Diemonds lead vocalist Priya Panda Interview
INTERVIEW WITH DIEMONDS LEAD VOCALIST PRIYA PANDA
Date: August 3, 2018
CHRISTMAS HAS COME EARLY THIS YEAR WITH THE RELATIVELY SUDDEN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM CANADA’S BEST SLEAZE ROCK BAND DIEMONDS THAT ITS FOURTH ALBUM AND THIRD FULL-LENGTH RECORD WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 10TH. THIS FOLLOWS THE RELEASE OF IN THE ROUGH EP (2008), ‘THE BAD PACK’ (2011) AND ‘‘NEVER WANNA DIE’ (2015) WITH THE LATTER FINISHING AT #3 ON THE SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2015 AND #8 ON THE SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2015. DIEMONDS’ SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS BEING RELEASED AFTER WHAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS A TUMULTUOUS TIME FOR THE BAND AND ESPECIALLY ITS FRONTWOMAN PRIYA PANDA. IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, PANDA OPENS UP ABOUT WHAT HAS TAKEN PLACE OVER THE LAST YEAR TOUCHING ON TOPICS THAT SHE HAS NEVER DISCUSSED PUBLICLY, OF COURSE DIEMONDS’ NEW SELF-TITLED RECORD AS WELL AS A SURPRISE FOR DIEHARD DIEMONDS FANS!
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on the new album!
Priya Panda: Thank you.
Sleaze Roxx: You indicate that it is going to get “dropped” on August 10th. Does that mean that it’s released on that date?
Priya Panda: Yes. It’s coming out on Spotify and Apple Music as well as iTunes, as long as that lasts. I guess that’s going to become a thing of the past soon but for now [laughs]…
Sleaze Roxx: Is the album going to be coming out on CD?
Priya Panda: So, I guess that we are telling you for the first time that we are putting out the album — 100 copies of it, the same way that we just did on vinyl. We’re probably going to sell it to our hardcore fans. Kind of whoever gets it gets it. We are kind of going back to our roots — kind of limited edition albums and tapes and records. It’s a huge part of our own personal collections and we kind of want to go back to that.
Sleaze Roxx: You put out the album on limited edition vinyl and sold out the only 100 copies within a day. Will there be more CDs than 100?
Priya Panda: Ummm. No. Same thing [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Tough times! I’ll have to be ready to purchase a CD quickly [laughs]. Now why did you decide to call the album ‘Diemonds’?
Priya Panda: I just think it’s straight to our roots. We’ve kind of always talked about writing a song called “Diemonds” and having an album called ‘Diemonds.’ I guess that we did one of the two on this. I think our band name is pretty bold and it lends itself to a good title.
Sleaze Roxx: I agree! How long has the album been in the works? When did you start recording it and all that stuff?
Priya Panda: We actually started recording it last fall after we did like a year or maybe like half a year of touring. We had just come back from Europe and the UK. We had done America and Canada. We had done a substantial amount of touring and we had been doing some writing. There had just been a whole bunch of songs that had been, you know, building up that we were itching to get back in the studio and so we did.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there any story behind the cover art? It looks like Diemonds have gone away from the Eddie type mascot thing that you’ve had on previous covers.
Priya Panda: [Laughs] Yeah. We’ve got our friend Kenny — Kenneth — who lives in Ottawa [Ontario, Canada] to kind of put his spin on how we saw our name and our logo. We even changed our logo on the album cover, which is a big departure for us. But he’s kind of been around seeing our band evolve from the very beginning. One of the first shows that we played in Ottawa, I think that we played with his band back in 2007 or whatever. They’ve kind of been like you know… There’s been a lot of cool people in our band and around our band and we just kind of wanted to include them on this.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did you get away from the Eddie like figure on your covers?
Priya Panda: I don’t think that we were in that same head space that we were when we were using that imagery. Some of the stuff that happened during the last album cycle. It was crazy while we were writing and recording. And also we lost a lot of our friends and we went through a lot of growing and changing as a result of that. You know, we kind of like personally — especially for me. I am pretty much out of the party game. I used to be a crazy partier. Probably the craziest ever in the whole band.
Sleaze Roxx: Ha [laughs]!
Priya Panda: You know, used to be my Twitter handle was ‘partypriyapanda’ ’cause all my friends used to call me ‘Party Priya.’ It’s just that things change. People grow up. I don’t think that we are in that head space. I’ve come out a little bit of the darkness. I mean I’ve had the hardest year of my life. The new album is a little more signifying rebirth.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of yourself, what has brought you to that transition where you are getting away from the partying type to where you are now?
