n the eighth grade, Siddhartha Khosla was that kid who got teased when his mom, dressed in a decidedly desi sari, came to pick him up. That all changed at a school concert when he captivated more than 300 audience members by singing a bhajan with his harmonium—all while clad in a kurta pajama.
“People really loved the music,” recalls Khosla. Music became the way that Khosla (dubbed “Sid” by his bandmates) related his desi identity to his peers in that New Jersey auditorium. Fast forward a few years, and Khosla’s still using those talents, as the lead singer and founder of the rock band Goldspot.
Praised by fans and critics alike, Goldspot has been likened to alternative standards R.E.M. and Radiohead.
In the past few years, Goldspot has become a favorite band—both on the Los Angeles club circuit and on local radio. Its first music video, “Time Bomb,” flew to MTV Desi’s Top Ten Countdown, and the song was featured on The O.C.
As if an O.C. appearance wasn’t mainstream enough, Goldspot signed a major label deal with Mercury UK last summer, further ensuring its presence on the mainstream music scene.
And the sound? Khosla describes it as a melding of “post-punk Bollywood and pop. I start out just writing songs—whatever comes from the heart. Then I add Indian elements, like using the arrangements in old Bollywood music. It is a very subtle fusion, nothing too overt.” Praised by fans and critics alike, Goldspot has been likened to alternative standards R.E.M. and Radiohead.
So how did a kid from New Jersey evolve into a hard-core musician on the verge of becoming an international rock star? Khosla, who is fluent in Hindi and Punjabi, and whose parents are both Yale graduates, traces his musical career to when his mother handed him a music diary to transcribe bhajans to sing at temple at the tender age of 7. “My parents pushed me to be musical and learn to sing, until I decided to do it as a career! They were skeptical at first, but now they are really happy.”
“I enjoyed the misery of the whole process. I would pretend to be doing work and be writing lyrics and music all day.”
And while Khosla got an early start on his music career, his time at the University of Pennsylvania helped him hone his talents—while there, he became the first musical director of the desi a capella group Penn Masala. After graduating, he explains, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I started working on law school applications and then threw them in the garbage.” Driven by his passion for music, Khosla moved to London for six months and began writing and recording music on a four-track portable studio. He tended bar on the side to pay for what he describes as a not-so-desirable apartment. He relates, laughing, “I was fired twice from bartending. I ended up walking into Sony and meeting an A&R guy. His response to my music was, ‘This is shite!’”
Undeterred by the criticism, Khosla moved to LA, formed Goldspot in 1999, and honed his musical sound for the next few years. It was in LA that he teamed up with his writing partner and drummer Ramy Antoun, whose musical credits include work with the Black Eyed Peas and Seal. The union proved to be instrumental in developing the band’s unique sound, fusing Khosla’s Indian musical arrangements with Antoun’s Egyptian ones. Antoun relates, “Sid’s a genius. He’s got incredible melodies in his head. Sid would have a guitar idea and together we would develop it.”
Antoun also introduced Khosla to famed producer Jeff Peters, who has worked with artists such as the Beach Boys. “Siddhartha has a tremendous voice,” says Peters. “I have been fortunate to work with many great singers and I feel this is the latest and greatest of whom I worked with.”
“So many major labels loved the record and the show but didn’t want to market an Indian front man,”
On his newest album, Khosla can be heard strumming the guitar, playing the keyboard and on all the vocals. The title is inspired by Sid’s nine-to-five cubicle job in L.A. “I enjoyed the misery of the whole process. I would pretend to be doing work and be writing lyrics and music all day.” One day at a staff meeting, Khosla observed a meeting in which the head managers kept questioning their subordinates—who would always answer with a simple yes. After Khosla counted a total of 55-60 yeses in one hour, “Tally of the Yes Men” was born.
Goldspot’s success keeps growing: The band has won a loyal following in L.A., and the song “Rewind” began being heavily played by KCRW’s Nic Harcourt, the DJ responsible for discovering Coldplay, Norah Jones and Dido. Other radio stations soon followed suit and the live crowds at their shows soon caught the attention of major U.S. labels.
“So many major labels loved the record and the show but didn’t want to market an Indian front man,” says Khosla. Eventually a deal was struck with indie label Union Records until Mercury UK bought out their contract.
“Mercury is a great label for us,” says Khosla. “They actually see my background as being marketable.” Mercury even sent Khosla and producer Peters to Chennai to work with A.R. Rahman’s orchestra in order to have authentic Indian instrumentation on the album. With new mixes and the backing of a major record label, “Tally of the Yes Men” is scheduled for an official release this spring in the UK, Europe and Asia.
Driven and ambitious, Khosla is not one to rest on his laurels. He is already hard at work on his next album. “I go to bed at 3 a.m. [after] writing music in my apartment, and wake up in the morning to go for a four-mile run because I am training for the L.A. Marathon.”
Well, yes. It makes sense, after all: Khosla will be busy for the foreseeable future, and he’s going to need his energy.