They are always dreamy, coming up with hypnotic moods for the listener. They are adventurous when it comes to lyrics. Parekh & Singh — the duo of Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh — are once again at their adventurous, engaging best with a new single — Je Suis La Pomme Rouge — that also marks the promise of “what will be a full-length album”. They have been “friends, enemies, neighbours and brothers” for long enough to understand each other well and effortlessly make their listeners snap out of the feeling of stagnation and emptiness that have become endemic to our times. We spoke to the men in suit and this is what they have to say.
What inspired the two of you sitting alone in your apartments in Dubai and Calcutta?
Books, films, the Internet, silence and music, of course.
The vibe of Je Suis La Pomme Rouge sort of reminds me what Parekh & Singh is about — the power to fantasise and dream, only to wake up to record a fleeting idea. Were there such fleeting moments that led to the song?
The human imagination and all the wonderful things that it’s capable of are certainly themes that always inspire us; these concepts definitely feature in our new music.
Would it be wrong to look at Je Suis La Pomme Rouge as a starting point to an album?
It is indeed the first single from what will be a full-length album. We’ll be releasing another single and the full album will be out after that.
It has been sometime since we last heard the two of you. Is it easy picking up from where you left off?
With each album/musical cycle, it feels like a fresh start. It’s obviously challenging in some ways but we have inevitably gained some experience over the years.
One by one they all surround me/ Disregarding space and boundary/ I don’t think I’m going to let them in/ I will give them the old smile and wink. Those words seem to come from a personal space.
Questions are sometimes asked with the intent to cause discomfort. Privacy and intimacy seem like they’re under threat. It may be a slightly pessimistic view on the world but we definitely would like to propagate space and respect for the private life.
The cover artwork to the single captures an endless, meandering stream of thoughts. Can you share a bit about the artwork and how it connects to the single?
The artwork has been created by Yashasvi Mathis, from Bombay. She also worked with us on Ocean so she’s been a frequent collaborator. The idea was to create something like the cover of a fantasy novel. We’re very inspired by those old illustrated landscapes. Yashasvi’s approach was to create this really mysterious and exciting landscape from another world.
Even though the two of you worked apart during the pandemic, how has the singer-songwriter-composer relationship evolved during the last two years?
We’ve just gotten better at our own crafts and also more experimental. We’re always trying to push our limits musically and the pandemic allowed us to experiment freely with different styles of music. All that research and study will hopefully live in our new music.
Nischay, I gather you have been in Dubai for quite some time. How has the city been inspiring you or giving your songwriting a new direction?
Dubai has been great. It’s very different to Calcutta but in some ways it’s similar. You can choose the pace of life you want to live in Dubai, so you can slow it down like Calcutta. The city has a different tone — it’s quieter so I think I’m writing differently there.
Have there been any self-care rituals that helped the two of you power on through the pandemic?
Yoga, the gym, cycling, meditation and quality sleep!
Your previous album, Science City, arrived in 2019, which is also the time when the stage was set for short videos (to the point of a very forgettable 30 seconds) to take over. How does it feel to record new music now? Scary, because you just don’t know what people are thinking?
Mediums are always changing and evolving. Artistes shouldn’t get too obsessed with a single format or medium, chances are they’ll change by the time you wrap your head around them. We’re just focusing on what we’re good at whilst trying to improve at what we aren’t good at, and the rest really is secondary.
Social media has turned our smartphones pretty dumb. Do the two of you move away from this weird space to work on new music?
We’re definitely spending less time on social media. We only use it to promote our music and engage with fans. There’s always positives with negatives. The advantage of social media is that we have such a direct and dynamic relationship with our fanbase.
Songwriting can make an artiste feel vulnerable. Have there been moments when you decided to step away, step back and take a look at what you are doing and then find motivation to write again?
Yes, there are definitely less creative periods. But we try to be creative everyday. We love making music and creating a world around it and the excitement of music is enough to motivate us.
Listeners will always ask for Ghost and I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll. But does that create a pressure on the kind of music you want to make versus what you are expected to make?
We love that our catalogue has songs that mean something to our listeners. We’ll always love playing those songs whenever we can. However we are equally interested in surprising our listeners and providing them with new favorites.
We are living in divisive times. What would you advise musicians who are feeling like they’re not being heard or represented?
Be bold and be authentic. Creativity will always be more powerful than destruction.
What’s next for Parekh & Singh?
This will be a year full of new music and live concerts.
Five books/graphic novels you have discovered during the pandemic
How To Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy, DARE by Barry McDonagh, Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse, The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
Five musicians who you enjoyed listening to during the pandemic
Joao Gilberto, Sam Amidon, Four Tet, Glenn Gould, Steely Dan
Five films that you revisited or enjoyed during the pandemic
The Birdcage, The Disciple, The Danish Girl, Gol Maal (1979), Charulata
Five activities that help you when bored
Cycling, exercise, watching televised sports, walking, and cleaning house