What Suryakant Sawhney Gives A Fuck About

The PCRC frotnman spoke to us at album launch gig of his solo act Lifafa in Delhi recently about going solo, fighting censor board readtape and accompanying Nigambodh to the Mahakumb this month

Asif Khan February 27, 2022
Picture: Sachin Soni

Picture: Sachin Soni

Someone called Lifafa was playing tonight at Cocaine, a new club in the Capital… the event had provided us with the perfect arsenal to crack endless jokes. The field was quickly to the punchline, “The question is – Cocaine ke andar Lifafa hai ya phir Lifafa ke andar Cocaine?” (Is the Lifafa (plastic bag) in the Cocaine or is the Cocaine in the Lifafa). Of course some of were even moving onto the prospect of opening another club Blow to complete the paradigm.

Introductions are in order. Lifafa is the electronic solo project of Delhi alt rockers Peter Cat Recording Co frontman Suryaknt Sawhney and this was his debut gig and album launch of “Lifafa I.” His act was opened by Bengaluru electronic act Sulk Station.

Sawhney looked like his familiar self. Unkempt and not giving a fuck. Maybe not giving a fuck about what anyone else thinks. Giving a fuck about what matters is an admirable quality, not found in abundance, but appreciated in abundance owing to its rarity. Sawhney has that enviable trait of knowing what to give a fuck about. The music he makes. Which is exactly why others give a fuck about him too.

Peter Cat Recording Co. has been around for a while during which they have gigged actively in dimly lit nightspots as well as blindingly bright festivals. A time long enough for them to have released a couple of albums and captured the imagination of an audience gifted with perception. Enough time for each one of them to gradually start side projects, because giving the garb of legit to anything has its own rite of passage. Not that the PCRC boys would have given a fuck. Sawhney had been dabbling in stuff beyond PCRC, having been heard (and seen ) collaborating with B.L.O.T. By now, he had given enough of a fuck to start his own. Lifafa. It is likely, and rumored, that the rest of the band might give a fuck enough to start their own too.

Just a night earlier, PCRC had released the video for Love Demons at Blue Frog. The online release of the video had prompted adulatory action from their small group of perceptive fans, with one particularly perceptive fan asking, “Do you adore Lynch?” It’s easy to make these references to anything that falls beyond the boundaries of perception but seemingly contains the strength of immense mind-bending creative value. What is difficult and more absurd to imagine in such creative endeavors is what Douglas Adams made the mice do to the humans. The latter analogy might fit better in the case of PCRC.

Following the music video release, PCRC had been working out the logistics of airing the video on TV stations, including the mandatory clearance from the Censor board. What they hadn’t expected was something that caught them completely off guard.

“We need to get some clearance for ethical treatment of animals during the video.”

If there was something like a WTF expression mixed with a smile that teetered between weariness and contentment, you could see that on Sawhney’s face now. Weariness at facing red tape after the contentment of having successfully made something with strong creative potential. The video was out anyway now, and the band would have to work ways to get it to air on TV. Although the bigger chapter that was unfurling in his life that time was the almost simultaneous debut album release of his side project Lifafa. The next few weeks didn’t look like they would slow down on the excitement quotient either.

“We are off to the Kumbh Mela in a couple of days. Our friends Nigambodh are releasing an album there.”

The association with Nigambodh has been since their early days, which makes it a compelling reason for PCRC to accompany friends who plan to release their EP at the Mahakumbh. “They have a very pahadi sound, but I’ve always felt that they have the kind of sound that has the potential to shake up things in the indie music scene.” Whether Nigambodh manage to do that is yet to be seen, but the way in which they are going about their release in a fashion which couldn’t become more organic makes them attention worthy. There aren’t any bands out there who are sitting on ghats and playing acoustic sets to make their music reach out beyond the limited audience at pubs and music festivals, are there?

Varied descriptions have been applied to Lifafa by “critics”. Someone called it “stoner electronica” and someone else described it as “a solo dance music project” (“I’d love to see someone dance to the music tonight, man”, was his retort when asked about the dance-ability quotient). The influence of PCRC’s trademark sound is the most visible across Lifafa. “There’s a lot of old Hindi disco”, says Sawhney, which is what can be found amply between sounds present at bustling railway stations to deserted stretches of the road at night. Actually you find a lot of old Hindi B-grade kitsch horror movies, of the sort that might accompany the walk of the undead towards the unaware nubile victim taking the mandatory late night shower. Listening to the record makes sense about why one of the Soundcloud tags self describe the music as “Chudail step.”

Lifafa had been in the works for a while judging by the act’s Soundcloud song links dating back to early 2012. It was just a handful of tracks that had been released as Lifafa, “not enough to call it an album, it was more like an EP,” he says, adding that the current version of “Lifafa I” is new material that may contain some influences from that EP. It was a bit uncanny how the EP disappeared from Soundcloud a few weeks after it surfaced. The widely held notion about whatever goes out on the Internet stays there forever isn’t something Sawhney may really believe in because he preferred to use the flexibility that the online world allows us “to go back”. Coming back better prepared presented itself as the better option for him. At that moment, while dunking coffee in a takeaway cup and dragging on whatever was left of that cigarette between his fingers, all he looked prepared for was what the nervous energy before a gig prepares a musician for. Not that it looked like he gave much of a fuck.