Priya Panda: I think probably the biggest thing that happened to me — I’m like a really private person. This is probably the first interview that I’ve given that I’ll probably even be giving this information out to but…
Sleaze Roxx: I appreciate that.
Priya Panda: Over the last few records that I have made, obviously there are love songs. There were songs about dating and relationships but it was all basically about this one mysterious figure. The same person that I was dating for the last decade and that relationship came to an end very — it was pretty much right before recording the record, which was pretty hard for me. So it’s like going through the break up and dealing through all the changes and you know, being alone, navigating the world as a single person. Something that I hadn’t done my entire adult life. All that kind of stuff and [voice shaking] so two days before I recorded the album, I saw this person — you know, my life partner of the last decade — on the doorstep of [voice shaking] my best friend’s house or somebody pretending, claiming to be a really good friend of mine at 9:00 in the morning.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh no!
Priya Panda: Yeah, it like changed my whole life and I had to go into the studio literally two days later.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, it definitely would. There were actually rumours that Diemonds were about to break up at one point during that time period. Is that true? Is there any semblance of truth to that?
Priya Panda: Ummm. There were massive interpersonal issues with the band at that time. Absolutely. We’ve been a band for a long time and there’s been a lot that we’ve done. There’s been a lot that we have tried to do that just hasn’t, you know, materialized for us and starts… We love doing it and we love playing shows and making albums and meeting our heroes and meeting our fans but it weighs on you when you come home and you’re fucking broke still. Like I have seven jobs when I come home from tour.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow! That is insane.
Priya Panda: It’s tough. It’s fucking insane. Yeah. The whole thing is difficult to maintain all the time. I mean obviously we’ve had [past] members pass away. We’ve had members fuck off. There’s people that have played in our band that I would never want to see their face ever fucking again.
Sleaze Roxx: Really? Wow.
Priya Panda: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Priya Panda: You know, there’s all kind of things that happen over living this lifestyle for like over a decade. Like growing up in it. Becoming a young adult. Becoming from a teenager to a young adult to a full blown adult. We live a completely different lifestyle than like — I don’t know — everyone that I went to high school with. Everyone that is in my family. Everyone you talk to pretty much. It almost feels like — just the way that I know a lot of people who don’t play music would love to be in a band, I know a lot of people who play in bands also, some of the things that they — like years have gone by. Like my grandma turned 90 this year and this is the first time in like eight years, nine years that I’ve been home to have a birthday party with her.
Sleaze Roxx: You definitely sacrifice a lot and it sounds like the band and yourself have been frustrated with some of the journey and now you’re sort of looking back on it. Is that correct?
Priya Panda: Yeah. Definitely reflecting on what we have done and what we might do but as opposed to just go, go, go, go, go, go, go without any sort of like rhyme or reason. I think that has definitely changed for the band.
Sleaze Roxx: So who is in the Diemonds line-up since there have been so many changes and so many things going on?
Priya Panda: Well, the people that play in the band are on the album — [guitarist] C.C. [Diemond], [bassist] Tyrone [Buccione], [drummer] Kyle [Lecourt] and me.
Sleaze Roxx: And what about [guitarist Daniel] Dekay?
Priya Panda: Errr. Dekay didn’t play on the record.
Sleaze Roxx: How come?
Priya Panda: Ummm. [Sigh] That goes back to the massive interpersonal issues that we had on within the band during the recording process. There was a lot going on. Obviously, I have patched things up with Dekay but you know, it was hard there for awhile. I am glad to still have [him as] my friend.
Sleaze Roxx: So is Dekay still in the band or is he out of the band?
Priya Panda: Ummm. Dekay is still in the band.
Sleaze Roxx: So let’s talk about [drummer] Kyle [Lecourt]. You guys didn’t really announce him but I believe that around April of last year, he was behind the drums. How did he end up being the new drummer?
Priya Panda: Well, [former drummer] Aiden [Tranquada] had to kind of step away from the band for personal reasons. I don’t want to talk about like his business but to be honest, that kind of I think ended poorly on our end. It didn’t end in a way where everyone — we didn’t have a proper discussion about it just because…. I mean it’s something that I regret because I think we’ve really hurt…. I feel like I might have hurt Aiden by not having that final conversation with him. That’s a part of the go, go, go mentality that we had you know. It was like, ‘Oh. Well, Aiden can’t make it but Kyle can come.’ You forget that Aiden has like stopped his entire life to do Diemonds for years and years and years and years. And then you know, we’ve had to continue on without him and I think that was hard for him.
Sleaze Roxx: For sure. So let’s talk about something more positive! I understand that you wrote with some new writers for this album.
Priya Panda: Yes!
