| 01 Feb 2023
The rise of Parekh & Singh and the role of its record label

MUMBAI: Globally speaking, the rise of independent record labels supported by the major labels or owned distributions witnessed a quiet and slow revolution once the hindrances started affecting factors beyond the artist’s creativity. The changes began as early as the rise of second half of the century, and in the 1960s and the following decade, London's Rough Trade Records provided the muscle to the independent artists who had the content refreshing and powerful enough to compete with bigger label players. Its eventual outcome resulted into better co-ordination and global reach for similar labels, through a trend, that helped them adapt from ad-hoc alliances to successful partners into truly and purely independent companies.

Chet Faker-Future Classic, Courtney Barnett-Milk! Music, Artic Monkeys-Domino Records and even Adele-XL Recordings are some of the examples signifying the glory of ‘match made in heaven’ in the confused, chaotic music industry, majorly driven with numbers and figures. Today, India boasts a bunch of independent-record-labels-done-right examples, and singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad’s growth from ‘yet another acoustic guitarist in a music festival’ to an independent tour across the country - thanks to Pagal Haina Records - proves that the labels have understood its primary and secondary roles.

Two days after Parekh & Singh’s first performance since the release of the music video for ‘I Love You Baby I Love You Doll’, vocalist and songwriter Nischay Parekh (on the phone call from Kolkata) acknowledged the growth in the popularity for the act in the form of a young crowd singing along the song at NH7 Weekender Shillong ’16. The duo – Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh – has been performing together for at least three years now, but its popularity and identity shot to fame in the past six months, in a manner that no act (belonging to the similar genre space in India) has ever managed to.

And there's a healthy good reason for that. Earlier this year, Parekh & Singh sent out an unreleased composition to half a dozen international record labels obviously hoping for the best. Patience played a key role here, and soon, the UK-based independent record label ‘Peacefrog Records’ identified the act’s potential in the space and reverted. Thus began an association between the act and the label that would last for at least four more albums. “Peacefrog has already decided to promote and release the previous album ‘Ocean’ and, as per the deal, we would be releasing our next efforts under the label.”

Founded in the early years of the 90s, headquartered in London, Peacefrog Records began as a label majorly focusing on Trance and Electronic music. Gradually, the label shifted its focus to pop, folk, singer-songwriter based acts or what most loosely term as ‘indie’ bands. With a roster featuring Jose Gonzalez, Little Dragon, Nouvelle Vague, the record label eventually created an identity and a reputation that ensured the sound reaches the right audience. “And that factor was really important for us. I could have sent the demos to Sony Music or Universal or other big players in the industry, but either the demo would have been one of the dozens of requests that they would ignore or the sound would have reached the wrong audience. And we did not want that to happen. With Peacefrog Records, there is a time flexibility when it comes to the album creation process, and no barriers towards artistic creativity.” The label allowed Parekh to generate ideas revolving the artwork for the album and the ‘freedom’ extended to the music video too. Effectively, the music video is a Parekh & Singh creation, and of course Misha Ghose's, the director behind it.

The label has previously associated with acts from different regions, and Parekh & Singh acts as its window to the lucrative Indian independent music ecosystem, that has also lately found an admirer in the form of another UK based label - Horus Music. Approximately 37 per cent of the revenue arrives from international markets for the independent record label industry, and that justifies Peacefrog’s roster that features acts from other countries in Europe and Parekh & Singh (the label’s maiden endeavour in India). And also the fact that it allows the label to further push its other artistes from the roster towards the Indian market. The small roster allows the label to concentrate its resources on the acts, and one look at the act’s social media pages will justify the extensive PR machinery involved in ensuring the fans do not miss out on the band's latest activities and media coverage. The act’s growth grabbed Billboard and USAtoday’s attention, and Parekh credits the label’s initiatives for the same. But the label is striving beyond generic and expected methods to increase the band's presence beyond digital market. “Peacefrog Records has its own mastering company called ‘Electric Mastering’ that has now started distributing our vinyl records, starting with music shops in the UK. The key – as I mentioned before – is reaching our content to the right people.” Adding to that, the label’s efforts to refer the act to the booking agents in Europe only makes the association more effective and fruitful.

The label’s voluntarily contributions to the enhancement of ‘Ocean’ and the music video coupled with Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh’s personal and collective digital promotions exemplifies the ideal artist-label relationship in the modern era. The director for the music video, (that further boosted the band’s presence and received an informal approval-of-sorts from movie director Wes Anderson), Misha Ghose mentioned that although she fleshed out one of the finest music videos executed till date, “the imaginative and quaint concept was Nischay’s.” The Berklee passed out musician surely understands what works for his ideas, and ensured the right people (bandmate, label and director) were involved in executing the same. Ghose further added the act will soon release a bunch of music videos soon, and the level of beauty achieved through the first music video itself would not act as an obstacle for the other directors in order to raise the bar. Interestingly, the music video crossed two lakh views on YouTube, and received, more or less, an equal amount of traction from UK and USA in less than two weeks since its release. The Kolkata-based songwriter, through his few years of existence in the alternative music arena, observed the changing trends and the growing necessity to be “more than a songwriter.” Parekh surely walked the talk.

“The entrepreneurial aspect is extremely vital,” educates Parekh, further elaborating it in his typical deep poetic language that one would find in his lyrics. “It is a multi-dimensional world that we live in. One needs to approach things from every aspect. The same applies to musicians.”

As for the label, the efforts would not stop until Parekh & Singh becomes a “well established international act.” Six months since the association began, the label has relentlessly worked through online and offline channels towards the act's growth (despite purely being a record label and publishing company), and the process of becoming a ‘well established international act’ looks right on its course. Parekh confirms that the act currently finds itself in an encouraging position to head to the West. “We have been in contact with some booking agents from Europe, and soon, we could be performing in festivals and gigs outside India.”