“Mr Tailor came to both cowboy and sailor man/He brought cowboy hat for sailor man” is the lyric on American punk/pop group Deerhoof’s song ‘My Purple Past’, which is what inspired Mumbai based multi-instrumentalist Apurv Agarwal’s solo project’s moniker. Cowboy and Sailor Man came about in 2013, while Agarwal was studying music at the McNally Smith College in the US. His debut EP, ‘Closet Dancer’ was released as a pay-what-you-want download on May 12. Agarwal speaks about the lyric, “I immediately connected with that phrase. In my head, it’s a fictional character who doesn’t know too much about the material world and is the personification of all the conflicts within myself.”
The 4 song, synth heavy EP runs for just 15 minutes, but manages to showcase the producer’s synth-pop/shoegaze inspired sound. The producer also mentions that his influences while working on the material, namely Viet Cong, Tortoise and Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, had nothing in common with how the EP sounds. “I guess that’s whats cool about this, is that more than my musical influences, it was the specific instruments that gave this EP it’s sound and vibe. Most of the songs came out of me playing with my synths a drum machine and a vocal mic, all running through a looper. As I continued writing, it become clear what direction I was going in and then I just went with it,” he says.
The EP has sounds of 80s synthpop, shoegaze and dream pop thrown in. Lo-fi space-y ambient pads and clean delayed guitar parts and run throughout, and the producer’s lengthy vocal style give it a nostalgic and uplifting touch. A 1980s Roland Juno was primarily used on the EP, along with a newer Novation Bass Station II, which contributes to the organic sound.
When asked about performing the material from this EP and an upcoming second EP live, Agarwal says, “Live shows are very important to me, and that was one of the reasons why I chose to play live as much as I could for almost a year before I released any of the music. As for getting a band together, that’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit too, but at the moment I’m committed to playing solo. It’s a challenge! That being said, I’m already working on new songs which feature a lot more live instruments this time around so I probably will end up getting a band together even if it’s just for recording.”
Verdict – Short EP from a promising talent
Song Pick – ‘Flying Colours’
Here are some photos from the EP launch gig at Tuning Fork in Mumbai on May 13