By Caleb Oldham
Siddhu Anandalingam is a 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist who has been playing music since the age of five, and writing since the beginning of high school. Over the years, his creative output has flirted with jazz, electronic, rock, and pop, eventually taking the hybrid form that is his current band Semaphore. For Anandalingam, a trained jazz saxophonist who plays over half a dozen instruments, Semaphore is “a specific two guitar, one bass, one drum setting” to play with. Therefore, as the creative compositional constraint of a multi-instrumentalist, rather than three instruments playing along to a song primarily written for one guitar, Semaphore’s music is intricate and can be hard to classify.
The artist’s most recent release is a remastered version of an EP that came out nearly two years ago. And In a Blink… (Remastered) is being released in anticipation of Semaphore’s debut full-length, slated to come out this summer. Rare Candy got the opportunity to ask Anandalingam a few questions about his most recent release, writing music in DC vs. NYC, and what’s to come.
Rare Candy: Can you tell me a bit about the history of this EP and your motivation to release it now?
Siddhu Anandalingam: A couple years ago, when I was studying in London for a term, I brought a couple instruments with me. One was my cousin’s old beginner Ibanez electric guitars, which I had never spent time playing (I was mainly a jazz saxophonist). Basically, during that term, I rediscovered “Siamese Dream” and I taught myself guitar through learning that whole album. In the process of learning guitar, I also experimented with writing some songs. For whatever reason, I wrote eight songs that ended up being a gapless album that I probably won’t release for a while. Writing that album gave me the confidence to work on some rock based guitar music for a band setting. When I came back to NYC, I formed the band and wrote the songs that appear on this EP.
With the initial release, I was so excited about being able to record the music I wrote, that I didn’t give myself the time to learn what music production was all about. After graduating, I delved into the world of mixing, mainly learning through watching YouTube videos. I remixed the first EP as a project to really show myself that I can make an album that sounds exactly how I wanted it to sound. So I took all the old stems from the EP, cleared their channel strips, and started from scratch! This process was super helpful to me as a musician and a mixer, since I am going to release a new album during the summer, and I now feel quite confident about my ability to produce.
RC: For this release you wrote, mixed, and mastered all of the tracks. How did your relationship with these songs evolve over that whole process?
SA: All of these were experiments for me, but mostly require different headspaces. Writing might have been the most passive of the processes actually, since recording/mixing is where you actually can make the songs sound like how you want them to sound. Mastering was the newest of the pursuits to me, and I had to really try to disengage from the song, and treat myself as a music consumer at that point to see what would sound the best to other people rather than to myself. I got a second ear for mastering though, which is always useful!
RC: Did you have a specific goal in mind when you were writing the songs on this EP or was it more like you happened upon them?
SA: The goal was to write some music I love in a specific two guitar, one bass, one drum setting. Most of the songs were things that I just happened upon while practicing - a riff here or there, or a chord change that I almost stumbled upon.
RC: Are you at all interested in expanding into other media - making videos or album artwork?
SA: I’ve always been very interested in street art and graphic design. I’ve thought about trying my hand at graphic design especially, since I’m pretty terrible at drawing. Some of my favorite musicians (Tycho, Tyler the Creator) have a visual image that is very in-line with their music. As I discover more about my musical self, I hope to be able to bring this to the visual realm.
RC: How does this release compare to the one you’re coming out with later this year?
SA: With the EP, I wanted to put two restrictions on myself: instruments and genre. You’ll have to hear the new album to see what happened to those restrictions!
RC: You’re currently living in Washington DC, do you find it easier to write songs there as opposed to New York?
SA: It’s easier to be back in DC as far as having personal space to be loud in. It was a good time to be closed off and discover myself as a musician. Since 10th grade, (and London), I have not really had time to practice as well. Being able to get my guitar and drums chops up to par was a big benefit of being in DC. One of my favorite bands, Protest the Hero, said that the only way they could innovate as players was to write music that was too hard for them to play; they had to become better musicians to play their own music. I’ve taken that mentality to heart for the new record especially!
I do miss playing live in New York, and being around my musical peers though.
RC: Have you ever wanted to give up music?
Nope! (Not yet….)
RC: Are you playing live anytime soon?
SA: There’s a couple shows in the works for summer back in NYC, you’ll have to follow the Semaphore Facebook page to stay posted!
RC: What have you been listening to lately?
SA: There’s this new DC group called Dove Lady. Duo who play like Hella, but a variety of sounds and styles! That, “Plastic Beach” by Gorillaz, and “Around the Fur” by Deftones!
Listen to Semaphore's music on Bandcamp.