How Parekh & Singh Became India’s Biggest Indie Export

How Parekh & Singh Became India’s Biggest Indie Export
Parizad D

“The best things always happen to me when I’m home after seeing a movie in theatres. I don’t know why. Even my admission letter to Berklee…” Nischay Parekh trails off while talking about the random luck that led to his duo with drummer/electronic tinkerer Jivraj Singh – Parekh & Singh – to sign on to UK label Peacefrog Records earlier this year.

It probably helped that Nischay was hanging with one of the country’s more enterprising musicians – Sandunes aka Sanaya Ardeshir – at the Princeton Club in Kolkata and talking about releasing his second album. He recalls, “She said, ‘You need to label up’.” Nischay took what he calls “the lottery ticket approach” and mailed 25 record labels, going against the “don’t” of attaching an MP3.

Receiving one of these emails was London-based Phil Vernol, director of Peacefrog. He says they act on artists emailing them “very rarely”, relying on A&R. After signing the contact to release their 2013 album Ocean and their next album // (pronounced Forward Slash), the duo and their label got around to building up their image.

Image Credit: Parizad D

For their press photos and the stellar video for “I Love You, Baby, I Love You, Doll”, Nischay says they created mood boards on Pinterest, pinning all kinds of music, books and movies the duo loved. “Arriving at the suits was also a month-long process of brainstorming.”

Often in his conversation, Nischay notes that everyone has been very collaborative – whether it was Peacefrog giving the funds and fully trusting the duo to work with Mumbai-based photographer Parizad D for publicity photos and then, with filmmaker Misha Ghose for the music video for “I Love You”, which now has over 290,000 views. Nischay laughs out loud, “It was a leap of faith in that sense where they (Peacefrog) paid for that product – they haven’t even met Jivraj and I. We could’ve scammed them – just taken the money and run!”

Phil takes a more straightforward stand. “A label’s job is to expose as many people to the music as possible,” he says simply. “And each step we take will hopefully lead to further doors being opened, like Primary Talent coming on board. Our goal is for Parekh & Singh to be an internationally recognised artist touring the world.”

Once the product’s ready, the next step, of course, is sending it out to the important people. Miles Evans, on behalf of Peacefrog, worked on the press releases for Parekh & Singh, while Fancy PR and 607 PR also spread the word wide and far in the U.S. and Europe. Premieres, interviews and introductions went out on the likes of Billboard, Drowned in Sound, Notion Magazine and more.

In an album review in The Times, Parekh and Singh are puzzlingly called accountants. Nischay says this is partly due to the spin that Miles added. Nischay says, “He spent a lot of time talking to us, skype sessions, emails, just getting to know us and the fabric of what makes us who we are. He wanted to make it communicative. He had to spin this angle, plus, the name Parekh and Singh, and the suits, it sounds official. It sounds company-like. It’s funny, when you talk to people who are in collaboration with you, you realise that there’s already some of that in your music as well. Like our music, it’s not corporate, but it’s a very methodical, pyramid-like formation—it’s very linear. There’s a structure to it.”

Miles told HT Mint in an interview, “I do think that Parekh & Singh open a window onto India today. Our idea of India is so associated with cliches and stereotypes based on a polarised view of Indian culture. So, it’s a revelation to hear this perfect pop music coming from this cool Kolkata duo.”

The worldwide fame (“everything is virtual now” as Nischay admits) has, luckily, led to a very important next step for the duo – they were emailed by London-based Chris Smyth at Primary Talent, who handle bookings for everyone from Alt-J to Daft Punk to Lana Del Rey and Imogen Heap. Nischay says, “We weren’t expecting that for sure. I looked at their roster and realized they were huge. They also book artists in the developmental stage of their career, so that’s good.” A summer run of festival and club appearances in Europe is on the cards.

Image Credit: Parizad D

The interesting part, for Nischay, was that Chris never even asked for any live performance videos of the duo, but just heard their studio material to make the decision to bring them on board at Primary Talent. Nischay makes a guess as to how it works, “Whenever I talk to booking agents here in India – people at and with Indian festivals talk about how bands are great or suck live. But there, they’re not really interested in what you are live. I think they leave that up to the audience. It’s more about the music, I guess. For them, if people enjoy the music, like the record, they’re going to come to the show, enjoy the show.”

According to Nischay, for a lot of their U.S. and European listeners, Ocean might be the first Indian music they’ve heard outside of Bollywood. Although that’s open to debate, what is certain is how they’ve become that one Indian indie band to gain a huge amount of listeners outside the country. “I think there has to be some sort of common ground between the music you’re making and the label that you’re sending it to.”

For Peacefrog, Phil adds, “Parekh & Singh’s music challenges lazy western stereotypes of what Indian music should be and from the other music we’ve been sent since we now know that there is a strong alternative music scene over there. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before more talent surfaces and more people get to hear about. Everything is about the music. Good music is good music regardless of where it comes from.”

If you want to get in on the action they’ll be performing at the following venues

4th August - Bangalore at @the_hummingtree
10th August - Mumbai at anti-@socialoffline Khar
12th August - Pune at @thehighspirits
18th August - Delhi at @electricroom
26th August - Kolkata at @jamsteadytime X @calbunka

With more dates and cities to be added for the following months.

For ticket inquiries please contact the venue nearest you.