Sleaze Roxx: Tell me who you wrote with.
Priya Panda: For me, I had the wicked experience of getting to write with one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Michael Woods. I would say because he played guitar in Damone and was a huge part of the songwriting process for that band. And it’s probably one of the bands that I have listened to the most in my entire life. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would — that Diemonds would be the same band that they are, that we have been. So it was a really cool experience to get him to come to Toronto and meet him. I hadn’t even met him before. It was really cool because he’s just the mind behind these songs that are like the soundtrack of my life. Yeah, so we co-wrote three of the songs on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: Which ones?
Priya Panda: “I Miss,” “Shoulda Listened To Ya” and…. There were four. We kind of co-wrote some other ones. Hold on. Let me see. It’s “Waiting For Something,” “Shoulda Listened To Ya,” “I Miss” and I think “How Long” as well.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So how did it come about that you would be writing with him?
Priya Panda: I contacted him about a year before that and then we just ended up touring and touring and touring again. We had some time booked in the studio and I really wanted to kind of have a little bit different sound on some of the songs. And I think that we achieved that absolutely with the songs that we wrote, that I wrote with Michael [Woods].
Sleaze Roxx: So on the last album [‘Never Wanna Die’], some of the lyrics on the album were pretty heavy. What are the lyrics like for this album?
Priya Panda: [Laughs] Well, it’s funny ’cause a lot of the songs were written before I think my life got really heavy again. So a lot of the lyrics are in a period of like reflection and transition. So a lot of them are kind of looking back on you know the last few years, a lot of them about growing up and changing, and you know, kind of evolving. Some of the songs are about staying the same and how hard it is to like change ’cause change is hard. Change is especially hard for me. I am a Taurus and I am stubborn.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Priya Panda: I love things from the past. I find it hard to change whether it’d be in my life, musically, listening to new music, whatever it might be. I think that’s something that I kind of touch upon too — like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Sleaze Roxx: So which ones would be your favourite songs on the new album?
Priya Panda: Ooooohhh. I think “Burn It Down” is one of my faves. Me and C.C. pretty much wrote it ourselves. I remember [pause] that was difficult to sing in the studio.
Sleaze Roxx: Why is that?
Priya Panda: It just brought up a lot for me, memory wise.
Sleaze Roxx: So it’s a very emotional song for you?
Priya Panda: Absolutely. Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: Diemonds have always progressed from one album to the other. You’ve never really stayed with the same sound — at least, that’s what I found. How do you feel that the album has progressed compared to the previous ones?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I think that we definitely have some new songs that — it’s like a lot of the songs — you know, the more we move forward, the more we reference our past ’cause that’s our sound. I think that there are a lot of songs that could belong on ‘Never Wanna Die.’ There’s a couple of songs that you know could have even [been in] ‘The Bad Pack’ era in this weird way but at the same time, I think that we’ve evolved to the point where we have a whole new sound. If I was ever to do my own thing or make my own music, like I kind of see where that’s headed as well. Ummm — which is something that I never considered until I made this record.
Sleaze Roxx: So you’re thinking of maybe going on as a solo performer?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I just want to work. I just want to do that as much music as possible and play as many shows as possible. Get back on the road and yeah, I want to increase my opportunities to do that. As many as I can find, I’ll do. I have always been committed to my band. I created it. It’s my baby but you know, there comes a point in time when you know, you want to spread your wings, try new things, do more.
Sleaze Roxx: If you were to branch out as a solo artist, would you be playing the same type of stuff or different stuff?
Priya Panda: Well, once you hear the record, you can kind of you know hear where my mind is at or has been. So you tell me [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] I am looking forward to hearing it. How long have you been thinking of possibly branching out as a solo artist?
Priya Panda: I think that I have always been really open to opportunities. You know, I was in She Demons for a while there. I have performed other people’s songs. I have collaborated. I just did a song, a duet with Finny on the new [The] Mahones record. You know, I am always down so if the opportunity comes up, I am always open to it. I don’t think that it’s anything new. It might just be time for me. I have a lot to say. I have more to say now than I ever have.
Sleaze Roxx: What ever happened to She Demons? You ladies released a really fun video and then you sort of disappeared. What happened with that?
