Je Suis la Pomme Rouge
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On their third album, The Night is Clear, Kolkata duo Parekh & Singh trade in their proclivity for geeking out on science-adjacent themes for escapist stories which draw on real-life discomforts. “There’s no story in telling the truth,” singer, guitarist and producer Nischay Parekh croons on “Je Suis la Pomme Rouge”.
Between grappling with familial relations, anxieties and friendships, Parekh and drummer/producer Jivraj Singh stay close to their enchanting dream-pop style but lay down subtler production elements compared to the futuristic sounds heard on their previous two albums, Ocean and Science City. “We used live woodwind arrangements for the first time and live string arrangements too,” Parekh tells Apple Music.
Parekh adds that Tolkien, Rowling and even William Blake in his poetry wove in stories of kings and faraway lands with things that don’t often add up right in their fantasy fiction. Even then, he says, music—and art, at large—is the ultimate comfort. “When you’re experiencing something, you can’t truly experience it unless you’re feeling safe enough to do so. That’s kind of what art has been in our lives. It just comes to the rescue.” And with that, he takes us through The Night is Clear track by track.
“When we start, we think, ‘What is an anchor song?’ Not necessarily a single. Although oftentimes, it tends to become the single for marketing purposes. ‘Sleepyhead’ was that song for us. Lyrically, it’s quite autobiographical, I guess, because we’ve been known to be reticent and take our time with stuff. Creative people, in general, are often pigeonholed as reticent or not quick to capitalise on opportunities.”
“I was kind of dealing with... I wouldn’t call them issues but conversations around family and ideas about what you’re going to do with your life. I’m sure we all have these instances, whether it’s the people we love or our friends who say, ‘Hey, man, like, what’s happening?’ Like, ‘Where are you going in your life or your relationship or your career?’ I had a sense of rebellion to that because I think, especially as artists, nobody wants to be told what to do. So this song is kind of about the right advice at the wrong time.”
“Je Suis la Pomme Rouge”
“Just to suit my own creative purposes, I adapted this lens on history about King Richard [the Lionheart], who actually played the lute and wrote and performed traditional songs in the style of a troubadour. So in my mind, he was the first monarch singer-songwriter. I used this and tried to write different versions and wondered how he felt. Maybe he didn’t care so much about being a troubadour and it was a passing phase or hobby?”
“This is the most recent one we wrote for the record. I wrote it during the pandemic. For many introverted and artistic people, I don’t think life necessarily changed much during the pandemic. I think many people found a lot of comfort, actually, from the fact that the world shut down and you were not expected to go and face it. This was a music-forward song. We wrote the music first and I didn’t have any lyrics. I wrote the words [in a] stream-of-consciousness [style] by just listening to the music.”
“This was one of the more constructed, laborious productions. It was very specific and autobiographical to my experience with my parents, growing up. My relationship with both of them was very different and it continued like that for a long time. I had a unique childhood in that there were lots of highs and lots of lows. So, each day in the week would bring surprises. Sometimes good surprises. Sometimes pretty poor, bad surprises. There was a duality there. My dad’s a big fan of classical music and Jivraj was getting into classical music, so somehow he just found this song as a good opportunity to play tabla on it. We didn’t ever speak about it. It just happened.”
“When you’re in the flow of creating these connected ideas, it’s lazy songwriting but you want to have another shot at an idea. So ‘King’ has this narrative thread picking up from ‘Je Suis la Pomme Rouge’ but tying back into this whole fantasy monarchy. There’s a line—‘All my friends are travellers just wandering the hills, I make the distance in my mind, I’m the king of being still’—that was written after a show [we did] in Delhi, when Jivraj and our sound engineer Ankit Gandhi Lall went for a holiday in Kasauli. They wanted me to come along but I had really crippling travel anxiety. I was jealous.”
“A love letter to art and music. For us, it’s always been art—whether it’s a movie or a book or a record that we love, it really is therapeutic, no matter what’s going on in our personal or professional lives. We wanted this to be that positive, life-affirming tribute to the idea of art and artistry.”
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“The sentiment on this gets kind of heavy at certain points. There was a time I was really interested in reincarnation and the cycle of life and death and how there was this juxtaposition with that whole culture about ‘you only live once’. Some of the ideas are mystical but the verses are about getting away and living for today. And in the refrain, it’s like, ‘Hang on a second. Maybe that’s not how things are necessarily going to go for you.’”
“I wanted to write a story and turn it into a song. I wanted to talk about a monarch but a fictional one this time who is burdened by the weight of their own destiny. We’re in an age or culture where everybody’s prescriptive and everyone wants to give you advice. It doesn’t come from a bad place but sometimes people just need to be left to their own devices. That’s kind of what an ideal image of a nightingale is like—it’s always a solitary bird. A solo solemn character that’s not able to relate to the world around them.”