While the media describes them as an alternative rock band, the members of the band The Yellow Diary believe their music encompasses several genres and sonic identities. The band, which was formed in the year 2015, comprises of four members – Sahil Shah, Himonshu Parikh, Vaibhav Pani, Rajan Batra and Stuart DaCosta. In this interview, the band members talk about their latest single ‘Roz Roz’, collaborating with Shilpa Rao, where the name of the band comes from, how their association with Sony Music India helped them reach out to a wider audience, composing for films and more.
The first thing that one notices while listening to ‘Roz Roz’ is that Shilpa Rao sounds very different from her usual self. How did this collaboration happen?
Himonshu: We wanted to collaborate with a female vocalist as the song has been written in a dialogue format. There is a proper space for two different perspectives. Shilpa’s voice felt like a good fit for the song. When we recorded her, we were surprised by how good it really sounded and suited the song. She internalized the song and sung it beautifully. It takes a lot of skill to become the song rather than lending your own style to it. That is something that comes with time and experience. I guess that is the reason why Shilpa sounds quite different in the song. We thought of it in a certain way and when she sung the song, it amplified the thought in my head.
In the video, we see a young couple going through a wide range of emotions. How did you crack the concept for the video?
Sahil: We were sitting in a room with the music video director and the production team from Schbang. Mrunal, Disha and Swaraj from the team were hugely instrumental in the way this video shaped up. We were brainstorming on different ideas on how people are in a relationship. Vaibhav came up with this amazing idea of the alter egos of the couple conveying what they were feeling through the dance. This was a really good idea as feelings and dance go hand in hand. All of us were really surprised because Vaibhav is a funny guy and we were waiting for a punchline from him. Instead of that, he came up with this intense idea (laughs). The music video you see now is a culmination of lot of lyrical understanding and choreography. Bhavna Pani, who have choreographed the video, is Vaibhav’s elder sister.
Himanshu, you have stated in an interview that yellow is a mysterious colour that denotes brightness and happiness but it also has a dark side to it. I guess that is something that reflects in the band’s music as well.
Himonshu: Yes, when you are a kid, you are told how yellow is a bright colour. But, as you grow up you realise it has several dark undertones to it. Symbolically, it represents cynicism. I feel it encapsulates who we are as artistes. We have days when we are in a great mood and we make something bright and happy. The next day, we might be feeling a little sombre and that will reflect in our music. Every day is a new emotion for us and that does reflect in our music.
And the word ‘diary’ in the name reflects the fact that the songs are inspired from personal stories.
Himanshu: Yes, the songs are about the experiences we have faced ourselves or people around us have gone through. We document our thoughts and experiences through our songs.
One of the USPs of the songs you make is the poetic lines. Rajan, you write in three different languages. Do you first figure out the theme of the song before you start working on it?
Rajan: I am a very melodic driven writer. For me, it is important to have a melody. My writing resonates on that. Every melody comes with a certain feeling or picture. I allow myself to feel what the melody feels like. What happens is that whatever emotion is playing in my mind, comes out in the form of a melody.
Each of you come from different musical backgrounds and have different sensibilities. Do you go through creative differences at times?
Vaibhav: That does happen but eventually all of us try to figure out what works well for the song. Over the years, after doing a lot of work together, we have figured out an unsaid work flow. We just write a song and then, we add one layer on top of another. We sit in a room, somebody comes up with an idea and we work on it together. It is almost like a dialogue rather than trying to impose your own creative idea on somebody else.
‘Roz Roz’ has been released by Sony Music India. You have had a long-standing association with the label. Do you think that has helped you as artistes?
Sahil: Absolutely! First and foremost, we will always be grateful to Sony for recognizing our potential. They signed us when we had just a few songs on our YouTube channel and were just starting out. They believed in us and put their time and efforts in us. It is always an advantage when you have like-minded people working with you on the same thing. We feel like Sony Music has an intelligent and dynamic team. If not for Sony Music, our songs would not have had such a huge reach and the quality of the videos we put out would not have been as good.
The media describes you guys as an alternative rock band. Do you think that is the right representation?
Himonshu: Sometimes, these labels that people put on artistes also restricts them from exploring or discovering themselves further. I feel like we have alternative rock element in our sound but I don’t think that defines us. If you ask us which genre we are, I would say it is ‘evolving’ (laughs). We do not want to limit ourselves as artistes. You cannot tell an artist you are this or that. You should allow them to create all they want to.
Vaibhav: Songs like’ ‘Roz Roz’ and ‘Marz’ are poles apart from each other in terms of sonic identities and genres.
Sahil: When we were starting out, our perspective was different. A particular emotion would not feel exactly the same when you feel it the next time.
Vaibhav, you had stated in an in review that the band became so popular because the live shows were getting very popular around the time you all started out.
Vaibhav: Yes, we definitely benefited from the popularity of live shows. We love doing live gigs. The energy you share with the crowd is what an artist lives for. Playing live is a big part of what we do. Being able to recreate the stuff we do on the studio in front of a crowd is something we will keep doing.
Is there a plan to compose for films?
We would grab any opportunity we get make a track. If a good film project comes our way, we would be happy to take it up.