We watched the 4-piece live band Nicholson at the last edition of Live From The Console and were impressed at how tight the set sounded. We were curious about the music and the live performance of it so we got composer/singer Sohrab Nicholson to tell us more.
Which of your songs would you pick to introduce your music to our readers?
I’ve only released four songs as of now, so hopefully all of them. I’m hoping people listen to the EP from start to finish. It’s sort of one large thematic piece, even though the songs are not genre specific and differ greatly sonically as well.
Your bio says you’re “heavily influenced by jazz, folk and electronic music”. Share 5 songs that changed the way you thought about music and tell us a bit about each of them.
This is tough.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
James Blake – Retrograde
Crosby, Stills and Nash – Helplessly Hoping
Radiohead – Everything In It’s Right Place
Patrick Watson – Daydreamer
Tell us about your time spent at university in Canada [St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia]– how did that influence you as a musician? Are there any stories from the classroom or outside that you can share to give us an idea of what it was like?
I had a really great time in music school. I studied Jazz Piano there, I made amazing friends and probably should have practiced more than I did, haha. It was a great way to spend four years. I knew at the core I wasn’t going to be a professional jazz musician (I wasn’t nearly disciplined enough). That being said, one learns so much more when they are surrounded by people with similar interests. So, a lot of what I learned there had to do with the friends I made, and the music they introduced me to as well. As far as studying jazz theory and performance, it has certainly contributed to my songwriting process now, even though I’m dabbling with electronic sounds.
Your live performance stage setup is interesting. Could you break it down for us?
I would have to send you our tech rider to explain our set up haha! We have about 4 Keyboards, an electric drum kit and an acoustic kit all wrapped in one, a Moog, guitar, bass, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s complicated, but a lot of fun.
How many people on stage and what does each one do?
Four people. Rohan Ramanna who produced the EP plays drums, the Dirty Jay’s (Jehangir Jehangir and Stuart DaCosta) on Guitar, Bass, Synth, Auxillary percussion and live looping and myself on Keys and Vocals.
When you composed the songs on the EP, how much did the live performance of them figure into the process of composing the song? Also, do you stay faithful to the recordings or is it improvisational at each gig?
Neither faithful nor improvisational. All the material has been rearranged for the live show because the format is totally different from the EP. There are definitely spaces for improvisation, but it’s a fairly precise show in terms of form and arrangement. We’re trying to be as consistent as possible and of course we’ll keep introducing new material as and when.
Since your live act relies heavily on electronics, do you work out a plan in case there is a technical glitch?
Well, I write all the material quite organically at the piano. So, for the most part the material can be played in its most stripped down skeletal form – Piano-Guitar-Bass-Drums. It would certainly be a totally different show, but we’re all jazz musicians as well, so that too could be fun I guess, to have to improvise. Haha!
Your sound is very cohesive and strong. For a new band, you guys turned up fully formed! How much time was spent preparing your live set?
The first step was figuring out our set up, which took about a month of trial and error. In some ways we’re still figuring it out. It’s pretty complicated. All the material needed to be rearranged then for our live set up, which is vastly different from the EP. So, there were a couple months of really just figuring it out. In terms of how much time was spent, I have no idea. It’s a blur now. More so in the beginning because we were figuring things out… it’s getting easier as we go along.
You’ve also built a strong fan base in a very short period of time – or so it appears – judging by the turnout at Live From The Console. Talk to us about that aspect of being a musician today. It’s impossible to only think of the music, you have to think of the social and promotional aspect of what you’re doing. Does that come naturally to you? What has been your strategy on that front?
I don’t know about a strong fan base yet haha! I think a lot of people were there to see Mosko who were fantastic that night.
You’re signed to Krunk – how did you make the decision to get management this early on in your career? Tell us a bit about how having management works on a day-to-day basis for an artist like yourself.
Sohail the managing partner at Krunk is a good friend and has been very helpful and resourceful in helping me get off my feet, but I’m not exclusively signed to Krunk, it’s too early for that. We’ve played 3 gigs so far.
Where do you see Nicholson in five years? If that’s too far ahead, let’s say two years.
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. One day at a time. Right now I’m just excited to be playing live. I guess by then I’d like for us to have become much stronger musicians and producers. It’s an exciting time for music in India right now. People are becoming more open and receptive to different sounds. So who knows?
For more from Nicholson:
Image Courtesy: Nicholson
Live Performance Photo: Elvis D’Silva