Priya Panda: Yeah. It was super shitty for us. We invested a lot of time and energy into it. It was a lot of fun. We had the best time. For me, going from Diemonds to being in a band that was associated with The Misfits and taking that kind of next step was a huge deal. It was a lot of fun for me. it was big learning curve and it was a great experience but it was really bad when it ended. We did record an EP and we were hoping that it would have seen the light of day but through that experience, you know I have met some of like my closest friends. Alicia, the bass player, and I are like super tight and I recorded my vocals with Ed Stadium who is a producer and a legend. He did all The Ramones’ records and Living Colour, The Smithereens and all that stuff. You know, he’s like a really good friend of mine. He’s my mentor and it all came about through that project. And that’s the thing, although we didn’t get to — I don’t think we even got a chance to get off the ground with that project and that was a bit of a heartbreaker. Through it, we had a lot of new relationships, a lot of friendships and a lot of experiences and that’s what it comes down with all this. It’s not ‘Do I want to start a new project or don’t want to be in Diemonds? Don’t want to be in She Demons.’ It’s just I want to play music. I want to do more. Right now, I am not satisfied with how much I’ve done. I am not done playing music. Like, I want more.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, that’s fantastic news. For the She Demons EP, is there any chance that it gets released or is it just shelved?
Priya Panda: I wish. That would be awesome ’cause it was really cool. Like Jerry Only [The Misfits bassist and then also lead vocalist] pretty much wrote all of the songs but he didn’t write them with The Misfits in mind. It’s kind of like a little bit of a different twist on like his crazy mind. He’s like a creative genius. He’s awesome so the songs would reflect that. They were really cool and it was fun for me to like do harmonies with a bunch of really talented female vocalists. I had never ever really done that before having been in Diemonds. So it was just a different experience and it was fun. Touring with girls, it was different. It was just 100% different but you know, the more things change, the more they stay the same [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Priya Panda: There were more shows. There were a lot of Diemonds people at the shows ’cause they were coming out to see me and my new project, which was a lot of fun. It was cool because they [other She Demons band members] had their own little following from what they did outside of the band. We’ve all kind of shared a lot of similar friends’ circles and fans’ circles, and that’s been nothing but positive at the end of the day.
Sleaze Roxx: I am still not clear on why She Demons packed it up.
Priya Panda: I am not really sure either entirely.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.
Priya Panda: It wasn’t really… It definitely… I’ll put it this way, I put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears so it definitely wasn’t on my end. I would have loved to see the project continue and I would have loved to tour and continue to make more music and hang out with my friends in the band a lot more than I’ve been able to lately, you know? But it just didn’t turn out that way. Jerry [Only] is quite busy and The Misfits have been quite awesome lately. There is no bad blood or anything with anyone. It was just — I guess — timing and the energies and the universe and [laughs] they all didn’t line up.
Sleaze Roxx: Now correct me if I am wrong but the last time that Diemonds played a gig goes back to October 2017.
Priya Panda: Yes. It was.
Sleaze Roxx: From what I sense from you is that there is some frustration in that because you like to get out there some more. Is that correct?
Priya Panda: Yeah. If we get any cool amazing tours, we will you know be there. So that’s just what it boils down to. If we get the right opportunities, there’s no question that we want those opportunities.
Sleaze Roxx: Diemonds has toured sort of like a headlining act on its own in the past. Is that something that Diemonds are going to do again or now you are looking more into getting an opening slot?
Priya Panda: That’s kind of why it’s been so difficult for us. We’ve built a following on our own in the underground but we just haven’t had as many opportunities to do like full package tours with other bands. And it’s just been fucking limiting. Like it’s been limiting and it all comes down to the business end. We literally had you know a past manager being like, ‘Who the fuck did you guys piss off? We can’t get you a fucking gig.’ We’d be like, ‘What did we do?’ And then I’m like, you don’t want to pull like the whole music business. the race card and the sexism card and all that shit, but after a while, you wonder. I don’t know. You wonder.
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough.
Priya Panda: On top of that, Canada — where is the hard rock? Where are the heavy bands? There are either heavy heavy bands or there is like you know radio rock bands but there’s no like in between. It’s tough. It’s a tough like place to live as a band. You know, we are who we are and we’ve kind of been unwavering about that. Who knows? Maybe that hindered us over the years? But at the end of the day, who gives a shit?
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve had if I look on the back of your album cover picture, Diemonds have had some support from the Canadian government for the album. Can you tell me about that?
Priya Panda: Ummm. Yes. As for [Canada] Factor and the granting system in Canada, they are amazing and they helped us so very much to continue to create music and make music and put out records. It’s been you know nothing but a blessing.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s good. For ‘Never Wanna Die’, Diemonds were associated with Napalm Records and for ‘The Bad Pack’, I think after it was released, it was re-released through Universal / eOne but this time, you’re back on your own. So what happened with those various labels?
