From hearing demos to watching videos of living room gigs, bringing on Indian indie faves, David Britto has done a lot for himself with his project Arrows. If you think he has an in for collaborations because he’s also a music journalist – a colleague of mine at Rolling Stone India, in fact – it’s not entirely accurate.
David was not just the bassist of The Tripp, but also the informal publicist for the band, which led him to perhaps reach out to Rolling Stone India. Once their release was covered by Rolling Stone, David asked about an internship or job opening. That was about seven years ago, in June 2016.
He’s been a workhorse when it comes to writing about music across genres and occasionally, he’s got to tell the world just how much he loves Oasis, John Mayer and the Foo Fighters through interviews, news and opinion pieces.
As it turned out, David didn’t want to be in another band after The Tripp. He wanted to be a music journalist first.
“It was a great period to be honest, some of the best indie music came out during that time (2016-2019) and I was lucky to be part of it by documenting those moments as a journalist,” he says. The two sides – songwriter and journalist – stayed segregated that way.
In 2019, Arrows came to life with the debut single ‘Spaces’.
“Through being a music journalist, I want to tell stories about the music and artists I’m writing about. And when it comes to writing my own songs, I sort of want to tell my own story,” David says now, after launching a five-track EP called Friends Tonight, Strangers Again.
In the past, Arrows has excited with poignant songs like ‘Buried to Dust’ but also the playful stuff, like ‘Hello Cheater’ – so when the songs began rolling out from the EP, it came with the expectation that we’d get something different. Even though David is at the centre of it all, he’s a very open-minded collaborator for Arrows.
“I can be a stickler when it comes to retaining the original melody of the song as I’ve written it or for it to be as close as possible when I work with collaborators, but for the most part, they are always free to bring in their own flavour and style. One of the best parts is that sometimes collaborators add things to a song I may have not heard before which works for the song, so it’s really cool when that happens,” he says.
The artists across five songs on Friends Tonight, Strangers Again include go-to artists like Siddharth Basrur and Saurabh Roy (from The Lightyears Explode), but also guitar hero Warren Mendonsa aka Blackstratblues, David’s former vocalist of The Tripp, Joel Padikkal, singer-songwriter duo Second Sight, plus Saachi, Brent Tauro and Bombay Brass’ Rhys Sebastian, Neil Waters and Ramon Ibrahim. The amalgamation allows David to make the EP a diverse rock affair, and he’s stated before that the EP is “nothing without these collaborators.”
For the most part, David doesn’t really know what it is that has made these artists want to work with him, but I can guess on their behalf.
As a colleague and a general human being, David is an affable and sensible person that just puts in the time. It’s likely something that he extended into his songwriting craft as well. He responds to a question about how it is that he can manage to bring in someone like Warren on his songs.
“For me, I’m always looking for musicians, singers and producers that I feel would best suit a song of mine. And it’s always been like, ‘Hey I have this song, I think you’ll be good on it, would you mind checking it out?’ And luckily for me, their responses have always been positive. But I think that’s a question I should bring up to collaborators, just to understand their perspective on sharing their talents on a track,” David says.
Basrur also produced the entire EP and they mined their similar tastes in music – from Queens of the Stone Age to Death Cab For Cutie and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds to Fastball – to refine the sound.
“I think with Basrur having so much of experience and being around for so long, and me just listening to a lot of music constantly because of my day job, it just allowed us to be clued in, in case something sounded like we were going in a direction where we felt that something might be sounding too close to what’s already out there. Thankfully those instances didn’t occur much,” David says.
To sum up, the rock-leaning EP songs were born out of their love for rock and music.
“He’s such a pleasure to work with and I wouldn’t want to have worked on this EP with anyone else. The thing with Basrur is that he’s very hands-on and doesn’t waste time and wants to get things done, which I love,” David says.
While Basrur’s not part of the live band, Arrows did scale up recently from acoustic shows with singer-songwriter Vernon Noronha to a seven-piece act at the gig series New World Order in Mumbai. He’s just getting started.
“The one thing I missed the most from my days with The Tripp was playing live. And although Arrows was initially just a studio project, I felt like the songs needed to be played live,” David says.
The demands aren’t too huge, though – perhaps because David knows a thing or two about indie band budgets.
“I’m honestly still that kid who just wants to play in a rock band, so as long as there are drums, guitars, bass and vocals, I’m a happy child,” he says with a laugh.
For now, the studio focus for Arrows continues unabated, with an acoustic single called ‘Southern Belle’ coming up within 2023.
“The second EP is also almost ready and that’s also leaning towards more of an acoustic sound and is produced by Vernon Noronha, so that’s on the horizon for 2024,” David says.