Parekh & Singh – Indian Pop’s New Wit and Whimsy
“Music is an incredible icebreaker and normalizer.”
Parekh & Singh’s deftly crafted whimsical, lovelorn lyrics over the dreamy rhythm of their minimal sound showcase the dedicated vision of Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh, the two talented musicians behind India’s breakout pop duo. You’ll find Nischay Parekh on vocals, guitar, keyboards, and synths, while Jivraj Singh lays down the tempo on drums, drum machines, and effects.
Music formed the early experiences of both musicians. Jivraj grew up onstage and backstage following his parents’ band, and Nischay’s household was soundtracked by his mother’s lucky- dip cassette hoard of pop classics from Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder to the ‘somewhat confusing’ Geri Halliwell and Latino rock power trio Los Lonely Boys. Sunday mornings were for Jagjit Singh and the evenings for Elvis. While many influences can be detected across its nine tracks – the cracked beauty of Secrets is dusted with a distinctly Americana feel for instance – Ocean is the fresh new sound of India. A timeless pop masterpiece in the making.
Parekh & Singh’s video for their warm and breezy single, I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll, is shot against the lush greens and golden light of West Bengal, India, with all the endearing quirkiness of a Wes Anderson film. The duo’s music has managed to tap into the millennial mood: Optimistic and immersive. It’s safe to say their future is as bright as their bespoke suits.
We managed to catch up with Jivraj Singh (below left) ahead of their performance at The Great Escape festival in Brighton, England.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
We met at a quintessentially Calcutta event – a mutual (adult) friend’s birthday party. Over time we’ve grown into a yin/yang team that operates as one.
2. Let’s start from the beginning – how did you each first encounter music?
Each of us comes from a home where weekend music listening was important and cherished – ghazals, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor for Nischay; Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Weather Report for me.
3. Who was most influential in shaping your musical tastes?
Our parents in our childhoods. Each other now.
4. Do you remember your first albums?
These memories seem to have been rendered hazy by the world of easy data we live in today but it would certainly have been on cassette tape, slid into a walkman, and stealthily devoured through rubbish headphones at the back of a middle school classroom in La Martinière for Boys, Kolkata.
5. Is there a way that growing up in Kolkata, India, shaped how you each relate to music?
We almost never go out to listen to music, we always go to our most soothing, private places – our bedrooms, a neighbourhood pond, or our cars.
6. Has music helped connect you (to others, to places) in a global world?
Music is an incredible icebreaker and normalizer. At the best of times it turns people into people, bypassing agenda and persona.
7. Do you play any other instruments besides the ones we’ve seen? Are there any instruments you wish you could play or want to learn to play?
Not really – we love working with other instrumentalists. But we also love working with electronics, clocks and software.
8. If your lives didn’t turn to music, what were your plan Bs?
I wanted to be a tennis player.
9. Can you describe your sound for us?
Millennial William Blake.
10. Can you tell us about the process of making your first album? What did you least expect, and what did you learn?
Friends making an album. We least expected to be touring the UK with the music though the dream is always global. We learnt how enjoyable it was to do things to the best of our abilities.
11. Are there musicians past or present that influence your music?
All our heroes, timeless and transient.
12. What songs (past or present) do you wish you’d written yourselves?
None; we wouldn’t want to give up the joy of imagining the behind-the-scenes of the making of our favourite songs.
13. You both have classic yet eye-catching personal and visual style. How did you figure out your own visual and personal aesthetic? What are you hoping to communicate through your choices?
Our suits are cut sharp to pull us upright and sharpen our minds but, because we don’t take ourselves all that seriously, they are coloured for fun!
14. What are your karaoke jams? If you have one, what’s your favourite line, verse, or chorus?
Bad And Boujee – Migos. Love all the ad-libs! Grrah!
15. How do you discover new or old music? Do you have a favourite record shop or website?
We are consciously trying to disconnect from the often tiring artificial intelligence of the internet. Our hope is to go back to the older, slower, more magical ways of finding music.
16. What are your go-to tunes for getting out of bed and seizing the day?
We’d have to say any great European classical music – there are few things that defragment the brain better.
17. Can you share some of the best experiences you’ve had so far through music?
An elderly couple was waiting for us outside Wogan House early on the cold, gray Sunday morning of our debut live session with Cerys Matthews on 6 Music. They took our autographs and a picture. That was pretty special.
18. You’re going to be playing The Great Escape festival this year. What are you most looking forward to?
It is always a treat to play our music near the sea!
19. What should we look out for from Parekh & Singh in 2017?
More of the things that make us happy. We’re sketchy on the specifics but they will include making things and sharing them with the people we meet on our travels in the real world and cyberspace.
Photography by: Parizad D
Parekh & Singh‘s debut album, Oceans, is out now on British indie label Peacefrog. You can keep up with Parekh & Singh on Instagram, Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.