Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh, better known as Parekh & Singh, are a regular fixture at Indian music festival these days, a dream pop duo from the City of Joy, Kolkata.
Initially, the duo performed under the banner of Nischay Parekh in 2011. Although it was ostensibly Parekh’s solo project, Singh was a constant collaborator and appeared alongside Parekh for photos and performances. Their debut album Ocean (2013) created waves and got them a much sought-after record label deal. The album featured Singh on drums and percussion, Pedro Zappa on bass and George Matthew Dylan Varner-Hartley (AKA George Dylan) on piano and keyboards. Ocean was well-received in India with Rolling Stone India naming it as one of the best Indian albums of the year. The duo were then briefly known as Zap in 2014, before changing their name to Parekh & Singh in 2015 when Zappa moved on to other projects and Varner-Hartley relocated to Canada.
Their music features none of the stereotypical sitars and tablas that dominate India’s music scene, but what you see on stage are two young musicians — guitarist, vocalist and synth-player Parekh and percussionist Singh — who produce music that is distinctly un-Indian, but catchy enough to make you sway.
Verus Ferreira, who has seen the duo perform at many festivals, spoke to them to know more about the band and their pastel-coloured suits!
You guys have adopted a name stemming from the days of bands like Simon and Garfunkel and Hall and Oates.
Nischay: The duos you’ve named are our heroes and that feeling of a songwriting partnership is what we are looking to evoke, a friendship.
How was the band formed?
Nischay: We went to the same school, La Martiniere for Boys. We met at a friend’s birthday party actually. We quickly formed a friendship and began playing music together. The original version had a keyboard player and was defined by a distinct lack of direction, so we quickly abandoned that. We came back together as a duo a few years later. We knew that we had a special formula instantly and that it was worth exploring further.
Nischay, give us a background on how you got into music.
Nischay: My mother and father were huge music fans. I am not a natural talent at guitar or singing by any means. I have no prodigious facility or God-given flair. My strongest musical instrument is my mind. I learned this very quickly and decided to use it to write songs and arrange them.
Jivraj, can you too tell us how you got into music?
Jivraj: Both my parents were professional musicians. I grew up resisting the idea of music because of this. They had a band and would rehearse at home with me in the other room playing computer games. When I was 18, I finally gave in and took up playing drums. Not many people have the privilege of playing music with their parents. It’s even better when your parents happen to be great musicians.
Nischay: Jivraj can also play the tabla.
Any reason for the more synth-percussion-psychedelic kind of electronic-technology based sound?
Nischay: We simply love synthesizer and computers. Technology has allowed us to sound like a full band when it’s just the two of us in reality. Exploring the sonic landscape of analog and digital synthesis is something that interests us greatly.
Tell us about your album Ocean, the songs and the songwriting process?
Jivraj: Ocean is our first album. It’s young, it’s optimistic and it’s very honest as a first record should be. We’re lucky that the songs became ‘ear-worms’ as they’ve been called. This was a product of luck and not of design. Nischay wrote most of these through his youth and teenage years. We just recorded them and that was that. There wasn’t much thought that went into this production; we just wanted to keep it playful and immediate. We record fast, we don’t like to linger.