Rutaba Yaqub finally finishes her new EP ‘Shit I’ll Never Finish’

Sometimes, in order to move forward you have to look back. Rutaba Yaqub, aka Roots from Pepsi Battle of the Bands fame, has been spending lockdown looking for a new start, and the best way to do that is to revisit the past, and get it out of her system.

“I’m a perfectionist”, she says when we talk over the phone, and it stops her from finishing songs. This is nothing new for artists. Many of them have varying degrees of neurosis, where the initial perfect idea doesn’t quite match up to the final execution. Most musicians floors are littered with the carcasses of discarded songs.

“There would be some instrument issues, or issues with the mix”, Yaqub explained, but after showing the songs to various friends and family, they wouldn’t notice much difference, if at all. The agonising over final mixes provides diminishing returns that delays releases and impedes the spontaneity of the music.

Her latest EP, ‘Shit I’ll Never Finish’ has an apt title, then. It’s openly a work in progress, a collection of ideas and sketches, even an old Coldplay cover that proved especially popular with her fans. And there are some bangers in here. Passion Fruit is a future bass/trap slinky number, with a number of quotable lines: ‘that face will only take you till you’re forty’ in particular comes to mind. There are mix issues, especially the synths at the back end of the track that sound excessively abrasive, but the ideas are interesting and Yaqub slips easily and comfortably into a confident RnB vibe on When I’m Gone, a side of her music she has shown already on the fantastic releases with Talal Qureshi.

This direction is quite different from the sound that Roots had on Pepsi BOB. Their synthpop was a departure for the corporate music show, which is usually populated with more conventional rock bands. “I still love that sound”, says Yaqub, who recalls that the synthpop was a spontaneous decision made while the band was jamming and experimenting before the audition. Her solo material is a departure from this sound, but nonetheless embraces the electronic elements and takes it forward.

This clearing of material opens the door for Roots to experiment with her own production. For the last 8 months, she has been learning production, incubating ideas on Ableton Live, and then sending these sketches to producers to flesh them out. For Yaqub, this has led to more fruitful collaboration. Instead of sending references, she can lay down initial chords, beats and ideas, and then work from there.

‘Shit I’ll Never Finish’ is a break out of stalemate for the Lahore artist, as well as an appetizer for future material. We’re looking forward to what comes next, and hopefully it won’t be a long wait.

You can listen to the EP on YouTube and Spotify.

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