Zero, Helga’s Fun Castle and Tough on Tobacco founder Sidd Coutto releases three solo EPs

Updated: Mar 16

By Aurag Tagat

To Sidd Coutto, seasoned singer-songwriter with over 20 years in the indie space, writing a tune is as habit-forming as brushing your teeth. “Between 2009 and 2019, around then, a 10 year period where I wrote songs every day. One song would be a minimum a day and sometimes I would go up to 20,” he says.

PC: Roycin D'Souza

Currently drummer with Ankur and the Ghalat Family, Coutto has been the man with the songs for erstwhile bands such as Zero (who still occasionally reunite), Helga’s Fun Castle and Tough On Tobacco. Also having stints in hip-hop/electronic act ViceVersa and more recently, with Pentagram guitarist Randolph Correia for an energetic duo simply called Laptop, Coutto has been a formidable shape-shifter as a drummer, guitarist, producer and vocalist.

Along the way, though, what was noticeable was that Coutto shied away from social media and was understandably reluctant to play the promo game when it came to pushing his solo material. He says, “At one point, I was thinking if there’s even a point to releasing it? There’s so much music, do people actively seek out music?”

He goes on to speak half-nostalgically and half-cynically about how he would save up wads of money to spend on CDs, waiting for his favorite artists to release albums. “The whole value of music has changed. Not releasing was more like ‘what’s the point of it? People don’t actively go out and follow music.’ Everything’s on their phone and if anything actually blows their mind, they’re not going to actively go see it. Then I thought, ‘What is the point of finishing something and putting it out for nobody to listen to?’ I’m enjoying it, I’m having a great time, I’m recording and making it. Why do I have to take the effort to put it out to nobody?,” Coutto says.

While it could be contended that streams and views on YouTube have often converted into attendees at shows in Indian independent music, Coutto’s personal understanding holds credence. It’s why he put his own enjoyment as the “primary concern” now that he’s finally releasing his solo music each month, in the form of three-song EPs.

There’s been pure emotion on his first EP Glow, which released in January and duets with long-time musician friends such as Anushka Manchanda, Manasi Scott and Aditi Singh Sharma on the celebratory, horn section-infused second EP Deux. The third EP Sow, which released on March 6th, sees Coutto plug in his electric get all funky, groovy and world-wise.

PC: Roycin D'Souza

With song and song ideas in multiples of hundreds, how does Coutto decide which ones make it into his three-track EPs? With a laugh, he thinks about the number of songs he has playing in his head. “I have my own music scene in my head!” He adds, “It needs to get stuck in my head. If I write 10 songs a day and none of them stick in my head in the coming days – even though more songs keep coming out in that time – they have to compete with their own.”

The idea of a three-song EP also means Coutto is doing a lot of cutting down. Some songs that he’s releasing now were amongst 26 tracks he’d recorded for a solo album in 2011. “I was not happy with all the songs necessarily – which was one of the reasons those albums never released – but now that it came down to three song EPs, I had three songs I loved from there, so it worked perfectly,” he says. Aided by talent management company and label Misfits Inc, Coutto was persuaded to put the material out there for the indie music world to (perhaps) remember the simplicity of a good hook.

Coutto however is convinced that he’s starting from scratch when it comes to these releases, where everyone is a new audience of first-time listeners who might not even have any idea who he is or his previous exploits. The other thing of importance to the artist is that his material showcases an approach that escapes categorization; it can be pop, rock, funk, blues or anything in between. “I’m putting a whole bunch of music out in different styles I like, because that’s always been me.”

The next EP, set to release in April, will feature some of his most rip-roaring favorites – “Baby,” “Mayans Know” and one more track. “These are lighthearted songs that… unfortunately or fortunately are my most popular songs ever. Ideally the third song on the EP would have been ‘Smoke Some Ganja’,” Coutto says with a laugh. All of these are epic set closers, although we’ve already got a recorded version of the Indian indie weed anthem that’s “Smoke Some Ganja.”

His fifth EP will also release in April, specifically on April 29th to mark pianist and keyboardist Karan Joseph’s birthday. The young musician – also a friend of Coutto’s – passed away tragically in 2017. Coutto and Joseph recorded material and this EP will feature three tracks alongside friends of the late musician, including Shillong blues powerhouse Tipriti Kharbangar from Soulmate, vocalist/actor Andrea Tariang and singer-songwriter Rohan Mazumdar. Coutto says of the EP, “It’s some mindblowing shit, because that guy was something else. I’ve played with many geniuses, but he was a genius amongst geniuses. I’m really looking forward to that EP.”

The mood changes to reggae vibes on the following sixth EP, which will bring in bandmates such as drummer Jai Row Kavi and bassist Johan Pais (both part of Helga’s Fun Castle and Tough on Tobacco). Now that the ball is rolling, there’s no stopping. Coutto adds, “Even if I don’t write any more songs after right now, I have enough material to put out in three-track EPs… for the rest of my life.”