Singer and multi-instrumentalist Sidd Coutto has been around the block, performing in hundreds of gigs with previous bands Zero and Helga’s Fun Castle. He’s dabbled in composing for Bollywood films and television, and even tried his hand at acting. But Tough On Tobacco is where his soul truly resides. The band is a genre-defying spectacle that’s as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. The name isn’t just a catchy moniker; it’s a call against the perils of smoking. Sidd and his bandmates are on a mission. If they can deter even one young adult from lighting up, they consider their cause justified.
The music itself is a vibrant mix of pop, rock, and reggae, a sonic smorgasbord that keeps you guessing. It’s like flipping through a playlist that Sidd has carefully curated, each track a different shade of his complex musical persona. “I was in my late 20s and early 30s when I wrote the bulk of the material for the project. So, the songs are about life and my observations at that point. Almost like leaving instructions for myself.” Tough On Tobacco’s set at Mahindra Independence Day 2023 today will feature Bombay Brass, an eleven-piece big brass band led by the charismatic saxophonist Rhys Sebastian. Bombay Brass is inspired by everything from Indian wedding brass bands to funk legends like Maceo Parker. The result is a riotous celebration of music that transcends genres and boundaries.
Tough On Tobacco |
He recalls with a wide grin, “Some of my funniest memories attending I-Rock as a fan were how the audience would do things as one big, combined unit. From chanting ‘BC MC’ to sitting down on the ground as an entire audience, facing away from the band. I remember I was still standing and facing the stage when that happened and a random guy who was sitting whacked my leg and said ‘sit MC, uss taraf dekh.” The festival has been around since the 80s, and he calls it the “OG Mumbai rock festival”. He goes on to add, “Independence Rock was one of the few important rock gigs of the year back when I was a kid starting off. It was an annual event that many people looked forward to. I’m as excited to play at this one as I was the first time I performed there in 1998.”
In addition to studio albums The Happy Goat and Big Big Joke, Tough On Tobacco has released live recordings and EPs. Ask Sidd how these different formats contribute to his overall musical storytelling, and he says, “Songs are their own individual little, short stories. Ultimately, music is consumed song by song. If you’re tripping on a song or a band, it’s nice to have more songs by the same band and different versions of the same song to enjoy.” In a world where music is often a commodity, where artists are more concerned with likes and streams than with genuine expression, Tough On Tobacco values authenticity. Sidd isn’t just a musician, he’s a storyteller and activist. Expect their original songs in the I-Rock set list, including the popular Taxi Song which spreads another message: Don’t drink and drive.
Although the band doesn’t have the original all-star line-up of artists, they do join in whenever they can. Case in point was the concert at Antisocial Mumbai in 2022, which also featured The Lightyears Explode and Rudy Mukta.
“Most of the guys in the band are old pros. We learn the songs. We enjoy ourselves. That’s pretty much all we have to do,” says the frontman who’s excited about the “big, fuller” sound that Bombay Brass will bring to their act. Ask him what’s cooking after this music fest, and he reveals, “There is some music in the pipeline. We have many songs which we didn’t end up recording and releasing, plus newer material.”