Yeah you seem to be okay
Your sweet taste in my mouth stays
So I’ll be waiting in the corner
A sweet voice gently flutters over the hypnotic plucking of an acoustic melody. The fragile honesty of the lyrics envelop you with a certain melancholy. The comforting kind. The kind that compels you to tuck yourself in and reminisce about love that is and and love that was. The kind that makes you go - ‘I don’t want to feel this right now’. Prateek Kuhad’s latest offering, cold/mess, is all that and more.
“I think I’ve grown as a musician and as a person. And a lot of it is reflected in this EP”, Prateek says. It has been three years since the singer-songwriter’s debut album, In Tokens & Charms. A seminal album in the indie-pop scene which catapulted him into a cultural space only partially shared by any of his peers. What followed was a lot of touring, film features and sporadic music video releases. But even that kind of prolific-ness left his fans drooling for a solid piece of work, so the 6-track EP doesn’t seem like a surprise.
“There isn’t one song on this which isn’t special or personal”, he explains. While In Tokens & Charms was a collection of songs and stories, cold/mess has a finer sense of narrative and structure amplified with a personal edge. Surprisingly, some of these songs were written way back in 2015 while the EP was conceptualized mid last year. Even though they’ve undergone several changes, they’re still emotionally resonant with Prateek. But with a ton of lyrical breadcrumbs generously scattered throughout the record, one can’t help but ask : what is it that you’re trying to say? Prateek softly answers, “It’s about a relationship that started and....ended.” Followed by an indefinite silence serving as a warning not to tread further.
I somewhat awkwardly shift to other aspects of the record. There are several aesthetics which are hard to miss, like the visuals for instance. “There are several visual cues from the lyrics of the tracks. Each of them has a little something if you look close enough. But I don’t like explaining everything to the audience”, Prateek is obviously talking about the complementary photo-series that the EP is served along with. A varied set of photographs by collaborator Anubhav Syal documenting couples sharing an intimate moment in a distinct setting. Even the cover art is of a couple kissing underwater, a beautiful and haunting portrayal of the tumultuous nature of relationships, which can even be suffocating at times. Another takeaway would be the song titles. While half of them are written normally, the other half is peculiar: with you/for you, did you/fall apart, cold/mess. Prateek explains, “It’s not so much about duality as it is about dichotomy. It’s also meant to separate the record into two halves.”
Prateek is at a fairly interesting point in his career. Having broken the perceived glass ceiling of the scene, his success as a singer-songwriter is something that indie musicians of India aspire to. But does some level of artistic compromise come with this? There’s only so many times an artist, especially a singer-songwriter, can pull from his or her personal life and struggles, before it reaches some form of self-destruction. Prateek says, “I don’t want to simply rely on making things personal, because I feel it’s an open trap. The emotional aspect of telling a story and the mechanics of the craft need to be balanced.” But he also admits that if a piece of art doesn’t have some level of honesty, it’ll lose its soul. With regards to his success and maintaining the music/business balance he says, “The whole notion that you shouldn’t make money off your art is stupid. First I concentrate on my music and make sure it’s of a certain standard. Only then do I take it further and do everything in my capacity to make it reach maximum ears.”
“I don’t plan my life beyond 6 or 8 months”, he admits. Well, if he has gotten this far, those 6-8 months would be really well planned. Which explains the US tour he has planned later in August-September, along with a bedroom tour which is in the pipelines to tick off some of the smaller Indian cities. But at the crux of everything is his love for songwriting. It’s the reason why he got into this and it’s what has kept him going. It’s also helped him deal with some of the rough patches of his life. “To this day one of my favourite thing to do is to sit in a room alone with my guitar and write a song.”
Feature Image Courtesy: Prateek Kuhad/Facebook
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