UAE-based Sandeep Savio Sequeira, also known as Physical Graffiti’s guitarist, formed his own band Palayan. He writes, sings, plays and records Palayan’s music as a one-man-band. We are absolutely blown away by his debut album Metanoia which was released earlier this month and I caught up with Sandeep to talk us through the making of Metanoia and help us understand more about Palayan.
The album Metanoia consists of 4 chapters. An interesting arrangement which already makes me wonder how this album is going to play through, and triggers my eagerness before I've even hit the play button.
The album intro is atmospheric and suspenseful, transitioning seamlessly into the first song ‘Five’ which is somewhat spacious and subtle, and that seems to walk through to the following track White which appears to have picked up where Five left off, until this oriental-type cry just seeps in out of nowhere and cries that this album is going to be an emotional encounter
Q1. How would you describe your music?
"Its tough for me to describe but I’ll give it a shot. There are elements of alternative rock, folk, fusion and electro-pop. Soundscapes that feel fragile, vulnerable and unpredictable."
Q2. We know you were previously part of a Metal band before Palayan. How would you compare writing music alone with being in a band?
"In Palayan I’m the only decision maker. I am the judge, jury and executioner. Its a very fulfilling and uplifting to create something all on your own. Making this album and creating Palayan tracks is a very personal, therapeutic and spiritual experience for me.
Being in a band for me has always been collaborative. I also play with Physical Graffiti and we have a very special chemistry. When it comes to songwriting, I contribute with riffs and melodies to the songs. We all write and all have a sounding board in each other - Everyone has a part to play. Four members also means four different personalities, four different sets of likes and dislikes, opinions and musical preferences. We usually write while rehearsing together, playing on our instruments. The songs take shape in front of each other in the rehearsal space with almost all the instrumentation parts ready before we can record. It is a wonderful experience to be a part of, because I can’t do that alone.
I write songs with my acoustic guitar, the base being my playing and singing. Once I begin to record the songs, it takes shape in the computer."
As we move through chapter 2 and into 3, there's a couple of tracks like Deception and Where Do I Belong which are really stripped away and melancholic. As much as I'm enjoying the album so far, and the road-map it's taking, I'm just as much in suspense as to what comes next. You then pick up the pace as we delve deeper into the album with songs like Depth and Peel.
Q3. What sort of impression were you expecting to leave on your listeners through with this album?
"I just wanted to create a very honest album. All the music I love, have artists lay it out in the open. Listening to music that is so vulnerable and personal has always been the kind of music I’ve been inclined to. When I was recording the album I wanted to present each song in a way that felt natural, the way I felt each song could be presented. I didn’t settle on any aspect of the record. I pushed myself to create something that I always wanted to do, which I thought I’d never be able to do. This album kind of consists of most of my sounds as a musician."
So far, the eastern feel that's carried along through the songs is apparent and beautifully placed. It's also apparent that your background involvement in Rock and Metal still perspires through your melodies and composition. But then with Corrode you slip this funky song into the album which shows us that you do the electro thing just as well as anyone else. This track by far stands out the most to me. I like how something is created outside of, yet still a relative to, Palayan's identity. It's got a kind of retro/disco feel to it but still fits perfectly into the album.
Q4. What inspired the Electro-based project?
"This is an interesting story actually. Corrode was supposed to be an acoustic rock song. I recorded the acoustic guitars and started laying acoustic drums on it. Somehow, it cringed me out. I believed it had the melodies and the chords to be a good song. But I wasn’t digging how it was being presented, felt ‘typical’. I had my sister listen to it and we began discussing shelving the track entirely. After a 30 minute discussion and staring into nothingness, I opened up a bass synth patch and started singing along. Instantly it felt like maybe this could work. I then laid down the bass notes of the song and started singing. An hour later beats, bass lines, synth melodies and pads made its way into the project file. All of a sudden, Corrode was an electronic track. And it felt right. Even the turntable scratching at the end was actually a replacement for shakers.
After two days, it turns out I changed the scale of the song without realising. The acoustic version of the song was a lower scale. Mistakes work out perfectly at times.
I grew up listening and still listen to artists like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Coldplay and Incubus. They have and had albums that swayed through genres all the time. A heavy rock track would be followed by an electronic groover and the next song would be an acoustic ballad. No matter what genre they played their sense of melodies and chords didn’t change, their signature sound didn’t change. You can still identify it as them. I’m glad you can hear that in this album."
Chapter 4, the album closer, is as much interesting as the start of the album. Commence flows really well as a tune. It makes for nice company to the ears, and it's like a little story the way it allures more and more concentration as the tune builds up.
As we reach the last couple of songs, I'm reminded there have been a couple of ballad-esque moments felt on songs like December 5th and You've Done It Again, which somehow don’t deviate from the Palayan style that’s kept consistent throughout the project. It's been a soothing and calm project but not without being a bit punchy at times.
Q5. Describe the evolution of Palayan.
"When I started Palayan in 2012 I saw myself as an instrumental composer. To make soundtrack music and epic post-rock instrumentals. Once I had the confidence and began singing in 2014, it changed the game for me. Being able to use my voice and write lyrics allowed me to make my dream a reality. Now I find myself in a place where I can make different types of music and cater the right elements to the lyrics and meaning of a song. In 2014, I recorded 40 songs but I never released them. I felt like I needed to think a lot more about my sound. Those 40 songs were straight up rock songs. Alt- rock, hard rock, acoustic rock and electronic rock. I am glad I didn’t put those out, because I feel like I could do a better job now.
I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on the sounds that Palayan can have. I can’t wait to work on the next record, 40 songs are waiting to be re-recorded."
The albums closer leaves us with a real treat. It’s definitely the hardest track on here and could work really well as an intro even. Nice thick guitars and progression, and the vocals are taken to a tone not heard before on the album. It's a cleverly placed song because it demonstrates there's so many directions Palayan can take his music. Plus it's just a really, really good song to listen to.
About the Writer
Faariss Khalil is a British musician who currently lives in Dubai. As a former turntablist from Bristol his experience of growing up in a thriving music scene has fuelled his passion to uncover new music in the UAE. When he is not out there discovering talent Faariss enjoys listening to Dubstep, Trip Hop, Indie and Rock