Priya Panda of Diemonds Interview

INTERVIEW WITH DIEMONDS LEAD VOCALIST PRIYA PANDA
Date: October 15, 2018
Interviewer: Olivier
Photos: Black Umbrella Photography (first and third photos); li-on grevier (fourth and fifth photos)

AUGUST 2018 SAW THE RELEASE OF DIEMONDS’ SELF-TITLED ALBUM WHICH IS THE GROUP’S FOURTH ALBUM OVERALL AND THIRD FULL-LENGTH RECORD. IN TYPICAL DIEMONDS’ FASHION, THE BAND’S LATEST ALBUM SHOWS A DEPARTURE IN SOUND ONCE AGAIN. THE RELEASE OF DIEMONDS’ NEW VIDEO FOR “OUR SONG” PROMPTED A LOT OF QUESTION MARKS ON WHAT IS GOING ON WITHIN THE BAND SINCE THE VIDEO ONLY FEATURED BAND FOUNDER AND FRONTWOMAN PRIYA PANDA, GUITARIST DANIEL DEKAY AND DRUMMER KYLE LECOURT. ABSENT FROM THE VIDEO WERE LONG-TIME DIEMONDS GUITARIST C.C. DIEMOND AS WELL AS BASSIST TYRONE BUCCIONE. I CAUGHT UP WITH PRIYA PANDA TO TRY TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON.

Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new album. If you’ll recall, when we first talked, I had only heard a couple of the tracks but now I’ve had a chance to listen to everything. What really come out was that your voice sounds really great on this album. Do you feel that you’ve done something different for this album compared to the others in terms of singing?

Priya Panda: I think for some songs, we were able to come up with for this record, what came out of us during this writing period, kind of gave me the opportunity to sing in different ways, sing about different themes and kid of– I don’t know — dynamics came into my voice. I wasn’t just singing as loud as humanly possible over a bunch of really loud guitars. I experimented with different dynamics and being able to sing in different levels of voice, in a more introspective voice. I really enjoyed it. It was a really cool learning experience for me.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, what I felt is that it almost felt like you were so relaxed in your singing and then you have the really heavy music behind you and it makes a really cool contrast.

Priya Panda: Cool. Well, I’ve heard that description before but usually I am super laid back so [laughs]. Onstage, I’m a little crazy but I’m usually pretty quiet, pretty shy and introverted. I don’t know. I think it comes out in my vocals sometimes.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, it sounded really good. One thing I wanted to ask you is where in the hell is [guitarist] C.C. [Diemond] in this?

Priya Panda: Ummm. Well, C.C. is still around. We worked together in terms of releasing the record that we just had, the fan release that we just did. And yeah, he’s still part of the team  in one way or another but… I’m not really quite sure. Do you mean in the [new] music video?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. For instance, in the new music video, Diemonds appear as a three-piece, which was a shock. You know, before you had five members. Is that something that is going to be forward now or was it just that some people were not available for the video?

Priya Panda: I don’t know. It’s a combination of most of those things. Ummm. It’s a lot easier to run a project with less people ’cause people can come and go as they are available. We can travel in a smaller vehicle. Logistics wise, it’s not a terrible thing. Ummm. Interpersonal wise, you know, it’s different but for us it works just because of where we are at as a band. As mentioned, unless something really cool comes down the pike, the chances of us getting in a van and doing our eight week, nine days of no showering are not necessarily going to happen. They might be. I don’t know.

Diemonds‘ “Our Song” video (from Diemonds album):

DIEMONDS – OUR SONG – OFFICIAL VIDEO

OUR SONG taken from DIEMONDS Available online everywhere. Directed by: Skye Sweetnam This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters. Ce projet est financé en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Well, is C.C. and [bassist] Tyrone [Buccione] still in the band?

Priya Panda: Ummm. Sure. They might be if something comes up and should require people to play [sheepish laugh].

Sleaze Roxx: OK… It’s hard to understand. From a fan’s perspective…

Priya Panda: Well, I think from my perspective, Diemonds is my band. Whoever wants to play gigs and do records can still do those things.

