It was a hot summer evening a decade ago, and I was in the mood for some new music. As I scoured through my playlists, I stumbled upon a band called Peter Cat Recording Co. hailing from Delhi. I had heard of them but never explored their discography. As I hit play on their track, Love Demons, I was instantly hooked.
The band's sound was a blend of vintage jazz and modern rock, with a hint of a cinematic soundtrack thrown in for good measure. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. The lead singer, Suryakant Sawhney, had a voice that was both haunting and soulful. The lyrics were poetic and introspective, and the instrumentation was complex and layered. As I delved deeper into their discography, I discovered that their music was heavily influenced by the city they hailed from. Delhi, with its rich history and cultural diversity, provided a fertile ground for the band to explore various themes and sounds. From the streets of Old Delhi to the posh neighborhoods of South Delhi, Peter Cat Recording Co. (PCRC) captured the essence of the city in their music.
Watch an onstage rendition of Love Demons here:
But it wasn't just their music that drew me in. There was something about the band's persona that was equally captivating. They dressed like a cross between a jazz band and a group of stylish outlaws. Their live performances were theatrical and mesmerising, with Sawhney playing the part of a brooding frontman to perfection.
As I listened to their music, I couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia for a time and place that I had never experienced. It was as if PCRC had tapped into a collective memory, a shared consciousness that transcended borders and cultures. And that, I realized, was the mark of a truly great band. I couldn't help but wonder why PCRC wasn't more well-known outside of India. They remained somewhat underground and mysterious, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Of course, as I write this in the year 2023, they have acquired cult status, with a devoted fan base and have performed at various domestic and international music festival. They are packing for a long US tour including a stop at BottleRock – a three-day wine-and-music festival in Napa Valley, California — whose headliners include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, Thievery Corporation and Post Malone. The American Spring Tour kicks off in the last week of April in Montreal and Toronto (Canada) and moves to Washington, DC, spanning top-tier cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and wraps up in Hollywood, California by June. Tickets for Chicago, Boston and a few other cities are already sold out.
FPJ caught up with the members of PCRC before their 'Double Trouble' concerts – scheduled for April 7th and 9th – at Antisocial in Mumbai. These two will be their last shows in the city before they head out. They opened up about new venues and old stage hands.
Is it true that the fonts of the restaurant Peter Cat and a jazz club in Japan are the inspirations for your band's name?
Yes it's totally true.
You're playing two gigs in Mumbai, practically your last this year before the American Spring Tour 2023. What can we expect in the set?
We’ll be playing music mostly from our last album Bismillah. Our setlist is designed to be an immersive experience which takes you on a journey through the songs almost as if you’re at the movies. As for the American Spring Tour, we are excited and nervous at the same time. Organising this tour is challenging in terms of logistics, however it's an amazing opportunity for us to push the potential reach of our music and present it to a completely different audience than we have before.
Watch PCRC's track Floated By from the album Bismillah:
You will be playing alongside legends like Duran Duran and Red Hot Chili Peppers at BottleRock 2023 in Napa Valley. Does it feel surreal?
Yes, it does feel surreal. We are hoping to meet some of these legends in person backstage.
Your music is often described as a fusion of different genres. How do you approach blending these influences in your music?
The five of us have a wide spectrum of taste in music, which subconsciously penetrates our music making. Blended with our songwriting and recording process, we try to reach a unique sound that reflects our own life experiences and stories.
How do you prepare for a live show?
We generally like to have some clever, flirty banter with each other which helps us feel edgy and prepared for the stage.
Do you work with the same crew on live shows?
Yes, we have been working with the same crew for a while now. The main visual aspect of the show is lights which is done by Abhinav Khetrapal who also runs ‘Tech Quartet’ in New Delhi and is known for opening inter-dimensional portals with his lights on stage. Our clothes are done by the indie fashion house TURN BLACK.
How do you see the band’s sound and style evolving in the future?
Whatever happens, happens. To be honest we are slaves to our songs and whatever needs to happen to make them reach their full potential we shall accept and revel, be that new instruments or influences.
Which Indian musicians are the members currently listening to?
We are listening to Begum, Jamblu, Karshni, Shantanu Pandit, Many Roots Ensemble and Fursat FM.