In a year marked by uncertainty and isolation, Cj Pandit emerged like a beacon of goodness and optimism. His layered debut ‘Karelu’ – a masterclass in production and tempo control – was released at the back end of 2019 and served as a promising introduction to the Leicester native’s art-pop sound. With a crystal clear falsetto and a honey-sweet sensibility, his power sits in the combination of swelling jangly guitars, feel-good keys, and the cracked and vulnerable tone of his voice. He followed his debut track with a trio of singles, honing his signature sound; ‘Digital Love’ plays like an 80s anthem that wouldn’t be amiss at the end of a John Hughes classic, ‘Eventually’ exudes a discernible warmth with its textured vocals and swathes of drums, whereas ‘Talk Talk Talk!’ relies on sharper rhythms and an overall punchier sound. Cj Pandit’s music is reminiscent of classic Peter Gabriel enmeshed with Declan McKenna in the way that it’s quintessentially 80s-inspired but rooted in the present, toeing the line between nostalgia and futurism. Rather fittingly, his 2020 ended with a stripped back reimagining of his debut ‘Karelu’ as part of 247 Studios’ ‘Presents’ series, gearing him up for a productive 2021 – the fruits of which we are already bearing witness to today in the form of his latest single, ‘Right Person, Wrong Time’.
We caught up with Cj Pandit for this edition of our Artist Spotlight Q&A series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk about their music.
The most important question in all times, but specifically in these most bizarre ones; how are you? What’s been helping you tick along and keep your head on straight?
I’m pretty good thank you! I think if this last year has taught me anything, it’s to sit in whatever or however i’m feeling, be present in it, and engage with it. I think going from constantly being at 100mph to having no choice in slowing down has actually been kind of helpful. It’s given me clarity on things in my own life I couldn’t quite work out and given me time and space to learn and be more considerate about other people’s battles too! Creativity has ebbed and flowed, so I’ve just harnessed it when it popped up and tried not to worry when it hasn’t. Keeping my head on straight has been tough at times, but I guess running a lot, reading, and writing as much as I can in the day has kept me sane! Also, plenty of comfort music, Talk Talk and Duke Ellington!
What’s your favourite thing about being part of the Leicester music scene? As a born and bred Leicestershirian myself of course I’m biased and believe that there’s something special about it, but in your opinion what makes the music scene here specifically so unique?
I think everybody has a special and kind of unbreakable bond with wherever they grew up and come from. I spent a lot of time here, then felt like I needed to dip out and go and explore for the past few years. Now I’ve moved into my studio spot in 247, and really put some roots down. I think it goes way above and beyond just the music scene, it’s the will for independent endeavours, whether it be bands, venues, bars, restaurants, designers, photographers or artists, the support that we all give to one another is so beautiful! I’ve had countless amazing conversations and experiences, with so many people in this city and it makes me very proud to feel a small part of. I don’t know about you but it feels like some kind of underdog spirit is everyones through line, this little small city in the midlands that always somehow punches above its weight. Circling back to the music scene itself, it always felt like something special was going to happen to somebody at any time. I think that comes from self belief and a lack of rivalry (for want of a better term) we all seem to want the best for each other.
What’s been your personal career highlight so far, something you’re really proud to have achieved or participated in?
So far, I think the launch party for the debut single, ‘Karelu’. Me and Joe Vozza put together an exhibition all around the meaning of the word Karelu. It means the mark left on the skin when something is worn too tight, and we liked that as a metaphor for the marks we leave on each other. The whole thing was immersive & interactive and we did a real small run of zines to accompany it. Then we played a show in the exhibition itself at Graff HQ, an amazing Art Space and paint shop in the city. The whole thing felt so human and so connected. I think I’ve come to appreciate it more and more over the past 12 months or so. I think I miss connecting and having shared experiences and memories with new and old faces more than anything.
Has there been an artist who has been especially influential in shaping the way you approach making music?
Mark Hollis, I’d say is number one. The main songwriter in Talk Talk. There’s a restraint and power in the spaces he creates. The Colour of Spring is my favourite record of all time. I think it’s perfect. So percussive, so textured and there’s this undeniable weight to his words and delivery on the whole thing. It blows me away every time I hear it! I’m in a real André 3000 obsession at the minute too. Absolute genius. Performance wise, I think Christine and The Queens and FKA Twigs are on a whole other unattainable level, and I keep thinking that’s something to shoot for and work towards, and enjoy being bad until I’m better! All about the process.
Was music something that was important to you growing up? Who indoctrinated you into the world of music and encouraged you to pursue it as a career?
You know what, I speak to my Mum about this a lot. It’s only recently that we’ve realised we have such common ground in music taste, but my memories of growing up were super top 40. Nelly Furtado & Ronan Keating really stick in my head for some reason. Maybe that explains my leaning towards writing pop songs? Who knows. But in terms of a specific person, I don’t think there was or is one. I realised at like 16 I was intrigued by this thing that could explain so many complex emotions in a relatively simple way, without words, and then played in bad bands, learnt my craft a little bit and started to chase people I admired in the hope that they’d work with me in trying to get my own silly little ideas out of my head. I guess curiosity was the thing that indoctrinated me. It still does. That wild pursuit of perfection and the knowledge that we’ll probably never arrive at it keeps me coming back…
Not necessarily a question, but it would be amiss for me to ask you some questions and not mention that your single ‘Eventually’ embodied my lockdown summer last year, it’s an absurdly sunny, breezy track. What was the inspiration behind it, how did it come about?
No way! That’s so cool to know, thank you! I do feel like that track embodies every hazy summer I’ve ever had. Pretty proud of it actually! It started as this kind of pseudo-breakup song and has taken on a bunch of different meanings. My current leaning is the cyclical nature of friends and lovers and the patterns we all fall into. You go do your thing, I’ll do mine – then we’ll realise if we need or want to be in each others lives. I think this lockdown has had some strange effects on people and kind of solidified the meaningful relationships in our lives, I mean, in mine, I could be very very wrong that’s just my experience! And the initial inspiration came out of a meeting with a Major label who said I didn’t have enough good songs, so maybe I wrote it out of spite? Not saying it’s good either, that’s not really up to me is it?
Your latest single ‘Right Person, Wrong Time’ acts as a response to heartbreak. Does most of your songwriting come from lived experiences or does it vary depending on inspiration at the time?
It sure does. I think that’s the reason I’ve struggled to be incredibly creative for extended periods of time recently. I LOVE being around other human beings and learning and swapping stories. The songs do normally come from some kind of lived experience. This whole EP feels really visceral and definitely the most publicly open and vulnerable I’ve ever been. It’s a direct correlation to the most intense feelings I’ve had in my life about a wide range of situations. I just tried to not hide away from my truths at that time and I think it’s an honest reflection of where I’m at as a human being. For now anyway….