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Hotel Garuda has been building himself a reputation as a fantastic producer, and his new EP The Tension solidifies that statement. Originally comprising of Manila Killa (Chris Gavino) and Candle Weather (Aseem Mangaokar), the duo began creating a sound that likened that of Louis Futon or MELVV. Since the group split and Aseem took hold of the reins, he has completely shattered the mold the industry began making of him.

The Tension is the first project Hotel Garuda has released that is larger than a single, but boy has the wait been worth it. These four songs are Garuda’s first step in the new direction he’s taking his music, and I have to say I absolutely love it. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss The Tension and how he’s adjusting to life during a pandemic.

Alex Opalka (Electric Hawk): First things first. Given everything that’s going on in the world, how are you doing personally? I know that all this pandemic stuff has been especially tough on artists, so if you don’t mind me asking, I want to know how you’ve been feeling.

Hotel Garuda: Honestly, it could be a lot worse! I’ve had a lot more time to spend evaluating what I want out of a career as an artist. I think that when the quarantine began, everyone had this mindset of “I’m gonna make 10 albums” but in reality it’s been a lot slower than that. The EP I put out has kinda been marinating and stewing, being tinkered with over and over till it was just right, so I’m grateful to have had the time to hone it the way I really wanted. 

AO: What was the very first memory you have of electronic music? What really spoke to you and made you say, “I really want to do this?”

Hotel Garuda: A combination of things – the first electronic album I heard was The Chemical Brothers “Hold Tight London” when I was in 4th or 5th Grade. I liked it a lot but I didn’t really dig deep into electronic music until later in life; upon entering high school I found my dad’s stash of Ministry Of Sound compilation CDs. Through those CDs I found a lot of classic rave and electro tunes. Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation is the one that jumps to mind. However, it wasn’t until my second year of college, when I reconnected with my childhood friend Chris (Manila Killa) that I really felt drawn to making and performing music as a serious career. It had always been a pipe dream, something I wishfully thought about when I was studying for exams or writing papers in school. In college I spent a lot (A LOT) of time watching Glenjamn3’s recap videos for all the HARD events and thats what really drove me to get into it.

AO: Your new EP The Tension comes out on September 2nd and it’s quite different than any music you’ve released in the past. What spurred you into this new direction?

Hotel Garuda: I got a bit bored by the house music scene I was into earlier on in my career. I feel like every few years there’s a song or two that gets so popular that everyone tries to copy them, and the sound gets recycled to the point of lacking freshness and originality. So, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, I wanted to dig more into the music I grew up listening to. My dad is really into progressive rock from the 70s and 80s, and my earliest memories of listening to music are of listening to the Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, things like that. The songwriting and production in the music made by those kinds of artists is really just amazing. I’m glad I dug into those influences of mine, because the music I made feels really honest and intentional. I grew up playing guitar, so having some big “Guitar Hero”-type moments in these songs is really satisfying to me.

AO: The Tension features you singing on every track. How do you feel now that you have a piece of work out in the world where it’s you doing the vocals? Was there any nervousness going into it or were you confident in your sound?

Hotel Garuda: Haha, so the singing actually began in middle school choir. I had a really great choir teacher who really encouraged me to sing a lot. When Hotel Garuda split up and I took the reins, I had a song called Head In The Trees that was just an instrumental, but when the song was written, my writing partner Dave Lubben basically forced me to sing it. So since then, I’ve taken it on myself to sing on all of my songs, to make a statement that I’m not just the guy behind the laptop, or behind the CDJs. It was definitely scary to hear my own voice recorded; I feel like a lot of people don’t like the way their own voices sound, kinda like hearing an echo of your voice when you’re on the phone, and thinking “Do I really sound like that?” After developing a close working relationship with my vocal engineer – and now-writing partner- Devesh Dayal, and getting an idea of what the finished product would sound like,  I got a lot more comfortable flexing my vocal cords.

AO: Will we be able to look forward to more Hotel Garuda tracks with you singing on them in the future? What about a Hotel Garuda feature on someone else’s song?

Hotel Garuda: Both, definitely. I’d love to sing on other people’s songs.

AO: You released both “Mutual” and “Rush” as singles earlier this year. With The Tension only being 4 songs long, what made you want to release those two songs by themselves over the other 2?

Hotel Garuda: Around the time I put Mutual out I was debating adding more songs to the project. But by the time Rush came out, I felt like the 4 songs I had made really encapsulated the energy I was going for, and that adding more felt forced. The songs on this project were all made around the same time, in the same place, and it didn’t really feel natural to push myself back into the state of mind I was in, back when these songs were made.

AO: So “Olivia” is actually my girlfriend’s name. What inspired this specific title as well as the entire track? What’s the story behind it?

Hotel Garuda: Thats awesome! So when Kam (Chain Gang of 1974) and I were working on that song, we wanted there to be a name attached to the chorus. We played with so many different ones before settling on Olivia because it had just the right number of syllables and sounded really satisfying going into the chorus section. The whole track is a rumination on letting go of personal attachment and sort of asking, to anyone who’d listen, why a relationship didn’t work out.

AO: I watched you on Brownies and Lemonade & Friends’ video during the Lollapalooza live stream. The concept and the content were fantastic! How impactful has working with them been to your career and your life as a whole?

Hotel Garuda: I love those guys, they’ve been friends and supporters since day 1 in my career basically. That video for Lollapalooza was so funny, all of us sitting there just going in on brownies and lemonade for a few hours while we filmed. I had such a bad stomach ache and sugar crash immediately following. The B&L guys are really phenomenal; I don’t know many people that work as hard, or are as committed to a vision as they are.

AO: I know you’re friends with a lot of the B&L artists, but who is someone in their stable who you don’t really know and would love to work with one day?

Hotel Garuda: Ooh, that’s a great question. I really like Knock2 and ISOxo’s music, I feel like those two are the new wave RL Grime and Baauer. Their music is so different to mine that I think it’d be fun to make something together.

AO: If you could create a full length, collaboration album with any artist living or dead, who would it be?

Hotel Garuda: Short answer: Tame Impala. Long answer: Tame Impala producing and singing, George Harrison playing guitar, Alan Parsons engineering, Neil Peart from Rush on drums, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath on bass. I don’t know what I’d do there, but I’d be glad just to be in the room!

AO: This year has been full of trials of all kinds for pretty much everyone. I personally feel it has also awoken a lot of things in people and taught them many things about themselves and the world. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last 9 months and how are you going to implement it into your life?

Hotel Garuda: I should have spent less time and money on having a good time, early on in my career. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fun and games that one can quickly lose sight of what’s actually important – physical and mental health, long-term financial stability, and spending time with loved ones. I really look forward to taking care of all three going forward. Yoga is so easy to do at home, and so beneficial to both mental and physical wellbeing. Long-term financial stability is something I’ve taken seriously only more recently, investing my money in stocks rather than in whatever sneakers are hot right now (LOL). Spending time with loved ones is easy if they’re near, but I make sure to FaceTime my parents and my brother every couple of days to check in with them.

AO: Lastly, you have the floor, sir. Is there anything you’d like to say to the people? Any message you want fans listening to the new EP to keep in mind as they hear those beautiful songs for the first time?

Hotel Garuda: I hope you like these songs ! They’re my favorites that I’ve ever made. If we weren’t in quarantine I’d be dying to play shows and hear these songs on big speakers in sweaty rooms. I hope my listeners are staying safe, taking proper health precautions and WEARING MASKS.

You can stream Hotel Garuda’s The Tension EP here, out now everywhere on Mom+Pop Music!

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Cover Photo Courtesy of Mom & Pop Music

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