Exclusive Interview: Priya Panda From Diemonds

Rock Confidential premieres the band's new video, "Our Song"

Priya Panda Diemonds Interview

Toronto hard rockers Diemonds shocked fans on social media this past July by suddenly announcing the release of their self-titled third full-length album. Within hours of being available, all limited edition vinyl pre-orders were sold out. When the CDs were available for pre-order, they also sold out quickly.

Diemonds was officially released on August 10 and the band was thrilled to finally deliver new music. “We are so proud and excited that our self-titled album is out now. So much blood, sweat, and Diemonds went into making this happen and we can’t wait to let it connect with die-hards worldwide. If you dig rock n’ roll, here’s our latest contribution to your music library. Thanks for being with us all these years!”

Rock Confidential has partnered with Diemonds to premiere their new video, “Our Song.”

Speaking exclusively to Rock Confidential, vocalist Priya Panda comments about the video: “It was a lot of fun. This time we got a new director named Skye Sweetnam. She plays in a really cool band from here called Sumo Cyco. I wanted to work with a female and get an empowering vibe for this project. Skye is so creative and she works really hard. I loved working with her and love how it turned out.”

We had the opportunity to speak with Priya about the struggles and triumphs in releasing the new album, the missteps of the band’s previous record label, and what she feels is the biggest blessing by being a member of Diemonds.

It was a complete surprise to see a new Diemonds record come up out of nowhere.

It probably did for the fans and anyone that follows us on social media. For us, it was a long time coming. We hadn’t release a record since 2015 and we knew it was something we wanted to do. We were also looking at our watches asking, “When are we going to release a new record?” It came down to the fact that we spent a lot of time on the road touring for Never Wanna Die. Every time we’d decide to carve out a little time to head into the studio, we couldn’t find the right block of time to work with the team we wanted to work with. To be honest, we were also having musical direction discussions that made it very difficult for us to come to a conclusion about what songs we wanted to put on the record.

To see a new logo on a self-titled record makes complete sense when you really listen to the songs. It makes you anticipate something different from the band and you really delivered.

The album art and being self-titled lends itself better to the songs this time around. A lot of the songs that made it onto the album were written just a few weeks before it was set to be recorded. C.C. (Diemond) had brought a lot of songs to the table over the last few years. I think we were just all on different pages musically. C.C. was listening to a lot of new music and a lot of modern bands that honestly weren’t on my radar. (Daniel) Dekay, our other guitar player – the three of us are like the core and the longest standing members of the band. We just weren’t seeing eye to eye on a lot of the tunes C.C. was bringing to the table. That’s tough for him because he is the band’s primary songwriter. He brings in a lot of riffs and he and I work on the melodies and lyrics. He was working on those with a producer in Toronto that we work with a lot. His name is Dajaun Martineau. He is a really talented, young producer that’s really hungry. He and C.C. were listening to a lot of new music together and coming up with these ideas that sounded really modern and were really heavy in a way that I don’t gel with. Dekay felt the same way. We did a lot of demoing and a lot of vocals. We would re-write entire melodies and entire lyrics and try again. Those songs didn’t make the cut in the end.

Priya Panda Diemonds Interview

It sounds like it was quite the process for you guys.

Oh yeah. It was almost the album that didn’t get made. In the end I think it’s our best album and I’m super glad we did it. A lot has changed. The band is completely independent now. I would like to put out there that I feel like our label didn’t wait for us to put out the best album of our career. They gave up on us. We have a lot more in us. No harm, no foul. It was a learning experience for us. That took us away from all the stuff we were so used to doing as a band: communicating with our fans, setting up our own tour dates, updating our website and social media, obtaining our own press, and doing all the stuff we were used to doing. It was just ripped away from us and that was the foundation of our band. It came at a strange time. We were all emotionally raw and we needed help. A lot of our band members passed away before we recorded Never Wanna Die and we were struggling with that. It was amazing to have a team behind us, but we lost sight of all the things we really enjoyed. We’re a very visual, hands-on band and we kinda lost control of all those things.

With this record you created a limited vinyl-only release that sold out within hours.

Yeah, it sold out within 12 hours for the vinyl. That was so cool for us. We got to see it all happen and it was really fun to see all the places people were ordering from. We never really had that experience before. The last time we put out our own record I don’t think we could have sold out. The Bad Pack was released in 2010 and I don’t think we could have sold 100 vinyl copies in 12 hours. We’ve built up our die-hard fans by touring a lot and staying in touch with them. It’s an accomplishment. Maybe a small one, but it’s big for us.

Anyone that follows you on Twitter knows that you’re a huge fan of music memorabilia and pop culture. To see that passion come across in things you do with Diemonds is very cool.

You hit it right on the head. Vinyl collecting, toy collecting, I have so many guitar picks and set lists. I’m a fan. Like everyone else I travel for shows. I plan vacations around a music festival in some random city. I relate to all of that. I want to bottle up the experiences I’ve had and give it right back to people. Those experiences were so meaningful to me – and they still are. Over the years it’s gone from driving overnight and lining up at 6AM to get to the front of the stage and then driving to other towns to watch the same band four times in a row, to now being able to go backstage. That’s insane to me. If that’s the one positive thing that comes out of doing Diemonds, that in itself is great. When rock stars follow you on Instagram, it’s cool. It feels pretty rad.

