Singer-songwriter Nischay Parekh and percussionist Jivraj Singh have been playing together for six years but it was only last year – when they secured a five-album deal with London-based Peacefrog records – that their collaboration was given a moniker: Parekh and Singh.
“We were always so confused about that, but me and Jivraj are now definitely more interested in being a band, rather than two separate entities who just happen to play together,” said Parekh.
The indie-pop duo’s first single I love you baby, I love you doll was recently featured on Billboard magazine (“A sweet folk-inspired serenade to a loved one, the sun-kissed track is sonically light-hearted…”) and has been a crowd favourite ever since their first album, Ocean, dropped in 2013. Other notable tracks from the album are Newbury Street (“a bubbling, infectious two minutes and 41 seconds about homesickness, and finding the beauty in pain” – USA Today), Philosophize, Ocean and the William Blake inspired Panda.
The music video for I love you baby, I love you doll has clocked 1,70,000 views on YouTube in just over a week, becoming the darling of the Indian independent music scene. Its peculiar sensibility and delightful colour palette drew comparisons to Wes Anderson almost instantly (Anderson apparently let an Indian collaborator know that he liked the video and the suits worn by the duo).
“Wes Anderson was definitely one of the points of references,” agreed Parekh. “But there were tonnes of other references like Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and the music videos we love. I suppose the reason everyone is drawing parallels to Anderson is because The Grand Budapest Hotel was released only two years back and his cinematography is fresh in public memory.”
The video is a breath of fresh air in a country where music videos have come to be defined by the calculated swag of desi rappers, or the garish abandon of This Season’s Wedding Song.
The video is shot by Misha Ghose (who has previously directed videos for Your Chin and The Wanton Bishops) but the treatment and script came from Parekh, who maintained, “The basic nuts and bolts came from me, but she made it practical. My input was all theoretical. Misha broke it down into a flow that we could shoot.”
"It’s nice when the ideas come from the band," said Singh. "All the ideas for the video came from Nischay. We had fun shooting at the royal palace – Mahishadal Rajbari – which belongs to his friend’s family. Everything was shot just the way it was: the bouncing ball was just thrown down the hall, the crowd at the end of the video were not extras, but curious villagers amused by our suits.”
The Kolkata boys admit to being avid consumers of pop culture, and everything the internet has to offer. They listen to Drake and Little Dragon, but claim to love everything from James Taylor, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Roots too.
When it comes to music videos, the duo likes Michel Gondry, The Daniels, Feist, The Dams of the West and Run the Jewels. It is an esoteric list – one that offers a glimpse of the expansive perspective, that allows them to sound so neutral. At the first listen (or even the seventeenth) it's hard to tell that Singh and Parekh are Indian musicians.
“It’s fun for us to mess around with that notion in our videos." Parekh said, laughing. "Based on that first single, we could be a band from Texas but if you juxtapose it with the way we look and quirky imagery we’ve used instead of the clichéd Indian imagery, then it gives the Western audience something to think about. We can afford to be experimental. Everyone can make music these days and that’s great. But what’s going to push it over is the aesthetic that you create around it.”
To hear the two talk about music, videos, cinema and fashion, it is easy to imagine that they have been friends for decades, when in fact they have only known each other for six years. Perhaps, it is this bonhomie that allows them to have such a unified approach in all facets of their production. The band’s photography, sound and music videos share a common symmetry and vision, one that often eludes other creative projects, due to a clash of egos.
While the two are excited about the international release of Ocean on October 28, and their forthcoming tour of the United Kingdom, they seem even more enthusiastic about working on the second album (the cryptically titled //).
“A lot of the songs on the first album were written when I was fifteen,” said Parekh. “A lot of it was an exercise in songwriting but at the same time there was a lot of truth and honesty about who I was. I was just a kid at the time, so there was a lot of childhood imagination set to melodies. Those are elements me and Jivraj still want in our music. The second album is definitely a big directional change in terms of content and sound. We just want to make pop songs in whichever way seems natural.”