnt western classical piano there and I was very into it. It has definitely influenced my thinking and ear. But, in terms of taste, high school and college influenced that, which was in India.
How do you handle being part of “the scene” and keeping it real?
A: There’s a lot of positive and negatives to it. A lot of artists get attention but also a lot of criticism and malicious behaviour as well. I feel like I keep it real because no matter what I do with my music, I am an ordinary person. We shouldn’t put these kinds of labels on ourselves. I live a very simple lifestyle and believe in connecting with the audience.
Thank you, Aditi.
Words by Alina Gufran
Wardrobe Courtesy: No Borders
Aditi has put together a whole playlist of songs that have inspired her upcoming Tamil Project. Check it out below