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Well, before the band felt more like a group entity I will say but since that record has come out — and I’ve noticed that in some of your [recent] interviews [in the last few months] — you’re basically saying, ‘Well, I started the band. Basically, this is my band and whoever wants to play can play.’ So what has happened to get to this point?

Priya Panda: Ummm. Well, if you really want to consider the fact that we started this band 12 years ago when we were kids, we’re now not kids and we have other things going on. And we kind of wanna, we still are happy to do… Like you know, Diemonds, it defines me. I feel that it is synonymous with myself. You know [sheepish laugh], how do I put this? It’s cool to be associated with something that I started from scratch, from the ground up. However, it’s also due to the genre that we are in, and due to the opportunities that we have had in the past, it’s been limiting to grow. That for all of us is pretty [emphasis added] important right now so I think that he new Diemonds record was a step in the right direction for most of us in terms of discovering other things that we are good at and that we enjoy.

Sleaze Roxx: One thing about the writing that I read in one of your other interviews is that C.C. had brought a lot of music that was heavier and more modern to the table. He was the primary songwriter and it ended up that you didn’t use a lot of his stuff and that you wrote a lot of stuff with an outside writer….

Priya Panda: Hmmm. I don’t know if it was exactly… C.C. since joining the band had you know the main driving force in bringing new songs into the fold. So I am not discrediting anything that he brought to the table. All I am saying is that when we did use most of his material, material that he definitely — how should I say — started off, introduced to the band riff wise or even structure wise but in the end, it was like a hail mary situation when I decided that I wanted to explore something less of the same. I wanted something different for us. Luckily, C.C. was on board with that. He agreed that maybe we were heading in a direction that didn’t make sense anymore. And he kind of wanted, we kind of wanted to make a record that everyone playing on it was content with so that’s all. That’s why I wrote with Michael [Woods from Damone] and he brought a lot of fresh perspectives. Michael would — he played in this band called Damone from Boston [Massachusetts, USA] and I would say probably one of my favorite bands ever. And so it was like a real — I mean you don’t usually get to write with your favourite bands but I did. I think I’m really proud of what we came with together so I would hope to keep writing with him in the future.

Sleaze Roxx: In terms of C.C.’s role in the band, obviously he was the main songwriter for a long time and sort of to me, from the outside, it certainly felt like he was one of the driving forces. It looks now like you are the driving force in the band. Is that correct?

Priya Panda: Ummm. I would say at different points in the band, we’ve had different driving forces. Me and C.C. have pretty much been the constant from you know since he joined. Since day one, the band in the end is I guess my project. At the end of the day, I will do what I want to do with it so yeah, it’s a bummer that C.C. might not want to stuff or might want to do stuff. I don’t know what’s up with that but if he wants to, we’ll find out when the time arises.

Sleaze Roxx: I’m wondering what happened between you and C.C. in that you were both the driving forces before?

Priya Panda: Well, how come you always interview me and don’t interview him?

Sleaze Roxx: That’s funny. Well, first of all, when I requested to interview you guys, I was told that I should interview you. And I think that C.C. is the one that told me that.

Priya Panda: OK. Well you can feel free to contact him again.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, I did. I did contact him around the same time as you and he said that he didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually you responded so we’re having this interview but it’s not that I’m just interviewing you, I am just interviewing whomever wants to do it. So that’s why I am asking these questions but it just feels like when I look at the band now, it’s looks like it is your band. It’s your project. Before, it certainly felt like it was you and C.C. that were the driving forces behind it. And [guitarist Daniel] Dekay was obviously part of it but you know, you two were the driving forces behind it that had been there pretty much since the beginning. So it’s obviously changed somewhat, I don’t what that is and that’s what I’m trying to get out of you.

Priya Panda: Well, the entire band in general has changed I think in that we are not operating the same way that we did. We are not on a label. We aren’t working in the same way that we used to be. We would love to be but we’re just not so these details at this time don’t even matter that much.

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Fair enough. I know that you mentioned that if the right tour came along, you’d perhaps be interested in suiting up but it’s been almost a year I believe since Diemonds played a show. Is that correct?