Priya Panda: I am really not quite sure. You’d literally have to ask them but I think that we definitely held up our end of the bargain, played lots of shows and did lots of things, and did all the interviews, and did all the press. At the end of the day, it didn’t change anything for us. I think we made like a solid fucking rock record and literally went back to our roots just writing songs ourselves, writing songs with our friends. Calling on our friends to do the artwork and the photography. It’s like back to the basics for this record for us. It’s kind of relieving. It’s hard putting out a record and touring it for two years and being told, ‘Hey! The picture that you guys put on the back of the album makes you look like you’re a thrash heavy, thrash band but you guys like basically play hard rock with pop and punk and metal elements.’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah.’
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Priya Panda: We dress how we dress and we are who we are. If you didn’t like the picture, why the fuck did you let us print it on the album? Why are we talking about it two and a half years later?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah.
Priya Panda: These are the types of detail that were you know presented to us. Fuck that shit.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, that’s pretty frustrating. In terms of the new album, it’s coming out on August 10th and it’s fantastic news that you’ll have a limited run for the CD. What are your future plans after that?
Priya Panda: Well, we are doing a music video for our lead single, which is “Our Song.”
[Interviewer’s note: You can purchase Diemonds’ new single “Our Song” at cdbaby.com.]
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Priya Panda: Some radio stations have picked it up and are playing it, which is amazing. It’s cool ’cause we are now an independent band and we could use all the support that we can get. We know that our fans always got our backs so it doesn’t really matter who else have our backs, as long as they are always there for us too.
Sleaze Roxx: Last year, you did your first tour of Europe and you played the infamous Hair Metal Heaven Festival [in Hull, UK].
Priya Panda: Ah yes [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] There were rumours that some of the bands did not get paid during that festival. Was Diemonds one of them?
Priya Panda: No. We definitely got our end of the bargain held up but I mean, we’ve had a lot of different experiences over the years so we can take care of our shit [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Priya Panda: You know, that’s just the bottom line. But yeah, for us as a concert goer, or as a festival goer — I am not sure necessarily what their experiences might have been. I know that there were some gaps in between performances and what not but if you live in the UK and you want to see Vain and Spread Eagle and you know, Danger Danger and Sebastian Bach, and all this shit in what place — fuck, who cares if you have to wait around a couple of minutes. You know, whatever. This is like a pretty amazing experience. The performances were a lot of fun. For me, getting to watch Vain with my band was like — that’s like a life goal for me ’cause that’s our band. We fucking love Vain! We got to play with them. It was crazy for us ’cause we lost our gear and it didn’t show up until two hours before we were supposed to hit the stage. And it wouldn’t have made it. That’s because we got postponed because a band cancelled that was supposed to play at 3:00 pm so we took their slot. We were supposed to play at Noon and we got bumped so our gear arrived in time. Other than that, Vain was going to lend us their gear and pedals and stuff, and we were like dorking out. ‘Holy shit! Vain is going to lend us their gear. What is the world come to?’
Sleaze Roxx: That’s really cool of them.
Priya Panda: It’s that kind of shit. It’s cool to hang out with [them]. It’s like, ‘Holy shit! George Lynch is like one foot away from me.’ This is cool you know?
Diemonds performing “Get The Fuck Outta Here” at Hair Metal Heaven Festival in Hull, UK on August 27, 2017:
Diemonds – Get The Fuck Outta Here, Hair Metal Heaven, Hull 27th Aug 2017
Canada’s Diemonds at the Hair Metal Heaven Festival in Hull august 2017
Sleaze Roxx: Well, it was definitely a mind blowing line-up for that festival. So how did the rest of the tour go?
Priya Panda: The tour was interesting. It was our first time touring Europe so the shows were awesome. The people were fucking amazing that we met. There were a lot of people that had been following us literally since ‘In The Rough’ [debut EP released back in 2008] which to us is mind blowing. They wanted to hear songs that we haven’t played since the inception of our band [laughs]. To them, it was their first opportunity to see us. It’s crazy because during ‘In The Rough’, I remember getting a lot of international press for that — our first EP. We thought that maybe we’d be going over shortly thereafter. It was literally [laughs] nine more years after that to get there.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah.
Priya Panda: That’s the thing about everything. It was like a great tour. You know, you never anticipate anything taking as long as it does.
Diemonds performing new song “Breathe” (on upcoming new album Diemonds) at The Underworld in Camden, UK on September 2, 2017:
Diemonds – ‘Breathe’ live at The Underworld, Camden 02/09/17 1080p HD
Diemonds – ‘Breathe’ live at The Underworld, Camden 02/09/17 1080p HD
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. So do you have anything else that you’d like to add?
Priya Panda: Ummm. I think that we covered most of the bases there.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, thank you so much for doing the interview and being so candid.