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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Mumbai based singer-songwriter Urmila Sivadas also known as Perp, recently collaborated with producer, singer-songwriter, and guitarist Varun Agnihotri, for her new single, Best Friend. In this exclusive interview with India Currents, she talks to us about being part of a band, and representing India at the Songwriters Camp 2018 in The Netherlands.

IC: Tell our readers more about your new single, Best Friend, the idea and inspiration behind it.

US: The song is inspired by the lifelong, sacred, and purest love between two friends and how it blossoms over time. Best Friend is a mental dialogue between two friends who love each other and won’t talk about it.

It’s a story of two friends carrying similar and mutually undisclosed feelings for one other as they introspect the nature of the emotions they have for each other. They can’t seem to put a finger on the kind of love they feel. Is it the kind of love that stems out of comfort or the kind of love you see on movie screens?  

Artwork for “Best Friends.” Image credit: Perp.

IC: What was it like collaborating with producer, singer-songwriter, and guitarist Varun Agnihotri, for the song?

US: Varun and I are musicians that met through Instagram. I stumbled upon a video of his and reached out to him to collaborate on Best Friend after which the song was brought to life. Working with Varun is truly a delight. He’s a beast on the guitar and his songwriting skills are unmatched. Not only is he a brilliant musician but also a wonderful friend, colleague, and confidante with great patience and work ethic. 

IC: Tell us briefly about your musical journey—from starting Carnatic music at the age of six to venturing in the Western music genre space (Blues, R&B, Jazz, Soul, and Funk).

US: Hailing from a South Indian family, music came early into my life as I started learning Carnatic music at the age of six. My mother noticed my inclination toward music as a kid, and enrolled me in Carnatic music lessons.

I always knew I wanted to become a musician. From high school onwards, I started playing in bands set up with a bunch of friends through who I was introduced to genres like Rock and Blues. Soon after grade 12, I decided I wanted to pursue music professionally at a music school/college, so I joined The True School of Music for formal training in music where I was introduced to genres like jazz, R&B, Funk, Soul, Latin music, etc.

Perp on her Instagram.

IC: Previously, you were a band member of Mr. Maloouk & The Goombas, a three-piece electronic soul-pop trio. Tell us about Sticky Twiggs and the project you did with him.

US: While studying at The True School of Music, I met a dear friend and guitarist-producer Sticky Twiggs with whom I wrote some songs as part of a music school event. After that we decided to form a duo band, Safar Outre. Our influences came from artists like Radiohead, Lianna la Havas, Zero 7, and so on.

During my second year at True School, Sticky Twiggs and I got together with a friend and producer Avyay Gujral and formed a pop-funk band called Mr. Maloouk & The Goombas. Our influences stemmed from artists like Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, Busty & the Bass, and so on. They were both incredible experiences that contributed greatly to my songwriting skills.

YouTube video

IC: Tell us about your singles with NSHKO and Vavae.

US: The lockdown opened doors for a lot of distance collaborations for many artists.

NSHKO is a guitarist and producer from France who I met in 2018 while I was attending the international songwriting camp in The Netherlands. In the 2020 lockdown, NSHKO and I decided to work on our single My Mind together. He brought in a bunch of musicians from France who all contributed to the making of the song. We worked on it by sending parts over to each other via mail while exchanging feedback. We wrote and shot a music video from two different parts of the world.

The film’s premise is a lunch date set between a couple from two different parts of the world. I worked on my second single, Do Me A Favor with Vavae, a producer from Chennai after stumbling upon a video of his on Instagram. I reached out to him to work together, and we found ourselves with this super groovy track. Both of these singles shared a similar process.

IC: You represented India at the Songwriters Camp 2018 in The Netherlands.

US: In 2018, I attended The International Songwriting Camp held in The Netherlands at the Conservatorium Haarlem to represent India and The True School of Music. It was one of the most life-changing experiences to be around students and musicians across the world and create music together.

We were paired in mixed groups of three and were to present a fully written, composed, and recorded piece of music within one week. My team and I wrote Bubble Pop at the camp and stood first among students from 18 different countries. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and winning the competition was just the icing on the cake.

IC: What are you working on next?

US: I spent a lot of time last year writing and collaborating with different artists on new music. I’m super excited to say that the next couple of months will be full of new releases, very fresh music, and some really interesting collaborations. A lot of new music and a lot of fun gigs coming soon!

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Neha Kirpal

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She has worked for over a decade in print, television, and online media. Her diverse interests in the culture beat include books, music, travel, films,...