Priya Panda from Diemonds interview

When I was in high school, all of my friends were listing to Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I was the odd man out. I had long hair and listened to Ratt, Motley Crue, Poison, and all the great 80s rock bands. That’s some of your favorite music too, right?

Absolutely. When you were in high school that was old school music, almost a generation behind. For me it was like many generations behind! I was like a total freak. I was insanely shy and had like one or two friends. I was obsessed with my bands and going to shows – like I am now. I’m still a big kid. I was in that mode when my sister started using Napster. I remember going into her room and typing in “hair metal” in Napster. The two songs that popped up were “Way Cool Jr.” by Ratt and Pretty Boy Floyd “Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz.” Those were the first two non-radio kinda songs that I heard of that genre. Ratt to this day is still in the Top 5 of that world for me. They’re all really Number One to me when I like them. I’ve said many times that Ratt is my favorite band and they are. I’ve spent so much time listening to them. They’ve been the soundtrack to so many good times in my life. From typing “hair metal” into Napster to now calling Stephen Pearcy a friend, how did I get from point A to point B? It’s crazy.

Has your idea of what you want to accomplish with Diemonds changed?

Totally. What I had in mind for the band when we were signed… I was totally blindsided by a lot of things that weren’t really all that important. I felt like we had worked so hard to get to that point that I didn’t want to fuck it up. When you think about things too much that’s exactly what you do – you fuck it up. I don’t think the last album cycle was very healthy for us as a band. I joined another band and I was touring a lot with them. That took me away from Diemonds at a very crucial time in our career. I wasn’t even in the country when the record dropped. We didn’t go on an immediate tour. There was a lot of weird energy going around because the record was so therapeutic for us. We literally were so sad because of the loss of our friends. I don’t even know how to describe it. It was overwhelming. Over Christmas for two years in a row we lost our two closest friends. Alan (Richards) used to be our drummer and played on In The Rough and then went on to play guitar on The Bad Pack. Then we lost Paul Mancuso who was our bassist on The Bad Pack and did a lot of touring with us, including in India. Then, when we were maybe coming to terms with the loss of those really close friends – who happened to be C.C.’s childhood friends that he’s known since he was 12 years old – we lost Vassil (Mester), who was our first drummer ever, to an accidental overdose. It was so jarring for us. We didn’t really want to go on tour right then and there. It was hard to even go into the studio. We’d never recorded without Alan. C.C. had never stepped into a studio without Alan being there. It was extra hard for him. It was so hard to get over and that’s why we named our album Never Wanna Die.

What’s your goal for this record?

The plan for this album is we want people to hear the music, first and foremost. On the last record it was “Let’s go tour, let’s go tour.” It worked out but sometimes it’s better to wait for the right opportunity, especially when you’ve been in a band as long as we have. It’s been 13 years this year if you really count from the inception of the band. There’s an enormous amount of expectation and pressure, especially when you have a bunch of musicians who are your closest friends in the world. The opportunities should be ever flowing because they put a lot on the line for the band. We expect everyone to be available at the drop of a hat, when the reality is the band doesn’t pay any of our bills. The band is for the art and the music and the touring and having an outlet to play. It’s far from a career and we wish it was. All of us have obligations at home. It sucks to say that but I’m not 18 anymore. Nobody is. It takes a lot of time to get to where we are now. We toured Europe last year for the first time. It took us 10 years to get there and that was one of the first things we wanted to do. Everything takes a lot longer than you think it’s going to. That’s for sure.

Is it therapeutic for you to be in Diemonds?

Yes. It’s been the cause and solution to all of my life’s problems. There’s been so many relationships and friendships I’ve built being in the band. Because I’m in the band, a lot of those relationships have been strained. The ups and downs are so crazy. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the entire world. Every time I come home from touring my parents look a little bit older. You all of a sudden realize that you haven’t been home in four months. It gets me thinking. It’s definitely my therapy, being able to communicate some of my innermost feelings. I’m lucky to have that outlet.

It sounds like with those experiences that you could be writing more personal songs that aren’t necessarily meant for Diemonds.

Yeah, I’m definitely doing that. Especially since the album came out. Actually, while we were recording it. I love being in the studio and I love creating music, but this time was by far the most difficult. It was hard for me to go to the studio. I was in a relationship for 10 years. It came to an end. Two days before I was supposed to record vocals I see my ex-boyfriend on my friend’s doorstep at 8:30 in the morning. It basically created a tone of my emotion on the entire album. I’m still getting over all of that. It will be easier for me to get over that once I put it down on tape. That’s the way I deal with my shit. I let it build up for a couple of years until I can’t take it anymore and then I spew it all out. That’s another gift that comes with being in Diemonds. I am lucky enough to have an audience that would hopefully be interested in me releasing music forever. Having someone that wants to hear my music is a blessing. This year and putting out that album has been a lot of positive feelings after a pretty negative year.

Diemonds is available now.

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