It’s impossible to have a conversation with Nikhil Kaul/Nikhil Kaul, aka Frame/Frame, without lapsing into an aside about Noisia. We all know how cathartic it is to immerse yourself into a starry-eyed monologue about what gets you off creatively (yo, have you guys seen Breaking Bad, bitch?) but once you sink into the sound of his 15-minute long debut EP, Swimmers, the territories one encounters, though rinsed in liberal swathes of bass, is nothing like the pulsating DnB lather that Noisia spread out. “I think for the first EP, I wanted to put out something that I can chill to,” he says, speaking of the release that wafts through passages of bass gargles, glitch, hip-hop, sprinkles of melody and some intricate sound-design.
Currently at the receiving end of an unexpected amount of internet love for a music video that aesthetically encapsulates the wistful vagueness of his standout single ‘Pastels’, Nikhil is understandably happy about the response. “Anna [the director] and I were actually discussing that, in the history of this video, if we get a 1000 clicks, it’d be awesome”, he says of the same. At the time of writing this, the video has notched up some 2000-odd views and plenty of shares within the indie-fraternity, which should propel further curiosity towards his one-point agenda of getting the pay-what-you-want download on to as many hard drives as possible. “I happen to have some musician friends, who will tell their musician friends, who will then, hopefully, tell some normal people,” he chuckles while jokingly echoing an opinion we’ve nurtured for a long time; that there are normal people and then, there’s the scene.
Watch the video for 'Pastels' by Frame/Frame below:
And Nikhil’s no stranger to this oasis. His stint with composing and ‘playing gigs’ dates back to 2009 when he’d briefly floated the Constellation Project before moving on to Switch Bitch (with his mates from The Circus), another project that died an untimely death. There was also a fairly long singer-songwriter phase, during a time when the sight of a Fedora hat did not guarantee girls in the audience. “Since I have had so many failed bands, I kinda like have a frontman complex – I just wanna go out and sing,” he laughs while referring to his choice of vocalist for ‘Pastels’; that’s him spelling out the words to urban loneliness. The transition to producer happened partly during the demise of Constellation Project – during which he developed an interest towards the same – and partly while working with Keshav Dhar (Skyharbor). The duo partnered for a short while producing jingles and the likes, before they decided to put off the plan of selling their soul for as long as they could; and although Nikhil admits that “for the first six months I was of no use”, Keshav has endorsed his skills as a producer on multiple occasions. In fact, he admits that most of the early encouragement for Frame/Frame had come in from unlikely quarters – the rocker/ metalhead/musician! “I think it was pretty epic when Joint Family posted my song on their Facebook page. They hadn’t posted anything in like forever,” he recollects while mentioning that they’d shared ‘Syncretic’, one of those songs that did not make it to Swimmers.
The five-song EP isn’t the kind of dance music that conforms to typical dance-floor expectations. Not quite the music to rage to – this is more the mid/slow-tempo ‘swivel’ kind, with a crusty sense of groove lurking beneath a sonic palette that is rich in texture. His bathroom and kitchen have been two highly unlikely sources from where his samples have been constructed. “The hi-hats in 'Feather',” he half-asks, adds a timely pause and continues, “There are no hi-hats in 'Feather'."
“It’s just me over-frying a French toast. It was black and burnt but I got a nice recording.”
From recording his flush on an SM 58 mic to sampling sounds of water falling across different surfaces on his Zoom recorder, once he got one, his pursuit for recording natural sounds has been a key ingredient to creating the surprise that is so characteristic of Swimmers. “I think the kind of bands I have liked always pull a fast one on me. And don’t mind losing a few fans. You can stay on the safe road and stick to what pleases people but then four albums later you are Creed and there’s nothing worse than being Creed,” he says.
However, with Swimmers being nestled in the 85-100 BPM range, would he still go ahead and drop an all-original set at a festival or to a big crowd, considering he is most likely to encounter crowds who want to dance? “An all-original set will also have bangers that I make. Sure they are not uber dance-y but I think they are groovy. I don’t like manic dancing anyway,” he says. He reminisces dropping ‘Pastels’ right after a DnB track during the middle of his set at Bass Camp, a couple of weeks back, and speaks of a favourable response. There are no plans of sticking to any kind of a comfort zone within the kind of template that Swimmers has presented to the listener. While talking about his plans to skip across genres or expectations, he says “I just want to have one thin thread that ties everything together. And I think that thin thread is your personality – it’s you. The more honest you are, the more apparent it will be that it’s you.” In fact, there is a sense of a constant war being waged against the self – of not trying to do what he has already done. Almost as a footnote to such an observation, he says “I was thinking of putting out another EP which is the opposite of Swimmers.” We’re willing to take a bet it won’t be a rock record.
Stream Swimmers by Frame/Frame below and click here to download:
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