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SURYAKANT SAWHNEY

1 month ago | BY Huma Hazarika Sharma

The musical powerhouse behind Lifafa

The tall, charismatic frontman of Peter Cat Recording Co., Suryakant Sawhney also headlines Lifafa, his solo electronica endeavour that has him singing mellifluous lyrics in Hindi, a far cry from his jazz brethren, i.e., PCRC.

The Juice:
 What inspired the name Lifafa?

Suryakant: Lifafa means envelope in Urdu. There was no chief inspiration really. I just liked how it sounded, and liked the fact that it’s something universal, and not specific to a particular culture.
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The Juice: Peter Cat Recording Co. & Lifafa are both very different musically. How easy or difficult is it to go between the two?

Suryakant: I set it up in a way, that if I’m playing Lifafa after Peter Cat, I treat it as my drunk karaoke project and kinda get away with it. That said, thinking and performing in English is different from thinking in hindi.

The Juice: You’ve been doing a lot of live gigs recently, and your performance at Magnetic Fields was a festival favourite. How do you think the Indian audience has evolved over the years, and how different or similar is it to how people react to your music abroad?
Suryakant: I guess I inititally played a lot more abroad, even though there was a certain disconnect between what I played and what they understood. In India, I can build a certain rapport with the audience, and can play around with more things. The Indian audience is always looking for new things, and people here get bored more easily. I’ve worked in production for a while now, so I try and strike a balance between being accessible and staying true to some sort of artistic integrity I guess.
The Juice:
 You have a rather chill vibe about you and how you dress. How important is fashion to you?
Suryakant: It’s never really been important at all. I don’t enjoy Armani or dressing dapper, but I do enjoy a sort of campy feel. I’m getting into coats now – actually a combination of kurtas, pyjamas & coats. I enjoy finding things for cheap – more second hand, and not quite vintage. I end up losing a lot of clothes, so my wardrobe comprises mostly of second-hand clothing from friends, or stuff people have gifted me. I have a 20 blazer that is really nice, and a blue tweed one that I got from Berlin and have worn in a lot of videos. I don’t see myself as stylish, or having a particular style. Like designer Ruchika Sachdev of Bodice told me years ago, my style is very ‘bhikadi chic‘ (he says while guffawing).

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The Juice: How much thought do you put into what you wear to a gig?
Suryakant: I’ve started putting a little more thought into what I wear –  at PCRC, it’s more white now, as it’s something universally classy. Nothing too pretentious, and with simple details like an interesting design on the pockets, etc. We almost look like a cult, which I somewhat enjoy. For Lifafa, it’s more a nice blazer, a kurta and pants.

The Juice: When not making music/performing, what can one find you doing?
Suryakant: Everything to make money – I make films for fashion labels like Raw Mango in my spare time. I do different things every day, like get a typewriter one day, and grow bored of it after a week.

The Juice: Who’s served as your biggest inspiration?
Suryakant: No one really serves as inspiration musically anymore.  One thing I realised that I don’t want to follow the Kurt Cobains and the Jim Morrisons, and this whole idolising of this live young, party hard, die young philosophy. I’ve started looking towards people who have lived long, interesting lives and got married, had children. Someone who has managed to keep their sh*t together.
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The Juice: What’s been your craziest fan encounter?
Suryakant: Well, I don’t know. At this one gig, a couple decided to get married and they came up on stage and announced it to everyone. And, at TLR in it’s heydey, and more recently at Auro, people just come for the “b***s”..haha.

The Juice: How would you describe Lifafa’s music to someone listening to you for the very first time?
Suryakant: There’s a sort of sensuality to it. I always imagined it as a sort of good soundtrack to porn – this whole sort of music to the journey of sex. Lyrically, now I’ve started responding more to the environment. While PCRC is more inward looking towards my psyche, Lifafa is more about being an Indian at where I am, instead of this global being who’s very disconnected from reality.

The Juice: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you first started out?Suryakant: Too much time is wasted on not putting out music and sitting on it and ideating. The process has to be much faster.

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The Juice: What’s next?
Suryakant: The new PCRC album is out in 2-3 months. Maybe I’ll be making more music, but I hope not. I was already hoping to be done by music by now, and get into product design and filmmaking, and finally get off working on computers.