PAREKH & SINGH
Their future’s bright, and so are their custom-made suits. The Style Report meets the Indian dream-pop duo tipped for worldwide success.
This article was originally published on MATCHESFASHION.COM.
It’s a rare sunny February morning in London when we meet Indian pop duo Parekh & Singh in the grand lobby of their London hotel. They’re clad in their trademark matching turquoise suits, topped off with – newly purchased – khaki macs. It rather feels like something from a Wes Anderson film, which incidentally, inspired their viral music video for the single I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll.
Hailing from Kolkata, Jivraj Singh (pictured above, left) and Nischay Parekh (above, right) are shaking up the Indian music scene with their whimsical indie pop. Their debut album, Ocean, is packed with catchy melodies constructed from layers of guitar, drums and surprisingly seamless synth – and there’s not a sitar in sight.
Despite being dressed identically – apart from their shoes (more on that later) – Parekh and Singh have very distinct personalities. Parekh, the band’s singer and guitarist, is the chattier of the two, while Singh, the drummer, is quieter, more elusive – a dynamic that works well both musically and in interview. They met when Parekh was 16 and Singh 22, at a mutual friend’s birthday party. ‘He was the new kid on the block,’ Singh explains. ‘And everyone wanted him to play acoustic guitar and sing songs. The guy whose birthday it was asked him to play a song.’ ‘It was like a party trick,’ adds Parekh. ‘I think this friend wanted to help me move into professional music and he thought knowing Jivraj, who was already an established drummer in the scene, would help.’
It did. In 2015, Parekh & Singh secured a five-album deal with London-based indie label Peacefrog, and the following year released Ocean. As for 2017, it’s looking as bright as the pair’s Pantone-hued suits; days before our interview, the pair played on Cerys Matthews’s 6 Music show – a career highlight, they admit. ‘There aren’t many Indian bands that get to do this,’ says Parekh. ‘It’s all quite surreal for us.’
On this trip, between meetings with press, promoters and managers, Parekh and Singh are keen to sample London’s gastronomic delights. ‘We’re big foodies,’ they admit. ‘So we love finding out what makes the food-brain of a city tick.’ Epicurean pilgrimages thus far have included Flesh & Buns and The Thomas Cubitt (for a post-6 Music roast). I arm them with a list of personal favourites, including Sketch’s Wes Anderson-esque Gallery room; I imagine their pastel-blue suits will complement the powder-pink velvet chairs.
How does the music scene in Kolkata compare to that in London? ‘It’s incredibly different’, says Parekh. Singh continues: ‘There’s a lot of music and a lot of bands but there aren’t many venues. And there isn’t really a huge audience for it. The variety of things that musicians and artists can do in London is bewildering – for instance, we went to the Roundhouse yesterday and saw the core of what they do is helping kids and developing artists and creatives, which is amazing for such a huge iconic venue. It’s amazing to think that that is [part of] the cultural fabric of London.’ ‘They have all these programmes for kids; you can rent a studio for a pound an hour!’ adds Parekh. They’re certainly advocates of a DIY approach, having self-produced and recorded the album in 2013. ‘There was a lot of production,’ Parekh explains, speaking of the intricate layers of sound in each track. ‘When I recorded it I was 18 or 19 years old, and I had never worked on an album before. So it was a learning experience for me.’
Let’s talk about the suits. Unlike most indie bands in their infancy, Parekh & Singh has already established a signature style (without the help of a stylist). Indeed, beyond evangelising about the peppy hooks and painstaking productions, reviews of Ocean consistently expound upon the duo’s brightly coloured tailoring – crafted by a local, family-run business. ‘I think the aesthetic visual angle has always been something that Jivraj and I were deeply committed to,’ says Parekh. ‘So we knew that if it had to work, the visual language needed to be strong. And how we dress obviously is a big part of [this].’
Why suits? ‘I personally like the fact that the suit kind of pulls you upright,’ Singh explains. ‘It’s a uniform; it’s serious. And even though music is such fun, for us it’s serious. We’re committed to doing a really good job and performing really well. We have one [suit] cut in six colours.’ They have recently added a red version to their repertoire. Do they wear them all the time, like Gilbert and George? ‘We only wear them for meetings and when we’re going to work,’ Parekh admits. ‘We’re still trying to figure out how to wear them in summer back home – it’s challenging!’ I suggest linen. ‘But then it’s tough to make them as sharp as this!’ Singh protests. When it comes to off-duty style, Parekh opts for casual trousers or shorts, while Singh prefers more precision: ‘I like geometry, math and logic, so I like structure in what I wear.’ ‘Jivraj doesn’t own a single T-shirt with a logo or branding on it,’ Parekh adds.
Musically and sartorially, the duo favour a thought-out approach. ‘We’re excited when we see artists build a world around their art,’ they say, citing Marvin Gaye, Nine Inch Nails and Drake among their sonic influences. When asked about whose personal style they rate, they both namecheck Questlove – ‘I like his personal flourishes; the buttons,’ enthuses Parekh. ‘I also like David Lynch. He’s the king of wearing white shirts,’ adds Singh. ‘Wearing a uniform – that’s something that’s very appealing.’
What’s next? ‘We’re coming back for a tour in May,’ they say, as we round up the interview. And the forthcoming video? ‘We’re doing red and white suits!’