EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
What, according to you, were the reasons that Susmit left Indian Ocean?
The events leading up to Susmit leaving the band were on the cards for a fair amount of time, say almost six to seven years. Susmit had told us he wanted to do a solo album. We had said, great. So, he called a few musicians to practise in Karol Bagh, but somehow, it didn’t work out at that time. Then came a point where he said, “I can’t do the things that I want to do if I’m in Indian Ocean.” So, for all of us four musicians, maybe one vehicle of creativity is not enough. However, that does not imply that you leave the band. But it so happened that all of us got caught up in various things and then Asheem passed away in 2009. In 2010, we immersed ourselves in work — we did 88 concerts that year. Then Leaving Home, the feature documentary on us, was released. There was no time for anyone to think. Essentially, all of 2011, Susmit took off. Except for playing at concerts, he was spending time on his album, Depths of the Ocean. As a result, he gave less time to Indian Ocean. Gradually, he started losing interest.
With two band members gone, how will Indian Ocean sound the same?
In my head, what’s going to happen is, we’re working very hard with Nikhil Rao, like we had done when Asheem had died. We worked with Tuhin (Chakraborty) and Himanshu (Joshi) then and spent a lot of time bringing them up to speed with the existing songs. So, this is also going to happen with Nikhil. We’ve been practising with him for three months, and we realised we were touching some of the songs we hadn’t played in a long, long time.
Wasn’t there room for compromise with Susmit? A band, after all, is bigger than its parts.
No, he said that he wanted to leave. Now, if he really wants to, what can we do? He has taken a considered decision. If someone is bored, you can’t force them into anything.
You’ve known Susmit for over two decades. What were these differences in creative expression?
I think he wants to do far more instrumental. If you listen to Depths of the Ocean, there are no lyrics in the album, except for some vocal aalap. He feels he can better express without lyrics, that they’re a shortcut to expressing your work.
How do you see the path ahead?
We can only find out once we start making new songs. Ever since Asheem died, which was three-and-a-half years ago, I realised we had written only two-and-a-half songs. That’s a dismal record, if you ask me. Partly, it was because we got busy in 2010. Then in 2011, Susmit wasn’t there and we lost interest in getting together to practise and jam like the old times. Now, we’re already back to practising, even though everyone is quite confused about things. I’m hoping this unleashes a new wave of creative expression in all of us. Also, Nikhil has a different sound; he does some Carnatic stuff and he likes to play jazz. We want to check out his compositional abilities. It’ll be a combination of old as well as new stuff. We’ll do songs you’ve never heard before. So, like you, I’m equally curious to see what happens next, how different we will sound. Even we’re entitled to some excitement, right?