Kozmi Cow, Pulpy Shilpy, Mama Kitty... These are the many on-stage avatars of musician Gowri Jayakumar. And then there’s the collaborative project she’s working on — Smells like Kitty, and the band she fronted — Run Pussy Run — until it disbanded recently. “These avatars are just a way for me to keep myself organised,” says the 30-year-old singer-songwriter. So, while she plays acoustic music as Kozmi Cow, her electronic music is performed as Pulpy Shilpy, and Mama Kitty is for “when I’m confused, or things converge”.
While there is a difference in genre during her acts, there isn’t a corresponding change in appearance. How did she come up with the quirky names? “I have a lot of time to sit around and think. Things that have a nice ring to it [sometimes] pop up in my thoughts,” she says.
The Pune-based musician will perform in the city this Saturday at the Ballard Estate Festival, powered by Hindustan Times. “I’m excited about working with pianist Anurag Naidu and saxophonist Rustom Jhaveri for the first time. I hope to convey their stories as well,” she says. Storytelling influences Jayakumar more than legendary musicians. “I think my relationship with music has changed. I don’t think in terms of who did what or when, or how a famous musician lived or worked. Anyone who can tell a story well — be it a teacher or a fellow musician — inspires me.”
Summer of 2001
Jayakumar’s initiation into music happened over the summer vacation of 2001. As a 15-year-old, Jayakumar realised that all her friends had joined guitar class. So she too signed up: “It seemed like a wonderful way to employ my time.” Soon, music took centre stage.
Like scores of college students, Jayakumar too formed a band — The Windjammers — with some friends. “We used to play classic rock songs back then. I would never sing. I used to simply play the guitar. Neither of us knew much about music. We just played at one college festival, and after that, it was back to studies,” she reminisces.
Jayakumar’s band, Run Pussy Run, won the Project Aloft Star Awards 2015 by MTV Asia, and the Best Songwriting Award at Hornbill International Rock Contest 2015. But the challenges of keeping a band together remained. “Initially, for a band that does not play covers, it’s difficult to make it financially worthwhile. It’s hard to inspire everyone to be on the same page,” she explains.
Run Pussy Run started as a project among friends: “It was a space where I take my ideas and let others reinterpret it. The line-up kept changing. We disbanded as everybody was in different cities.” The band’s sound was a blend of freak folk (a subgenre of western folk which uses mainly acoustic instrumentation) storytelling and ample funk, or as Jayakumar puts it — freak funk.
Jayakumar worked as a journalist for seven years before turning full-time musician. “It was either that [journalism] or music; I am bad at multitasking. So, I chose music.” In August 2012, she launched an eight-track album, Sad Little Shoebox. “They were a bunch of songs I’d written from 2006 to 2009. They were losing relevance over time, and I thought I must document and release them before I get indifferent about those compositions.”
She is presently working on a collaboration with noted indie musician Vasuda Sharma, on a project called Smells like Kitty. “It’s a work in progress. We both enjoy experimenting and we are still trying to find our sound together,” she says.
Gowri Jayakumar will perform at the Ballard Estate Festival, powered by Hindustan Times, on February 6, 7.30pm onward
Where: Ballard Estate, Fort
Tickets: Rs 150 on insider.in and at the venue