I’m slightly overwhelmed, as one reasonably is when a newly acquired interest in an artist sustains conversations, encourages new friendships and yes, leads them to the source itself.
Ever since I encountered the collective works of Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh, a Kolkata based duo that goes by the name Parekh and Singh, it’s been difficult to ignore the music of what could, as a friend pointed out, just as easily be the name of a law firm. But they’re not.
Parekh and Singh have set an impressive example by capturing all that is changing and new in the music scene of a country constantly defining and being defined through myriad contradictions. Their well-received music video featuring palaces and piquant suits has been lauded worldwide and their lyrics convey a comfortable sense of familiarity, peacefully floating from ‘a New York state of mind in an Indian standard time’.
From songs inspired and dedicated to the world’s loneliest whale (watch here) to tunes that breathe life into childhood fantasies, their debut album Ocean (2016) has set an indie aesthetic that is both innocent, whimsical and charming. Away from mainstream mayhem, the world of pop music is an exciting place with Parekh and Singh in it and I am happy to share their much-awaited interview with A Humming Heart.
Congratulations on your success! What was it like to travel with your dream-pop from Kolkata to the UK this summer? Any favourite moments?
Playing to a full house in London at the Courtyard Theatre, where everyone was singing back our lyrics was a truly special experience. We had a pretty magical and amazing time. I think we won a lot of hearts and satisfied ones that were waiting for us to go over there and do our thing. We had a full house at all our concerts barring the one in Birmingham- where we played to about 9 people, this too was a fun experience, contrast is a good thing at this stage.
In a previous interview, you said, “We are from India but it is an alternate to the world of Slum Dog Millionaire.”
Describe the India that Parekh & Singh want to express through their music.
India is a mysterious and magical place. It’s not as generalised and singular as is portrayed often in films and other music videos. There are a million India’s and we represent one that is whimsical and otherworldly. Where dreams are cultivated and emotion is fertilised, it’s escapist but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Your story reads like a fantasy yet music has always been a big part of your lives. Tell us a little bit about how it started.
Jivraj has grown in a house of professional musicians, I (Nischay) grew up in a house of die hard music fans. So music has always seemed like a natural thing, it’s never been exotic or unfamiliar. It’s been as plain and simple as conversation. We’re also neighbours, so eventually, we started making music together and became friends. It all grew organically from there.
There are a million India’s and we represent one that is whimsical and other worldly.
Where dreams are cultivated and emotion is fertilised, it’s escapist but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
And now, do you think that the nascent music scene in India is changing for the better? How has performing abroad been different from performing in India?
I think audiences abroad have more of vested interest in the simple act of applauding a performance or really listening to the music that they’ve paid to experience. India is getting there as well, that’s a good thing. We just need to become more sensitive and less confrontational when it comes to things like art and personal preference, it’s a cornerstone of civilisation. Once that happens, Indian audiences will have a better relationship with music and art in general. That day is close, in our opinion.
You’ve also set yourself apart through a well-defined sense of aesthetic. I’m assuming (given your vibrant and well-tailored suits), that it was a conscious decision?
We are never unconscious when it comes to aesthetic. Being specific and being precise are things that we cherish and strive to do. It’s so much more fun to be able to craft something that isn’t general or utilitarian.
How has Kolkata shaped your life as an artist? How did you go about the process of shooting the video for I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll?
Kolkata has allowed us to dream and to be lazy, which has helped our music and careers so far. Shooting the video was a great learning experience, and we fell in love with the process of film-making through this. It was a very solid production. We had a full crew and we had a great director in Misha Ghose to steer the ship.
But when it comes to writing your music, do you follow a process as a band?
It’s a very linear and organised process. We hardly ever ‘jam’, the initial idea comes from either of us and then we work separately first to create the parts and then we edit and deconstruct together before the song is ready. It’s like Lego.
Signing a contract with an international label, that wasn’t a conventional step either. How did you go about the process?
We simply got lucky. We sent a song in an email to many labels and Peacefrog responded. There was no process involved in this! We just sent it to the email listed on the website. Getting it to a label is easy, anyone can do this with a little bit of research. The music has to speak for itself.
Getting it to a label is easy, anyone can do this with a little bit of research.
The music has to speak for itself.
What are you listening to at the moment? Any contemporary favourites that you’d recommend?
With YouTube and social media, it’s simultaneously easier and harder to share new projects and gain access to a wider audience. What advice, if any, would you have for aspiring musicians in the country?
Make art. Do it. Videos, music, photos. However, whenever and wherever you can. It’s easy and it’s fun.
Any further plans this year?
An India tour in August and more videos potentially. Make art. Do it. Videos, music, photos. However, whenever and wherever you can. It’s easy and it’s fun.