Headless Horseman's Fareed Sajan on Magix, Twin Peaks, and Choli Ke Peechay
Fareed Sajan looks like a typical modern day rocker, but the sound of his Allentown PA by-way-of Brooklyn NY project Headless Horseman is taking a direction in the way of hip hop and R&B. It doesn’t have the feel of alt rap like Das Racist, whose Greedhead imprint houses Headless Horseman, but Fareed and bandmate Conner O’Neill’s production is beginning to lean more toward the R&B sound that rings nostalgic among other musicians their age. Fareed cites Chicago-based ambient act How to Dress Well.
“How to Dress Well are very R&B influenced. They’re basically rehashing melodies from R. Kelly from memory, but doing it in this way that’s very ambient and lofi, and stripped of all of the context that R Kelly situates himself in. That’s something im seeing more and more often. With indy music and the ability to record at home, more and more people can take this memory of top 40 music and recreate it.”
Though their songs are embodying this sound, Headless Horseman’s own process doesn’t make a deliberate attempt at creating one sound in particular. The idea of the creation of their music being “headless” plays a big role in their production.
“Headless is the idea of not thinking when you’re writing a song. I think of headless as being a symbol of anti-thought. A lot of what stunts us when we’re writing is when we over intellectualize it or overthink it. Most of our writing is in the editing. We’re not a band that jams and figures it out live. The idea of headless is not having a planned direction, stumbling upon your sound, and using mistakes, and using all those little things that surprise you along the way.”
Circumstance guides Headless Horseman’s sound outside the studio as well. Fareed mentioned a recent travel mishap that’s effected their instrumentation.
“I recently lost my guitar, left it on a Chinatown bus after a show we played in Philly. I’ve been wanting to get away from guitar anyways, I’m taking it as a sign.”
That incident confirms that the band’s new material won’t sound anything like their first release. On their debut 5songs, each track takes on a distinct personality. The common thread through it all are near incomprehensible lyrics through falsetto vocals. While a few of the songs are more straight forward rock songs or acoustic ballads that traditionally fit the vocal style, their song “SH8KER” is more indicative of where they are headed, particularly in how it’s put together.
“Our process is very elaborate and kind of strange because it’s two of us and we use this old recording program called Magix. We’re attempting to make electronic music with a process that was pre internet, or pre-synthesizer craze. We like this program because it doesn’t have any plugins. There are no presets. Every sound that we make, we really have to work to craft it and find a way to get what we want. We really don’t use any samples or anything, but we do want to start doing that.”
Magix is a pretty dated software. While the duo could switch to something of a more “professional” grade, Magix is doing the trick for now and there’s no reason to abandon it. Their sequences are sprawling, soundbites upon soundbites strung together into songs. Fareed sent us an example.
It’s amazing what two musicians are capable of when they put their collective lack of a head together. Fareed and Conner began their musical excursions together as a post rock band called Night Owl Cafe Killers in sleepy Allentown, PA. Though that project is over and done, the locale that spawned them remains relevant.
“I feel like Allentown has a lot to do with our sound. It has sort of a Twin Peaks vibe to it. It’s a small town, and we have a lot of friends there, and we just know the kind of drama that goes on there. It’s kind of a suburban wasteland, but at the same time there are also really beautiful parts. There’s a dark imagery to it that I have in my head.”
Coming up in Allentown, Indian-American Fareed didn’t have much contact with the Desi community. Like many first generation South Asian-American kids, he fell into a musical community regardless of his heritage. Though they now run with Das Racist, who liberally reference Indian culture, including it in his music is not a priority for Fareed.
“[Das Racist’s Himanshu Suri] is more into the culture than I am, so it makes more sense for him to incorporate it into his music. But for me, Headless Horseman is the love of my life, and I’m putting everything I am into it, but I don’t feel like it’s reflective of my skin color. It’s reflective of my upbringing and my relationship with my family and my religion, but I don’t think it’s necessarily reflective of being South Asian. In opposition to making political music, or music that is a commentary on culture, we are more interested in creating something that is a world of its own. That’s why the music is so dense, and why we take so much pride in creating every blip and bleep, and why our process of creating is so vexing. This is how I deal with my confusion of being a South Asian in America. If we are able to create this dense music that is our lives, by that we live and breathe it, and that it orders our daily lives, then we are able to conjure a new spirit. For now this new spirit is satiating, it brings me peace. Though perhaps someday it will lead me back home, where I can also embrace a more traditional spirituality… I think that would be most beautiful.”
Nevertheless, the prospect of having a Desi segment of their fan base is something Headless Horseman can get down with. In fact, they’re working on something that just might win over Desis’ with traditional taste.
“I have been listening to more Indian music. In fact, right now I’m working on a remix of an Indian song. It’s called “Choli Ke Peechay.” Have you heard of that one?”
Now based in Brooklyn, Headless Horseman is working on new music and should have something ready for release in early 2011. In the mean time, their roster of shows is starting to build. Catch them on Thursday, December 16th at Glasslands with Slow Animal and labelmates Keepaway. 5songs is available via their bandcamp page.
Check out “SH8KR” by Headless Horseman