Band interview: It all started with Marz, says Mumbai's The Yellow Diary

Ahead of their performance at ibis Navi Mumbai, The Yellow Diary band takes us through its journey, creative process and what lies ahead for them

Heena Khandelwal Published :  13th June 2019 02:28 PM   |   Published :   |  13th June 2019 02:28 PM

Left to right : Vaibhav Pani (Guitarist), Himonshu Parikh (Keyboardist), Sahil Shah (Drummer), Rajan Batra (Vocalist) and Stuart Dacosta (Bassist)

In less than four years, Mumbai-based band The Yellow Diary has not only created a name for itself in the indie music scene but has also received wide appreciation from the likes of Vishal Dadlani, Papon, Warren Mendonsa and Raghu Dixit. The band, known for its soulful lyrics and music, features five boys - Rajan Batra (Vocalist, Composer and Songwriter), Himonshu Parikh (Keyboardist, Composer and Producer), Vaibhav Pani (Guitarist), Stuart DaCosta (Bassist) and Sahil Shah (Drummer). Ahead of their performance at ibis hotel in Navi Mumbai, the band recalls its journey, creative process and what lies ahead for them. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Take us through the journey of ‘The Yellow Diary’ since its inception. How did you all meet? And, what were you doing before this?
Himonshu Parikh:
Rajan and I met and started working on the song 'Marz'. Rajan is an ex-navy cadet and I was freelancing as a music producer. We called Vaibhav to play the guitar, who at that time was an IT consultant. There was an immediate connection between everyone. We then decided to release the song independently. We were overwhelmed with the amazing response from our listeners and industry veterans like Raghu Dixit, Vishal Dadlani, Ranjit Barot, Papon and many more. We then decided to take things live which is when Stuart and Sahil came on board. Stuart and Sahil were indie musicians at that time playing together with each other in a band. Ever since then, we haven't looked back and became a family that constantly makes music with each other.

Q: Who brings what on the table when you are working on a new song?
Vaibhav Pani:
It’s quite an interesting process actually. One of us sows a seed of a song, it can be a groove, a riff or a melody and we keep on building up on that. It's almost like a musical version of the relay, passing the baton to each other throughout the journey of making a song.

Q: Your songs are lyrically rich. Who writes them and what’s the thought process behind the writing? Also, how many languages have you attempted to include in your music? And, is there a particular genre you stick to?
Sahil Shah: Rajan, being the modern day poet that he is, churns out really deep lyrics from a really special place within. The thought behind the song depends upon what the process is behind creating it, which is different every single time. We have experimented with languages too. Our songs are predominantly in Hindi and Punjabi. But there are exceptions like Bawri Chhori, which has glimpses of Marwadi. As for genres, we don't intentionally try to make a song in a particular genre. It all depends on the nature of the song and what it demands.

Left to right: Sahil Shah (Drummer), Himonshu Parikh (Keyboardist), Vaibhav Pani (Guitarist), Rajan Batra (Vocalist) and Stuart Dacosta (Bassist)

Q: Do you draw inspiration from your own lives? How many of these songs are really from your own diaries? Also, why the name ‘The Yellow Diary’?
Stuart DaCosta:
Definitely. Our songs are based on personal opinions and experiences, like the pages of a diary. This is indeed an important factor behind the name of the band. Also, the colour yellow signifies a wide range of emotions. On one hand, it represents sunshine, brightness and positivity, but it also represents physical illness, jealousy and so on. Similarly, our music has several undertones just like the colour yellow. Hence, the name 'The Yellow Diary'.

Q: How do you describe your music? What do you think makes you stand out in the indie scene?
Rajan Batra:
The best way to summarise our music is 'poetry with rock'. As for what has worked for us, you never truly know what people are going to connect with in a song. Fortunately for us, people seem to relate to our music and enjoy it and that has shown itself in the way our music is being consumed. Also, a big shout out to Sony Music for helping our music reach larger audiences.

Q: Tell us about the song Marz. How instrumental is it in shaping ‘The Yellow Diary’ considering most of you met because of Marz and later it turned into your first album with the song getting released with a very compelling video?
Himonshu Parikh:
You're right. It all started with Marz. We often say that the band didn't make the song, the song made the band. It made poetic sense to release it as the first single with Sony Music India. The interesting thing about Marz is that the lyrics can be applied to any context and it’s open to interpretation. Hence, we decided to take a completely different approach with the song and we're very happy that people accepted a bold concept like that with open arms.

Q:  How much has your life changed after the band was signed by Sony Music?
Rajan Batra:
A lot of things have changed. Some are more apparent like we're constantly playing shows all across the country, spending more time than ever recording and mixing tracks in the studio. But it's the little things that make us realise how fortunate we are to be in this situation. For example, people recognise us randomly and come up to us and tell us how much they love our music. Also, such wonderful messages from people on social media telling us how our music means so much to them and has helped them in tough times. We pinch ourselves as a reminder that this is no dream.

Q: What do you crave the most as an artist - a good reach in terms of views on Youtube or a live reaction during a performance?
Sahil Shah:
Views and streams definitely help us understand how well our music is resonating with people. However, live reactions are extremely special as we end up forming a connection with our listeners in person. They're both truly amazing as they offer different but equally awesome experiences!

Q: Tells us a bit about your upcoming projects. And, would your performance at ibis music be featuring any of those songs?
Vaibhav Pani:
There's a lot brewing as we speak. We're working on a lot of new content, spending a lot of time in the studio and writing a lot more songs. We can't reveal much now. About our performance at ibis, there will be about 13 songs. Besides the songs that are well known to people, we will be playing a bunch of songs that are already with us and are great for live performances but haven’t been released yet. We are also going to perform some songs that are in the process of releasing very soon. 

Left to right: Rajan Batra (Vocalist), Vaibhav Pani (Guitarist), Stuart Dacosta (Bassist), Himonshu Parikh (Keyboardist) and Sahil Shah (Drummer)

Q: Lastly, would you be interested in lending your music, voice or lyrics for a Bollywood film?
Stuart Dacosta:
Bollywood is always something we would all love to work with. We individually work with different Bollywood artists, contributing in some way or the other as freelancers. In fact, now, we see an influx of pop music into Bollywood. Even pop artists are making into Bollywood, so we believe the boundaries are blurring. The five of us are always open to new experiences. We're as curious as anyone who's looking forward to hearing our music in Bollywood as a collective. 

The Yellow Diary will be performing live at ibis, Navi Mumbai on June 14, 8 pm onwards