Shubhangi Joshi on Collective’s debut album Babelfish, taking a leap and working on music full-time with a band
Shubhangi Joshi talks about her alt-pop band, which has released their debut eight-track album Babelfish, and working as a full-time musician.
For Mumbai-based four piece indie-pop outfit the Shubhangi Joshi Collective, creating an emotional connect with their audience is the most important element of the music they compose.
Fronted by vocalist and guitarist Shubhangi Joshi, the band consists of bassist Titus Pinto, Nishant Nair on keys and Aamir Ismail on drums.
The Collective has been performing live for almost two and a half years, and has released their debut eight-track crowdfunded album Babelfish today.
For Mumbai-based four-piece indie-pop outfit the Shubhangi Joshi Collective, creating an emotional connect with their audience is the most important element of the music they compose. Fronted by vocalist and guitarist Shubhangi Joshi, the band consists of bassist Titus Pinto, Nishant Nair on keys and Aamir Ismail on drums (also the drummer for progressive-rock act Paradigm Shift). The Collective has been performing live for almost two and a half years, and have just released their debut eight-track crowdfunded album Babelfish.
“I would say that Babelfish is really an introduction, [to] who I am and who we are as a band,” says Joshi. They have made a conscious effort to express themselves through their sound, not restricting themselves to a certain vibe or aesthetic. The album flaunts a full range of alt-pop, from the upbeat to the acoustic and the jazzy to the calming, interweaved with Joshi’s impressive, seemingly effortless vocal range. The album, with artwork by Annada Menon, has been produced and mixed by Ajay Jayanthi and mastered by Vivek Thomas, with additional vocal arranging by Arjun Iyer, recorded at Mumbai’s Blue Cassette Studios.
Babelfish is Joshi observing the world around her and making sense of it. “When we began working on the album we were very sure about the fact that our locus of motivation is going to be internal,” she says. Joshi describes music as the language she uses to express herself, which is also the idea behind the name of the album, as the band explains in an Instagram post:
This simplistic approach to song-writing without trying to complicate everything is something Joshi learnt during her six-week Isina mentorship programme in Los Angeles. “When I started out, I had this whole thing that I want my music to be cerebral,” she says. The residency, however, helped her realised that she doesn’t have to try this hard. “If you really believe in something you can just let go and take a step back, and you don’t have to complicate your music just for the sake of it,” she says. With Babelfish her approach has been just to present herself and let the music do the rest.
Throughout, the album weaves the theme of taking a leap and transitioning from one state or situation to another. There’s ‘Last Ticket Journey’ which sets an inspiring tone, telling listeners to let go of the negativity weighing them down: “You finally let go and you’re coming into your own. That’s what the song is about.” It is followed by ‘Curious Cat’, which seems to be almost an extension of this idea, an example of one such person living life on their own terms. “It’s about a friend of mine… She’s her own person, she’s so dreamy that she’ll do her own thing. So the song is my trying to come to terms with the fact that she disappears and appears whenever she wants.”
Next on the album is ‘Surfing with the Times’, an upbeat, peppy song about tackling a tricky past relationship, for which the band has released an official music video, directed by Heer Ganjwala.
Following this are ‘Why Stay Away’ and ‘Help Me Remember’, the former (satirically) encouraging one to not care or make any change, and the latter being a conversation with someone “who’s trying to remind you that ‘this is who you used to be. Why you feeling so hesitant about expressing yourself now?’ So you’re trying to remember.” ‘Foolish’, which first came out in 2017 as a single, meditates on the comfort of the familiar and the hesitancy one feels when making a change. And following it is ‘Cynic on the List’, a crowd favourite, where the previous track’s ‘foolish’ person who takes the leap might find that life can be rough. “It’s about my struggle, how I’m trying so hard not to be a cynic.”
The final track of the album is ‘Ode To The Moon’, a sweet thank you to the moon for existing and listening to Joshi when she needed to vent after a bad day. “I went back home and I wrote a thank you note for the moon, just for being there,” says Joshi. She wrote this track while still at her corporate day-job, before she had made the decision to quit and pursue music full-time, perhaps being her personal ‘big change’ that the music keeps addressing. “I decided I need to take a leap of faith. So I did. I wanted to do this [music] full-time, and I wanted to give it my everything. Because I didn’t want to be an old lady filled with regret that I had something to say and I did not. I don’t mind failing but I don’t want that feeling.”
Although passionate about music, she hasn’t been formally trained, making this a doubly challenging decision for her. Growing up in a musically inclined house though, meant her self-study has been thorough. “My first approach was to listen to as much music as possible, without hindering myself in terms of any genres… I focused on the lyrics, the structure, thinking about the topics artists write about,” and essentially keeping an open mind.
Joshi has been writing for a long time, and before Babelfish has published a collection of poetry titled To Stir Up An Ornate Nest and released a solo debut four-track EP Talking Away the Night, both in 2014. Compared to composing and performing as a solo singer-songwriter, she describes the sound of the band as fuller, with more elements to the music. “There are more dimensions of the song now,” she says about her work with the band, crediting it to the way they work together: “The atmosphere is really fun. We’re really good friends as well. And that’s really the basis of the band.”
While the Shubhangi Joshi Collective has received support from the indie scene and garnered a loyal following, being a woman fronting the band also means being heckled by attendees at gigs and being underestimated in the scene. “People will automatically assume that you’re just singing the song, you’ve not composed it, not written the lyrics.” In fact, Joshi is the lyricist of Babelfish, with most of it being written before the band was even formed. Nonetheless, Joshi has much support from friends and family, and the Shubhangi Joshi Collective is now readying itself for its upcoming seven-city tour, looking forward to performing live for audiences.
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