Priya Panda: Yup. Don’t remind me.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Sorry. All I’m really asking is there any shows on the horizon or are you just going to wait for the right opportunity to do shows together?

Priya Panda: Ummm. That’s a good question [long pause].

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Well, you don’t know the answer. That tells me that there are no shows planned right now. Is that correct?

Priya Panda: OK.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, it sounds like you are interested in doing shows but right now, there’s nothing planned. Is that fair?

Priya Panda: Yeah. Well there is nothing that I can talk about at this very instance.

[Note from interviewer: On October 23rd, eight days after this interview, Diemonds announced that they would be playing the Monsters of Rock Cruise Pre-Party #1 in Miami, Florida on February 23, 2019]

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Was the delay in playing music [live] have anything to do with your leg injury?

Priya Panda: Ummmm. I think that was poor timing. Absolutely because there is never a good time to be in bed for like three months. We still put out a record during that time. Shot a music video. Still did a lot of things. I did what I could. Yeah, walking to the post office with like 200 packages is a bit of a nightmare.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] I’m sure.

Priya Panda: With crutches still.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah. Let’s switch topics a bit. I know that Dekay has joined Exciter or it has been announced that he has joined Exciter. So that’s very cool but how will that impact Diemonds in the future?

Priya Panda: I think this type of stuff is exactly what I was talking about with the growth of its members. If you’ve been keeping tabs, C.C. has been on tour with the band No Warning, which is one of his favorite bands growing up. And Dekay just joined Exciter, which is one of his favorite bands growing up. I think that playing in Diemonds and continuing to play music despite you know all of the brutal odds and all of the questionable crazy winter drives and all of the shows with five people, or 50o people, or 1,000 people, or whatever, despite all of that, doing that is what led those guys to be in those projects. So again, I think that’s part of the growth. What it will do is it’s just better for everyone. It’s better for everyone to be playing all the time. It’s better for everyone to be out there touring, making music, making friends. You know, you don’t have to be like…. A lot of musicians play in other bands and make other music and do other things. I think that over the years, I have had more opportunities to do that than some of the other guys in the band, you know?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah.

Priya Panda: I’ve sang in duets. I’ve sang jingles. I’ve sang in another band entirely. I’ve toured in another band entirely. I’ve done another record. I’ve done a lot of cool interesting things and everybody should have the opportunity to do those things.

Sleaze Roxx: You had mentioned in our previous interview that you might be interested in going solo. Would you consider Diemonds the way it is right now part of your solo band or showcasing what you can do on a solo basis?

Priya Panda: I think it’s like the tip of the iceberg ’cause I want to incorporate what I’ve done and again, grow and mature and really speak about the experiences that I’ve had these last — particularly the last few years but also like ten years. Just because I think that I mentioned in my last interview with you that being in a band, playing in band, being on the road is only relatable to some people but the experiences that we’ve had growing up is something that I don’t know that I’ve talked as much. Or just changing and evolving, dealing with grief and dealing with deception. Dealing with the ups and downs of our particular lives. I don’t think that I have touched upon everything and I think it will definitely fit in a dark like subject matter. I don’t know. It will be a lot more approachable but it will feel really dark.

Sleaze Roxx: In terms of your solo efforts, would you assemble a different band for that? How would that work?

Priya Panda: Ummm. Maybe eventually? I don’t know. I mean I see people like my heroes — like Doro Pesch who transitioned from Warlock. She does her own career but she always touches upon that bank of songs. She’s always in touch with her roots. Do you know what I mean?

Sleaze Roxx: Yes.

Priya Panda: That type of thing. Wendy O’ Williams is a great example of how — that ‘W.O.W.’ record is one of the best records ever made. It sounds like a lost KISS record or something.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Yeah.

Priya Panda: I’m not saying… I don’t really have any full on plans. I hate to break it to you because when you give interviews, it’s always like, “When is the next record coming out? When is the next show? When is the next this or that?” I’m like, “Well, we’ve just put out a record. We just made a video. Let me recover from all of that, you know?” We’ll take the next step when we’re ready. We’ve been a band for you know… I’ve done this stuff my whole life and I don’t think that I’ve had any other life. I’m kind of exploring other aspects, like being an adult involved waking up and hoping for a gig. I want that still but I also wanna write a good song. I wanna — I don’t know — heal my ankle.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Priya Panda: Just all these other things that I would have neglected if I was on the road right now.

