"Music doesn’t change, it is just that you change"- Exploring Lifafa

Anyone who has been closely following the Indian indie music scene is well aware of Lifafa due to his sudden increased popularity in 2019. With the release of his first proper album, ‘Jaago’, the response for his music has been overwhelming.

Suryakant Sawhney, the frontman of Peter Cat Recording Co. (PCRC) set off to start his solo project; Lifafa. His retro-Bollywood, electronic music paired with his soulful mesmerising voice, truly makes Lifafa set a different tone for Indian independent music. We got in touch with him for a conversation at Antisocial, Mumbai earlier this month. Read the full conversation below.

Q.1 You’ve been producing music as Lifafa for quite some time and performing live also but your act blew up in 2019. What do you think changed except the release of your album?

It was the only proper album. Previous ones were more figuring out things and trying to figure out what I wanted to do and when I did this album, I figured out what I wanted to do, with the aesthetics, how I wanted to sing, the ideas, the topics. It is just about maturity as I’m 6 years older so I don’t think anything has changed, nor has my music but I just grew up, I got older. Music doesn’t change, it is just that you change.

Lifafa’s previous works which are available on Bandcamp and the Jaago album have a stark difference. His self-titled album which was released in 2013, was purely electronic, with barely any lyrics and vocals and more angsty as compared to his latest release which is more soulful.

Q.2 Would you say that your music has certain politics attached to it? ‘Jaago’ and ‘Kya farak padega’ (PCRC) are two such songs of yours. Do you plan on writing more such songs about the political establishment?

Yes. I’m very happy to see that there is a growing movement against the government and its policies because more than evil, I think they are just misguided, and poorly thought out and a result of mismanagement and bad ideas. I think we are being ruled by people who have no idea what they are doing which is far more dangerous than somebody with ideas at least. I just think they are retarded!

Many musicians have also released many songs which is great! Music does have an ability to impact individual people and groups but people are the ones who change things, not music. It plays a very different, yet vital role in the entire scheme of change. It gives people hope, it can give people anger and all the emotions but that’s something which is required to strengthen any sort of movement. I’m very happy to see that the younger musicians and younger people, in general, are far more vocal and not okay with how the political establishment is. I personally would continue to be a part of it along with my wife, my friends, and my band.

I don’t particularly make any political music. I try to make philosophical, emotional, spiritual music which sort of talks about what politics cause, what they’re about but not exactly about politics. I don’t sit down to specifically write about politics or anything for that matter.

On the day of the gig, Lifafa, along with his crew were seen sporting an ‘Anti-CAA and Anti-NRC’ badge as well.

Q.3 How do you balance Lifafa and PCRC along with the Miya Biwi, the project you have with your wife? How do you manage time out for everything?

I luckily have the same management and he (Dhruv) is able to figure it all out, like when to do what and then I negotiate with my band and I try to make sure that I’m never clashing shows. I mean sometimes it works out great because wherever I go, or the band goes, we can do multiple shows, not just me. Sometimes the other bands have side projects, so they’ll also be able to play around. I think an old idea which we have that there are many internal projects within one group, so as time passes, I hope that we go anywhere and we are able to perform more so it works out.

I don’t prioritise anything. If a moment comes where everything is clashing then, of course, I’ll have to figure out at that moment but as of now we’ve been able to balance it and I think they hold separate places in my life so they don’t clash. I mean it’s hard, but I just started doing it. Maybe it could be even more hard later.

Q.4 When it comes to PCRC, people often recognise you as the ‘Lifafa guy’ and as Lifafa, they recognise you as the ‘PCRC lead.’ Do you think both these acts are co-dependent on each other? How are you working on creating a separate identity for both these acts?

I think that’s great! Everyone is co-dependent on each other. I personally don’t like it when people ask for PCRC’s songs during a Lifafa gig or vice versa because I think that it’s disrespectful for both the music, and the artist but in general, I feel that I’m co-dependent on all the people I work with and they are co-dependent on me. So, it’s just a matter of people. There’s no act or artists, it’s just a bunch of people working together and doing what they do.

Everything is hand in hand. PCRC and Lifafa are just names, labels. It’s just separating things to organise them. They just happen to be and there’s no third perspective on this issue.

So, if a person recognises me as the lead guy of PCRC, I don’t really care. I respect my privacy but they listen to my music and if they recognise me in any way, I don’t really care.

Q.5 Are you working on any new music?

Yes! New Lifafa album and new PCRC album will come out this year! The album is a lot more spiritual in a way and also angry. There are some similar elements to the Jaago album but I’m still working on it, it’s like 30% done.

Q.6 Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everything. This conversation, anything, and everything. I don’t have a particular thing for inspiration. I don’t listen to music or watch movies for inspiration.

Q.7 How would you describe your Jaago album?

It’s a self-contained album. I’m personally very happy with it and I love how it turned out to be because it came out very close to how I had imagined it would be like. I think what I hoped to do with it was to open a completely new roar of what indie music could be like and that’s really what had set it out to be. I felt that Indie music was really narrowly defined and there was this insane new capacity to expand what it could mean, the ideas of art culture and music. I think it’s like an expanding album. It takes time to figure out what to do, how to do it.