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I had a band in high school called The Hip Hop Hindus and the Jumping Jew,” admits Goldspot frontman Sid Khosla. “We really ran the gamut of musical genres. We did a lot of covers. I think I might have even rapped one time. Trust me, you really don’t want to hear me rap.”
Goldspot is quickly garnering critical acclaim for their album Tally of the Yes Men, which was released in 2007 by Mercury Records. “Friday,” Tally’s single, is a far cry from the Smiths and Police covers of Khosla’s high school band. Elastic and catchy, it opens with the lush strings of A.R. Rehman’s Chennai orchestra—the same orchestra that has recorded countless tracks for Bollywood scores. The album was recorded independently, and therefore on a shoestring budget, but once the band was signed Khosla insisted on this one expense. “It was very important to me to have that sound,” says Khosla. “The record company offered to get the Los Angeles philharmonic, or an orchestra based in the United States to do it. But I had a very specific sound in mind.”
Khosla says he never studied music (save a college sitar class at the University of Pennsylvania), but learned to sing from the tapes his parents would play in the house while he was growing up—old film songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The imprint they have made on his voice is hard to pin down, but Khosla’s voice over strings, drums, and electric guitars in “Friday” is almost Hindi-movie heroic in its sweetness and clarity.
Goldspot’s unique sound comes from the subtle integration of Khosla’s musical influences—Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, the Smiths, the Beatles, Lata Mangeshkar, REM—and years of practice. (As his non-musical influences, Khosla cites “women who are kind of screwed up in the head.”) After the high school atrocities of The Hip Hop Hindus, Khosla went to UPenn, convinced that he was going to become a doctor, and then later, a civil defender. A few months into law school applications, however, Khosla decided on a drastic career change. He packed up and moved to London to pursue music with his friend Sanjay.
“London’s really where I started writing for the first time,” he says. Khosla credits that time as a period in which he, “got a lot of junk out of my system.” He was experimenting, for example, with extremes of fusion. “I was singing ragas over rock music … it was really cheesy. But I had to go through that to figure out what Goldspot’s sound was going to be.” He adds, “I’m proud of what we have right now, the sound we’ve achieved. I would never describe it as fusion.”
Khosla can’t explain the mysterious process of songwriting any more than a non-songwriter can: “I don’t want to sound trite or cocky or anything, but it just comes to me. There are these pockets of inspiration I find, and then I can just go. When I’m in it, I’m in it. I’ll feel something, and I’ll pick up a guitar, and just sing.” Some nights, Khosla sleeps with a guitar in his bed, ready for the moment, in the small hours of the morning, when a song arrives. He also carries around a little tape recorder, lest a song sneak up on him unawares. While Khosla doesn’t always know where his songs come from, he knows where they definitely don’t. “I’m not responding to anything [in American culture] with my music,” he say. “And I don’t want to be seen as an Indian musician. I want to be seen as a musician.”
Goldspot, which Khosla formed in 1999 in Los Angeles, after meeting drummer and songwriter Ramy Antoun, is in the process of recording their next album, which Khosla says is very close to completion. “I’m making music I really believe in, and we’re having a lot of fun recording it. Ramy and I are trying things that we’ve never tried before. We had a vintage music run, when we were recording in Austin, where we went to a bunch of thrift stores and picked up a bunch of instruments, and put them on the album.” Instrumental experimentation aside, Khosla says he’s getting deeper into his songwriting: “I had a pretty tough year last year, and a lot of the lyrics on the new album come from my experiences. More than any other album I think that this is a very lyrically driven album, and I feel very connected to the lyrics.”
|Shruti Swamy is working toward her Masters in Fine Arts in fiction at San Francisco State University.|