“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” I couldn’t help but think of this quote when I heard the opening to “Plum Gut,” the new single from Big Scary Indian. It sounds like a thousand demons emerging into the night on horseback, shrieking like bloodthirsty banshees as they come to take your soul. Then suddenly the track explodes into a raucous swirl of noise and guitar pyrotechnics, equal parts heavy and bouncy. Roshan Reddy has come to save the day.
“Plum Gut” is the lead single from Reddy’s debut album as Big Scary Indian, Be Holding No Bodies, out July 1 on y3s recordings. Check out the single and our interview with Roshan below, plus his guest mix featuring Battles, Zakir Hussain, The Books, Little Simz, and more.
Where are your from?
I grew up on a horse farm in the southern half of Delaware. The few out of staters that do have an experience of Delaware are usually passing through on I-95 or hanging out in the suburban sprawl that comes out of our little cities, but once you head south to cross the canal it’s completely different..or at least it was growing up. That’s changed, but it was pretty much agriculture and livestock farms for as far the eye could see. Spent a lot of time wandering through cornfields and catching crayfish in the creek.
Where do you live now?
I live in Brooklyn now & work as a public school band director/teacher. Still a shit kicker at heart though.
How long have you been making music under the name Big Scary Indian? What led you to pick that name? The name “Big Scary Indian” was initially just a social media handle to make myself laugh and a way to remain somewhat anonymous on the internet while still engaging publicly. At the time I was teaching privately and substituting as a conductor in a public school. I had a lot of teenage students that are obviously on their phones all day and I was & still am mortified at the thought of one of them coming across my accounts haha. You still have to consider this for the age range I teach now, but to my mind it’s not nearly as prevalent of a dilemma for elementary school children. I eventually started using it as my own music project’s name in….maybe 2017?
The name actually came from a close friend and it was something he said to kind of gas me up. Im both Eastern Indian on my father’s side and mixed Indigenous & European on my mother’s side. As a result I’ve always been enamored with pre-hispanic culture – in particular the practices of certain peoples from the Sonora region of Mexico. I would talk to this friend about this area and share some inner knowledge I had found in it that he also found useful. He would tell his friends that didn’t know me that I was “a big scary Indian” to kind of hype me up. It made me laugh and stuck with me so I went with it. That’s all I’ll say for now.
Tell us about the mix! Any particular theme or focus? Can you pick two tracks and say a little bit about them?
This mix was really fun to create! I would say it kind of represents what my roots are, what I’m trying to create, & what I’m hoping to explore in the future. There are a lot of tracks that showcase technical facility while still being very musical. These tracks are often followed with pieces or songs that to me are meant to be emotional snapshots. There was a movie that came out really recently called Everything Everywhere All At Once that was such a chaotic whirlwind of technicality & styles, but had a really tender emotional story at It’s core. It’s somewhat of an echo of what I’m hoping to achieve musically. How do we honor our past and incorporate it into a story that still resonates? How do we showcase technicality without it coming across as stale and self indulgent? I’m trying to figure that out.
“Temporal Parallax” by Dolores Catherino is such an interesting piece of music. She is a polychromatic composer based out in Alaska and I think her music is amazing. The timbre of the Tonal Plexus (the instrument she’s playing) is so enveloping and warm that it blunts the dissonance your ear experiences from all of the microtonal shifts that are occurring. It’s both beautiful and jarring. On her bandcamp she says that it’s “A composition intended to facilitate an expanding perception of the dynamic interrelationships and interplay of micropitches and extended harmonics. All expressed as evolving aural “shapes”, textures, and complex emotional colors.” I think that her intentions were successful.
“Only You” by The Flying Pickets is actually an a capella cover of a song by Yazoo (former Depeche Mode members). It’s the song that Wong Kar Wai’s film Fallen Angels ends on and plays during this famous scene:
I ride my bike everywhere in Brooklyn & I associate that song heavily with the feeling of the wind flowing around me on warm summer nights.
Be Holding No Bodies is your debut album – how long have you been working on it? Are there any prominent themes or ideas at work?
We started recording this record in November of 2019 and I got the masters back from Angel Marcloid at some point in late April 2022.
The name Be Holding No Bodies can be interpreted several ways. It’s original form is “Be Holding No Bodies” of course, but also “Beholding Nobodies”, “Beholding No Bodies”, “Be Holding Nobodies”. Sorry if that’s confusing, but the point is that a lot of what someone might get out of the album is very much in the eye of the beholder (no pun intended). For me personally, my music is a way of working my feelings out. You might notice that there are a lot of samples of people on this record – people who committed their lives to something really positive and some who committed some really loathsome actions while they were here. I wanted to explore the blueprint of what it means to be human and how each of those directions for one’s life in either extreme are available to an individual. We all are nobodies at the start after all and we can’t hold on to this body forever. What will we do with the fleeting time of a little nobody while we’re here?
Do you play all the instruments on the album? If so, does that present challenges for live performances?
I spent one day working with my good friend, Sam Bellingham, in the studios at City College In Harlem recording the drums for 4 of the tracks and a second day at Dubway Studios in downtown Manhattan recording the drum tracks with another good friend, Niko Wood, for another four tunes. It was a marathon recording weekend. The idea was to use the live energy of the drums as the “grid” for which I would overdub every instrument back on to. I worked on it obsessively every weekend, break, and spare moment that I had from that November in 2019 on up until its completion in April 2022.
There are many midi instruments and samples so it’s hard to do an exact breakdown of what I played or what I sculpted into the arrangements, but if we’re talking just the drums, bass, guitar, and keys – then the only ones I didn’t play are the drums. Two of the tracks also have guest lead vocals – Aikea Guinea sang on “Canned Laughter” & Visual Boy Advance sang on “Shhh (Always)”. Both really good friends that I think did an exceptional job!
Playing live in the future will be interesting as I’ve only ever toured and played out as a drum guitar duo for this project. I believe the energy of the songs comes through, but I’d really love to expand the group. As any gigging musician knows though, the more people involved the harder it is to coordinate. My music isn’t simple to recreate & it would require a substantial commitment – both from myself and whoever jumps on. Part of why I started this project is because it only stops when I stop – I don’t have to worry about my band ever breaking up. After spending so much time on projects that didn’t pan out, it’s hard to see myself making that commitment to bring more than a drummer on permanently until this project becomes too good of an opportunity for the right caliber of musician to turn down.
Are there any plans for a physical release for the album?
No there aren’t, but if there’s enough interest I’d really love to do a vinyl release in the future. I’d also be interested in a limited tape cassette run like we did for our EP, Chicome Malinalli.