The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Artists at Banjaara: In Conversation with Parekh & Singh

Kartik Sundar, Class of 2020

There’s something uniquely euphoric and dreamy about Parekh & Singh concerts that few artists can match. When they took the stage for this year’s Banjaara, they might have been missing their trademark suits, but they brought their entrancing vibe. Due to a lengthy and cumbersome soundcheck, the pair didn’t have time to don their signature coloured suits but decided to perform in pyjamas instead. Performing hits from their critically acclaimed album, Ocean, as well as a host of unreleased songs, Parekh & Singh delivered a mesmerising set.

Parekh & Singh at Banjaara ’18 | Photograph by Anant Shah, Class of 2020

The dream pop duo from Kolkata have been one of India’s biggest indie acts for a while now. Both members come from musical backgrounds; Jivraj Singh plays the drums and handles the electronic aspects, while Nischay Parekh takes hold of the vocals, guitar, and synths. They share an intense passion for music, viewing it as an art form that mixes science with feelings and emotion.

Having loved their music for quite some time, I could go on about each song they played, but two in particular were especially moving. Early into the set, Parekh played the initial chords to “Ghost”, and the entire crowd cheered in recognition; but what followed was a rendition different from the studio version. By stretching the song’s run time and adding a plethora of other effects, they made an already eerie track downright hypnotising. It was strangely satisfying to hear Parekh sing “I’m partially a ghost” at the end of that song. Their final performance of an unnamed and unreleased track was the highlight of the set. Involving the entire crowd through a simple “dum da da dum dum dum” chant, the pair created the perfect closing track. It was truly special when the audience began to chant in unison. Parekh & Singh succeeded in bringing Ashokans and attendees from other colleges together to enjoy quality music and have a great time.

Fresh off another gig in Delhi, the duo made the journey to Sonepat to play here in Ashoka University. They were gracious enough to give us a quick interview during their arduous soundcheck process, wherein we discussed their style, creative process, as well as their plans for the future.

Kartik: The two of you are arguably the biggest Indie act in the country right now. How has that rise to stardom been for you?

Nischay: It’s quite gratifying. The interesting thing was that there was a large phase of time where these songs were already out there…maybe they weren’t reaching as many people as they could have — before the videos came out and we redid our look. It’s what any musician or artist dreams of: of their work being celebrated and shared. It kind of feels like the music doesn’t belong to us anymore; it feels like it belongs more to the people who come for the shows and listen to the songs on YouTube or buy them. It’s quite a great feeling.

Kartik: I heard Ocean a while back and, when you guys came to Humming Tree, I rushed to get tickets. Since you’ve played at many venues like Humming Tree, which ones in particular were your favourites?

Nischay: We played a great concert at the Royal Opera House in Bombay a few months ago. So, that was another great one. We did a nice show yesterday at the Aurobindo Center of Arts and Communication. I think, with every show, we’re trying to do things that aren’t in a nightclub. So, something like this (Ashoka)…is a different sort of an experience for us as well as the audience, hopefully. We’ve just been having a good time playing at interesting and new venues.

Nischay Parekh (left) and Jivraj Singh (right) in a shot from the video for “I love you Baby, I love you Doll” | Source: YouTube

Kartik: One of the most interesting things that I find about you guys is your aesthetic — from the suits to the Wes Anderson-esque videos. I’ve heard that Wes Anderson got to see the video (“I love you Baby, I love you Doll”). What’s that been like?

Nischay: It was just a momentary, brief thing. Someone who works on his crew [and] lives in India probably just shared it with him. And, through the glory and power of the internet, he probably just saw it and I guess he was into it? Obviously, it’s a tricky one because I think he was also interested in the locations we found in Kolkata and Bengal, which might have been new to him. Yeah, it was amazing because he’s definitely one of our favourite filmmakers, and we genuinely love watching his films.

Kartik: Were the suits a conscious decision you made or did it just come up spontaneously?

Jivraj: Hmm, pretty conscious. I mean, there was a process involved to arrive at the colours we used for the suits. But wearing a suit was a concept we were into for a long time because it’s uniform: it feels like you’re doing something serious. But then the colours are kind of alluding to the fact that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Kartik: Your sound right now is unique. What were the inspirations behind it; were any Indian?

Nischay: Arriving at our sound: both me and Jivraj didn’t grow up playing or listening to the more obvious or easily accessible forms of music like metal or just straight up rock. From a very early age we were influenced [by] or exposed to a lot of nuanced pop music and a lot of cheesy stuff as well. From the very beginning, we thought about music through songs; we knew that’s what makes a song, or that’s what a song should sound like. When two musicians approach a song as a song, and not trying to be a rock band or a metal band or even a pop band, just being more scientific about the whole process leads to a different representation of the sound on stage.

Kartik: When you started composing, how did each of you influence the other’s style?

Jivraj: For me, it’s been understanding how to support a vocalist. That’s an important thing for a musician to do if you’re not a vocalist yourself. It’s a very specific mindset to do what it takes to make sure the vocalist is comfortable on stage. [Vocals] are the most tender instrument, and there’s a lot of amplification on stage. That’s something that Nischay has taught me a lot about, just how to play for the song. Like he said, it’s about the song and that’s not something that necessarily comes easy to everyone.

Nischay: I’ve only played with two drummers, and Jivraj the most extensively with. So, you know, just understanding the essential concepts of pulse and rhythm, even harmony and harmonic rhythm, just basic musical craft.

Kartik: So, it’s something that’s more of a scientific process?

Nischay: Yeah, it’s scientific but, at the same time, it’s quite intuitive as well.

Jivraj: The science has a direct correlation with emotion. It’s not just an intellectual thing; it is about the feelings. It’s just a way of describing the feelings, and crafting the things we do on stage and in the music to make the audience feel a certain way. So, those are the kind of things we’re interested in that we talk about all the time.

Kartik: Ocean was a fantastic album, and it got you guys a lot of success, both critically and popularly. At The Humming Tree you were playing a lot of songs that haven’t been released. Do you have an album coming out soon, or any tours?

Nischay: Yup. Follow-up album is ready and should be out later this year, following which we will probably do more shows and concerts and share our music with as many people as we can.

Kartik: Your fan base isn’t restricted to India too much, so are you looking to tour outside?

Jivraj: We toured the UK last year, and we want to tour more extensively in support of the second album and explore India more. For instance, coming here was not something that was on our radar even last year. But now the fact that there is interest in Parekh & Singh in Sonepat is a pretty great thing!

Kartik: In your own catalogue, what is the favourite song you’ve made and enjoyed playing?

Nischay: That’s a good question; it’s tough to choose.

Jivraj: I go through phases. Sometimes, a song which you weren’t digging a couple of shows ago becomes really appealing to play.

Nischay: Currently, it’s a song called “Surgeon”, which is going to be on our next album. Another one called “Comet Juice” is also a favourite.

Kartik: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to interview you, and have a great performance!

Parekh and Singh at Banjaara | Photograph by Kopal Sinha, Class of 2019

Parekh & Singh are scheduled to release their second major album later this year. If the songs we heard on stage are anything to go by, it’s bound to be spectacular. Keep an eye out for their gigs wherever you might be; tickets don’t come easy for this talented duo!

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