Amidst the list of things that surfaced with the pandemic, there lie increased collaborations between artists. However, things worked backwards for Lakshman Parsuram, who goes by the moniker February 31st. He had least expected to whip up an extension of fuzzy, full-fledged alt-rock goodness through his new EP Fuzzbox, adding a refreshing twist to his discography.
An unprecedented lockdown affixed February 31st to a dining table away from home for six months, accompanied only by his music sensibilities and equipment. “I luckily had my guitar and half my pedal collection on me when I left, and it ended up pushing me more in terms of sitting with myself and figuring stuff out, as opposed to working with other people,” he says. It was then that he grazed and graced a horde of old demos to come up with the record, his first proper EP in about eight years, since ‘Of Dusk and Dawn’ in 2014.
Based in Mumbai, Lakshman took up audio engineering professionally, right after choosing to quit the IT industry and has released multiple singles and EPs since.“Being an audio engineer helped streamline things – ‘This is what I want it to sound like, this is what I’ll do’. It helps more in terms of being a producer than a musician,” he says. In that sense, the virtuosity in the mix makes a lot of sense given his experience in audio engineering.
The entirety of ‘Fuzzbox’ is steadily covered in a thick blanket of heavily nostalgic, shoegaze fuzz that lies on the borders of post and alt-rock. Posing as a refreshing comeback of the early 90s sound, the starter track lays the base. “I changed ideas, I was having a lot more fun with my pedal board, and a lot more fuzz coming out. The idea of what the fuzz is doing, comes from shoegaze,” he shares. In one short minute, ‘In Sin’ encapsulates the record’s general essence, featuring reverb-drenched, multi-layered guitars and drowned-out vocals, heavy with hazy feelings.
While the seemingly straightforward influence can be traced around alt-rock corners, boundaries start to blur toward the end of ‘Zerox’, when it doom-spirals into a noisy outro that bleeds into the intro of ‘Perfect Life’. In general, the EP doesn’t align with one particular genre. “Even if you look at how indie is in the West, it’s not ‘Indie’, it’s more just alternative music. It’s everything, its bizarre music now, and it’s great because nobody is trying to keep themselves in a box and I see that happening here as well,” he shares.
A deceptively comfortable chord progression appears in the verse, however, the illusion of reliability breaks when the chorus and bridge come along, offering an ensemble of distorted guitars. The score as a whole spins you around and throws you about, with stimulating, complex yet accessible portions showing up in unexpected places, a result of a very conscious choice. He shares, “If I play something that feels very familiar, I won’t want to play it. It’s probably already done, or it’s a straightforward way of doing it because you’re going to very obvious spaces. But the idea is never, ‘everything has to be unexpected’. It’s just, finding those spaces where some things could be a little different from how they are, but sometimes you need that familiarity to land back into those things.”
The second-last track of the record, ‘In Your Head’, features the sultry vocal delivery of Anokha, lead vocalist of Ink Of Bard, a three-piece blues/folk band based in Mumbai. The warmth of her voice complements that of February 31st in an astounding manner. “Holy shit, it was done in just half an hour!” he erupts. The EP arguably reaches a dream-pop high in the chorus, when the duo croons, “Hold your heart and pray to never care.”
As seems to be a pattern, a wave of doomy yet friendly distortion prepares us for the rise of the final chorus, which stamps itself onto our brains with an irresistibly memorable melody. Considering this is the first EP in which February 31st showcases his voice, it’s a laudable feat. “I only thought of other people whose voice I could borrow for my tracks,” he admits. “That’s just how it was for me. I think being on my own and messing around sort of made me think, let’s just see how it goes. So, I did one and thought that it doesn’t really suck, maybe I can give it a shot.”
As a short, fuzz-drenched exit track to Fuzzbox, ‘Mine To Keep’ shouts lyrical vulnerability and offers a range of subtle riffs that add substance to the track as a whole, paying great attention to detail. It oozes familiarity and a sense of predictability, bringing the EP to a graceful close. For what started out as practically a lockdown-induced revisit of old ideas, Fuzzbox came together organically, as a lovable collection of resurrected compositions, delicate vulnerability, and trusting moments. It stands as yet another unforgettable fruit born out of the pandemic era and a promising contribution to the indie scene.