India’s top DJ duo Prayag Mehta & Rishab Joshi of Lost Stories on leaving a global imprint. Recently releasing two songs during a pandemic and being selected for the prestigious Youtube Foundry program, Prayag Mehta & Rishab Joshi share their 12-year journey of putting Indian music art on the world map.
Music producer and DJ duo Prayag Mehta and Rishab Joshi have crafted for themselves the coveted recipe for success. That is talent, luck, and hard work. What was an unplanned pairing of enjoying what they do has turned out to be a journey that is consistently creating a deep imprint on the Indian and international music circuit.
“We never sat down to decide that we wanted to do music full-time. We were out there, having fun making music, attending our favourite DJ shows. We started playing shows and making music full-time, and it just happened,” says 32-year-old Mehta of forming Lost Stories back in 2008. His counterpart Joshi is 29 years old, and together they have been the first Indian artists to play at Tomorrowland—including sets at Tiesto’s Musical Freedom stage. They’ve also performed at several other top music festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Global Citizen Festival, Mysteryland, and New Horizons Festival.
While the list of their accolades is long, bagging rank 52 on DJ Mag’s list of Top 100 DJs in the world is up there. Best known for artfully amalgamating Indian folk sounds with electronic music, they released two songs in lockdown, collaborating with renowned artists. ‘Mai Ni Meriye’ featuring Jonita Gandhi, Ashwin Adwani and ‘Noor’ featuring Zaeden and Akanksha Bhandari have already garnered rave reviews, and to top that they’ve been selected for the Youtube Foundry program this year. The only Indians to do so, they’re joining the alumnus made up of Dua Lipa, Cavetown, Mahalia, who too were helped in developing their careers.
With a full mantle, Mehta and Joshi are all about giving it back. Hence, they started their music academy to help fresh talent hone their skills. And as they share all about it and their journey, Mehta sums it up, “We have heavily changed our sound over the years but also crafted it in a way that no one can pigeonhole our sound. Our team is growing, the seats on the planes are bigger, and the hotel beds are softer.”
What was the genesis behind ‘Mai Ni Meriye’ and ‘Noor’?
Joshi: Both ‘Mai Ni Meriye’ and ‘Noor’ were supposed to be a part of a Lost Stories EP, which we wanted to put out in 2019 but we couldn’t. The initial few versions of ‘Mai Ni Meriye’ were pretty aggressive sounding as they were meant for live shows, but since the lockdown, we’ve been turning things down a notch and focusing on making the sound more calm and relaxing. The story behind ‘Noor’ is quite simple; we made it back in 2019 with Akanksha Bhandari and Zaeden’s vocals. It had been on our hard drive for the longest time, and we finally decided to put it out with a fun animated video.
Mehta: There’s no particular structure on typically how a track works out, but after the initial idea is ready, we start throwing ideas at the wall regarding the concept, the collaborators, and the marketing and see what sticks, then go ahead with it.
How do you choose which song to remix?
Mehta: Most of the time, it’s the original artist that approaches us.
What goes into remixing a song?
Joshi: Once we get the parts of the original song, we try to strip away everything that’s not needed and try to work with only the main vocals. We try to think of the remix as a brand new track from scratch. At the back of our heads, we are always trying to make it sound better than the original.
How does it feel to be a part of Foundry? How will it add to your careers?
Joshi: We had heard of the Foundry program at various music conferences we attended. We were aware of all the big artists that were a part of the program, so we’re really happy to be a part of it this year.
Mehta: To be a part of YouTube’s Foundry program is an exceptional feeling. We are proud of our Indian roots and are ecstatic to learn new strategies and ways to add contextual elements to our content. We have always believed in quality over quantity and Foundry will help us strategise our releases to reach audiences around the globe, and our efforts to take India to the world will gain momentum. With Foundry’s support, we hope to create a mood for our content and add our story’s contextual elements to our YouTube content.
With the pandemic putting a pause on music festivals, how is the industry impacted?
Joshi: The Tomorrowland live stream is a brilliant example of how the brightest minds are working on an alternative for live shows, so there’s still hope. COVID-19 has been a dampener on so many plans. We had more than 15 shows (per month) that were confirmed but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. That was a huge loss in terms of monetary value, however, the pandemic has proved to be a boon in disguise when it comes to our creativity.
Mehta: As performing artists, we are enjoying this time at home while honing our music production skills. We hope that everyone stays home and stays safe while we work hard to present our community with fresh music and experiences.
What have been the most significant changes in the independent music landscape according to you?
Mehta: Independent artists have many more opportunities now. With the sheer number of streaming platforms, social media outlets, and awareness of audiences, independent artists can release their music in their way. They have the opportunity to connect with their audiences through social media and create a loyal fan base. They have the freedom of choosing the artworks, release dates, marketing strategies, visual content to their liking. It enables them to have a cohesive story built around the track.
Joshi: We have released a lot of our music as independent artists as well as with labels. While the labels have helped us cement our position in the industry and offered support in growing our discography, releasing music independently has helped us in our creative process by manifolds as it offers complete freedom in terms of the sound, visuals, artwork, and even the release date. As independent artists, we believe the process is faster to release music and gain first-hand feedback from our direct audience. With the speed with which the trends in the entertainment industry are evolving, we believe that being an independent artist will provide more opportunities and exposure to budding artists in the future.
What prompted you to start the academy, and what’s your vision for it?
Joshi: Growing up, we struggled to find a one-stop-shop for learning to produce music, being around like-minded people, and instant feedback for our work. We had decided early on in our career that we will set something up for people like us who were looking to explore the world of producing music and performing it. For the first few years of our career, we couldn’t find time between making music and touring the world, but we finally set it up in a small garage in Mumbai. Now, we have a full-blown academy with some of the brightest student minds gradually working their way up to become some of the best music producers in India.
Mehta: We started with just 20 students, and now we have more than 100 enrolled students and many more who have come one step close to living their musical dreams. We have recently launched our online education curriculum, which will help aspiring producers to learn the craft from their homes. Our aim here is to make music education accessible enough for anyone and everyone who wants to take up production without any hindrances.
Both: More releases, a Q&A series to address all the questions we get, music videos, and much more!