In Conversation With Letterz, An Instrumental Prog Metal Outfit From Mumbai

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Letterz was a studio project conceived as early as 2010 by Tejas Narayan. It took almost eight years until 2018, for Letterz as an act to finally go live. Since then the prog metallers have taken the scene by storm and have been grabbing a lot of eyeballs. They released their six track debut EP, “Imagine Salt” this July, 2020, which is a notable metal release of this year and also goes on to show how bands like Letterz are bringing in a new wave of metal into the Indian independent music scene. “Imagine Salt” is a treat for any progressive or modern metal lover. The recording and mixing of “Imagine Salt” was a D-I-Y effort and the duties were handled by Tejas himself and while it was mastered by Keshav Dhar of Skyharbor. We spoke to the band about their debut EP, how did they end up having three guitarists, what is their future plans and much more. Read the full interview below to find out.

1. What made Letterz transition from a studio-only project into a band?

Good timing basically. Tejas and Asxem met while Asxem was working on his own solo work and had approached Tejas to mix it. When the two took breaks from the mixing work, they began thinking about how to make Letterz into a proper band. From there they began auditioning musicians. The opening track of the Imagine Salt EP is Redefine which was the first track Tejas produced for Asxem.

2. How did you end up having three guitarists in the band?

Letterz has only two different guitar parts playing at any time. Asxem had already indicated his interest in playing the leads. Tejas wanted the rhythm section to sound big and wide so he felt another guitarist in the rhythm section, with a slightly different tone would be perfect. Usually Tejas is hard panned left and Shannon to the right. The two play in unison for the most part, but after the initial rehearsals, every song has bits where Shannon goes off-script and adds some diversity and width to the sound of Letterz.

3. What is your music writing and recording process?

The process has changed since the arrival of the newer members. Currently Tejas starts with laying a basic bed of drums, rhythm guitars and bass. The sections are still quite raw and the transitions aren’t there yet. From there the rest of the band takes the basic idea and begins re-working their parts, adding their style and sensibilities to the mix. Everyone records their instruments and sends it to Tejas to arrange it. Here, a lot of edits happen, sometimes with entire sections being edited out or moved around. This takes the song to about 80% completion. Aritra adds his details in the drum composition while Shannon handles all the backing electronic layers. The last bunch of changes come after the band jams it out a couple of times. Song done. 

4. With three guitarists in the band how often do you struggle to find a common ground while making a track?

This isn’t much of a problem for us yet. 

5. What are Letterz’s future goals?

Early this year we were already halfway through planning an India Tour to launch this EP. But all that got halted once Covid hit. So whenever it’s deemed safe, that tour is the next thing on our list.

A hand drawn animated music video of the title track, “Imagine Salt”
6. You have mentioned that a couple of your tracks on “Imagine Salt” had to be re-worked multiple times. What is that one aspect that you look for in a track before finalizing it?

We have no idea. All the changes in our tracks happen over many months. We’ve changed riffs so many times because we got bored playing it a certain way, only to remember that that’s why we changed it in the first place. The tracks on the EP are slightly different to what we play live only because we got another chance to record, so everyone added something different for fun. The songs are definitely never “done”. If we had more time, we’d keep changing it. But not because we weren’t happy with it. It’s more like we hear new parts after playing for so long and we greedily want all the variations.

7. Which is the one Indian independent artist that you really want to collaborate with?

We grew up in the Bombay music scene listening to bands like Zero, Scribe & Pangea with whom we would love doing a gig . A collab with Drum ani Bass or Bombay Brass would be sick.