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Music
What you need to know for 01/23/2017

Goldspot’s Khosla draws on parents’ struggles for songs

Goldspot’s Khosla draws on parents’ struggles for songs

When it came time to prepare Goldspot’s third album, “Aerogramme,” released on Aug. 20, Indian-Ameri
Goldspot’s Khosla draws on parents’ struggles for songs
Siddhartha Khosla

When it came time to prepare Goldspot’s third album, “Aerogramme,” released on Aug. 20, Indian-American singer-songwriter Siddhartha Khosla was at a loss for what to write about.

All of the albums he has recorded under the name Goldspot have been concept albums — from the 2007 debut “Tally of the Yes Men,” which dealt with his experience working a 9-to-5 job, to its follow-up, 2010’s “And the Elephant is Dancing,” which focused on interpersonal relationships following a difficult period in his life. Since the release of “And the Elephant is Dancing,” Khosla married and is expecting his first child.

“My personal life is in a great place; I’m happily married, and so trying to find something to write about when you’re generally in a good place is really hard,” he said recently from Hoboken, N.J. “I really researched — I had to figure out what was going to work here for me.”

Into the past

He ended up looking to his past for the 10-song “Aerogramme,” which tells the story of his parents’ immigration from India to the U.S. in the late ’70s, combining their experiences with his own memories. He was inspired by a conversation he had with his father a couple of years ago about the hard times they experienced when they first moved to the U.S.

Goldspot, with john Brodeur

When: 8 tonight

Where: The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, 339 Central Ave., Albany

How Much: $15

More Info: 465-5233 ext. 4, www.wamcarts.org

“He told me the story of how they left their family in India at the airport — their whole extended family, dozens of people, came to say goodbye when they left Delhi,” Khosla said.

“They came to the U.S. with eight dollars in their pockets; they were struggling to pay their bills. My dad told me about how he wrote letters back home to his family on paper napkins — he wrote these letters on paper napkins about their experiences, but he never sent those letters. At that point it just hit me — this is what this is gonna be about, because I have so many memories from that time, watching the struggle and being torn by the struggle.”

Indeed, Khosla and his family were separated soon after moving to the U.S. Unable to support the then 2-year-old Khosla, his parents brought him back to India to live with his grandparents for a time.

“In that time it was too expensive to make a long-distance call — it was 20-something dollars a minute, and there was no Skype, no Internet,” Khosla said. “The only other option was to send — so that I could hear my mom’s voice, my parents would send a casette tape with their voices recorded on it. We sent the same tape back and forth for a couple of years. I still have that tape.”

The family reunited later in the U.S., and his cross-cultural experiences shaped the music he would soon begin making in his first band in high school. That tape was the basis of one of the songs on “Aerogramme,” “The Evergreen Cassette.”

Brief tour

Khosla will bring his touring band — guitarist Jay Barclay, guitarist and keyboardist Jake Owen, bassist Adam Chilenski and drummer Darren Beckett — to The Linda tonight. Because Khosla and his wife are expecting a child, The Linda performance will be one of only a handful of shows Goldspot will be doing behind the album, at least for a month. In the meantime, Khosla will be setting up Skype sessions with fans directly from his home, where he will perform songs acoustically.

“You may hear a baby crying in the background,” he said. “All the fans need to do is reach out on Facebook — message the Goldspot Facebook [www.facebook.com/Goldspot.music] — and it’s totally a free little thing. I may get a ton of requests; I have no idea, but I want to do it.”

In addition to the standard indie rock instrumental setup, the band is known for adding instruments such as the harmonium, a hand-pump organ common in Indian music, and the bouzouki, a key element of the band’s sound. All these elements will be on display at The Linda.

“I’ve always kind of brought in some of the influences of 1950s and 1960s Indian music that my parents grew up listening to — that has always influenced me,” Khosla said.

“I’ve always found different ways to bring it in. The first album, on that album there was really no instrument like [harmonium]; it was just kind of — the influence was in other ways, like the strings and orchestration on the album. I think when people listen to the music now — somebody said the other day in a review that the music feels like the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson flick, and I think — what I gather, what I read from that is that the music is original and different to people when they hear it.”

It’s a sound that has garnered attention both in the U.S. and India, not to mention landing Goldspot numerous soundtrack appearances for TV and film. To date, Goldspot songs have appeared on “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Neighbors” and “The OC,” among others, and the song “Clap Clap” off “And the Elephant is Dancing” was used in ads for Apple’s iPad.

Western music

Khosla taught himself how to sing as a child in Hindi, using his parents’ tapes of old Indian songs. His first exposure to Western music came when he heard R.E.M. on the radio as a teenager.

“When I was in my teens, my early teens, we had one of those cassette radio boom boxes, where you’d flip the switch from tape to radio,” Khosla said. “One day I accidentally switched it up to radio from tape — it was always on tape. I switched it to radio and I heard an R.E.M. song, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ And that honestly was one of the first introductions to Western music that I ever had — it was the song ‘Orange Crush,’ I think.”

For “Aerogramme,” he once again worked with longtime Beach Boys producer Jeff Peters, who produced both of Goldspot’s previous albums. Musically, the album finds Khosla exploring both the Indian and American influences in his sound, from the hooky pop of lead single “The Border Line,” to the heavily Indian-influenced “Monkey on My Rooftop,” a true story from his early childhood days in India.

“There was this monkey on our rooftop, that would crawl on the roof and try to grab fruit from the lychee plant, on the tree,” he said. “My grandmother would grab a broom and beat the hell out of the monkey, so there was always this battle on the roof between the two of them.”

Reach Gazette reporter Brian McElhiney at 395-3111 or mcelhiney@dailygazette.net.

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