Sleaze Roxx: So let’s talk about the songs on the album if that’s OK. Can you tell me in terms of “Our Song”, what’s the idea behind the lyrics for that one?

Priya Panda: So I mean, that song is basically… We wrote it. I’m sure you’ve seen, you’re getting a gist of the ups and downs that we’ve had during our time together as a band. And that song was like, “Holy fuck! How are we even still together?”

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Priya Panda: Really? How are we still together? We’ve joined other bands. We’ve had terrible terrible break ups. We’ve been bankrupt individually, Bankrupt as a band. Financially, emotionally. We’ve lost our closest friends. Our frigging engine exploded on tour. We’ve been told that we’ve missed some of our best shows ever because our van has broken down. We’ve been robbed. We’ve gotten kidnapped in India. I don’t even know. The list of things that we’ve gone through to play rock n’ roll is endless and so that song was an anthem to how are we still here? I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way about their own experiences. Other people’s experiences — they could have somebody that is ill in their family or an addict. They can’t get a break. They can’t get a job. They can’t keep a job. They can’t keep a girlfriend. Whatever they’re going through. Every person in the entire world has had it up to here at one point in their lives and I think that song references that point where you’re sitting at the breaking point. You’re like, “How am I going to take the next step right now?” I can’t even function and that’s where that song comes in you know?

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So you have to tell me about the kidnapping in India!

Priya Panda: Ummm. God, it was such a long time ago but basically, to make a long story short, a promoter had us booked for a two-week period but decided that they wanted us to stay throughout Christmas and New Year’s, which to me, it sucked but i’m Indian. It’s not as celebrated in my household. We give some gifts, eat some food. But to the rest of my band, that was a big deal and not a possibility because they were offering it to us on the spot. We decided that’s not going to work for us and they’re like, “Well, we still want them to play.” So what they did was separate us from our passports and put us in a remote area where none of our cell phones would work and didn’t come and get us for two to three days.

Sleaze Roxx: Wow.

Priya Panda: Then they finally came to get us and put us in a hotel room in another city that was like four hours away. They had armed guards watching our rooms at all times so we couldn’t leave. And there was a small break as we befriended one of the guys and at this point, we’re packed with our bags, with our passports and our cell phones are working. So we befriended the guy and he’s like, “I am going to go downstairs to get some tea”, we literally bolted to the airport.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Priya Panda: They cancelled our flights. We didn’t have flights home. It was like a 50 hour, 60 hour day to travel home because of what we ended up negotiating. “These guys were our promoters. They pretty much cancelled our flights. We’re stranded here.” So we were in Delhi. That’s as far as we got. We had to stay in Delhi for like four days and that’s funny because we ended up staying — I am going off on a tangent here — but we ended up staying with this guy who I met the same day that I met C.C. in New York City at Madison Square Garden. I hadn’t seen him since that time since he lives in India now.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s a pretty crazy story!

Priya Panda: We were at the airport for hours, days, sleeping on the floor. I remember being in Paris [France] for like 18 hours or something just trying to make it home for Christmas. It was crazy!

Sleaze Roxx: Well, I guess that explains why you never made it back to India to play right?

Priya Panda: Basically!

Diemonds in India video (from eight years ago):

Diemonds in India

Diemonds went to India and played the rock capital of India, Shiloong, making them only the 4th band that has ever played there. Check out the video as Priya briefly talks about Diemonds’ trip to India.

Diemonds‘ “Ain’t That Kinda Girl” video (from Never Wanna Die album):

DIEMONDS – Ain’t That Kinda Girl (Official Video) | Napalm Records

Order “Never Wanna Die” now: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/diemonds US customers: http://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/diemonds iTunes: http://smarturl.it/NeverWannaDieDL Diemonds have no bloodstreams running underneath their skin – they have the Sunset Strip! Quite peculiar come to think the fivepiece hails from Toronto, Canada.