Imaad Wasif is an LA-based Indian singer-songwriter whose music combines elements of psychedelic folk and rock. Starting out in the ’90s in slo-core noise rock duo lowercase (two albums on Amphetamine Reptile) and The Folk Implosion project founded by Lou Barlow of Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr., he then made two albums in the duo Alaska! before issuing his debut solo record in 2006 via Kill Rock Stars. Its minimalist acoustic songs explored ongoing lyrical themes of love, madness, transformation, isolation and spirituality that drew immediate comparison to touchstone releases such as ‘Oar’ by Skip Spence and ‘Opel’ by Syd Barrett.
Wasif began a tenure in Yeah Yeah Yeahs that same year as part of their live band for a lengthy world tour on which he also performed as the support act for the majority of shows. Deciding to focus on his own music after 2008 (although he did reappear with them for a Jimmy Kimmel TV show appearance in September 2022), he nevertheless co-wrote five songs with YYY’s vocalist Karen O for the soundtrack of the Spike Jonze directed 2009 movie ‘Where The Wild Things Are’.
The physical release of Wasif’s sixth album, ‘So Long Mr. Fear’, is scheduled for late February 2023 (the digital format is available now). Co-produced with Best Coast multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno and mixed by Lewis Pesacov of Fool’s Gold, the trio have crafted a sublime, intimate sounding record that blends timeless arrangements with delicate yet masterful musicianship.
The song ‘Fader’ (VIDEO), with harmonies provided by Jen Wood of The Postal Service and Tattle Tale, was released as a sumptuously slo-mo introductory first single in the summer of 2022, followed by the jaunty – by comparison – title song (VIDEO). The album also features an appearance by Karen O on the haunting ballad ‘Poet Of The Damned’, for which Wasif invited her to tap into what he calls “the sinister grandeur of her vocals”, while sitarist Evan Haros adds energetic drone-filled layers to album opener ‘Elemental’ and ‘Regeneration’.
For the first time in his career, Wasif wrote much of the album on piano rather than guitar, with enforced pandemic isolation affording time to mine new instrumental territory. Recording many master takes while singing and playing simultaneously, his aim was to avoid overthinking and instead rely on “the simplicity of the compositions and direct passage into the emotional realms that I feel most at home in.”
With Bruno’s help, Wasif opened himself fully to the creative impulse, that when it arrives “possesses an unrelenting grip so urgent thatI can’t help but sit down and bang out a few chords and coax words from within my dusty skull to reignite a dumbstruck catharsis. That I might resonate clearly and audibly is all I’ve ever desired from the music that comes through.” Wasif also stresses that the album would have been impossible without Bruno, who adds bass, drums plus a myriad of synths and provides a magic touch that he notes “opened gateways of sonic depth.”
The album cover image is a self-portrait on which Wasif wears a tilaka on his forehead to represent what he calls his “personal secular spiritual beliefs,” adding that “the mark is worn as a direct confrontation of a philosophically diametric upbringing: my mother being Hindu and my father Muslim.” Though not a member of an organised religion, he has “endured the psychic conflict of these two monolithic faiths; hence the image is loaded with intent to trigger a dismantling of thousands of years of strife and convention.” Concluding that “no image or song could ever undo such deep-seated discriminations,” he nevertheless remains committed to “going down as someone who tries, rather than someone who stays silent.”
SO LONG MR. FEAR
A2 Come Around
A3 I Am Free
A5 Poet Of The Damned
B1 Painted On
B2 Place In The Dark
B4 So Long Mr. Fear
B5 Jealous Kind