Welcome to the first of what we hope to be many editions of our new LANEWAY HANGS interview series. Over the course of the ongoing series we'll be hanging out with past and present Laneway artists to chat about life and what's keeping them busy. We'll also get some hang time with artist managers, agents and key people from Laneway to get insights about what makes the world's biggest small festival tick.
Kicking things off in round one are PARQUET COURTS.
We had a chance to chat with the Brooklyn boys last month about a wide range of topics and even though they were a little jet-lagged -- according to them, they visited four continents in an eight day span -- the band still gamely answered questions about their new record Sunbathing Animal (definitely one of our favourites of 2014), the rigours of constantly being on the road and the idea of DIY ethics.
Listen to the interview here and/or read the transcript underneath:
Let’s start by talking about the lyrics on Sunbathing Animal. They seem pretty claustrophobic to me, as a start. What inspired the lyrics, on the record?
Andrew Savage (Vocals, Guitar): There’s some claustrophobia there, but that’s really only half the story because the story for the lyrics deals with the duality of imprisonement and confinement. There’s also a bit on liberation and freedom, and it’s like a theme we kinda noticed happening with the lyrics when we were writing the record. The story wrote itself, and it became apparent and even went beyond the lyrics where it’s the first time that a theme to lyrics have gone beyond the lyrics and into the songwriting structure itself.
For instance, on 'Duckin’ and Dodgin' and Sunbathing Animal, the confinement side is represented by the rhythm section, which is really cyclical as confinement is. And then, on the reverse side, the guitar solos and the lyrics, and the way there’s so many words used. Those many words couldn’t normally fit in a regular song, but when’s something’s so easy and flat you can do more with it. That also represents the freedom side of it, and at core, that’s what all the songs are about.
If you don’t mind saying, was there anything that happened that put imprisonement on your mind?
AS: Max and I have a close family member that has done time in jail and that’s been on my mind since that happened. But also, on a less literal sense, just the day to day of a routine. I’m pretty open to almost any interpretation of it because it’s supposed to be broad and easily relatable. I mean, I feel you could relate it to any sort of thing really that you feel is an ambiguous force against you.
Do you ever write songs with having a broad meaning in mind? Is it a goal not to be too literal with your lyrics?
AS: Well, yes and no. I can be very literal personally, but it’s a goal that things don’t get too literal in the interpretation. For me, part of art is the process and the process is the understanding. That unspoken thing that happens between artist and audience is so important to me, and I feel that’s the true final product. I want people to be able to apply things to their lives and not have it be applied to just my life on these songs.
Max, on this record, I think the drumming style suits the songs based on the minimalist style you use. Why did you decide to employ that style?
Max Savage (Drums): I knew I wanted to have a minimalist style because a lot of the drummer’s I like use that style. I’ve never liked stuff with double kick and twenty cymbals, and I know that’s not my thing. I think we all started getting really creative, and the guitar work started getting more sophisticated, and I realised it was the job of me to really hold it down.
You’ve toured so much throughout this record. How do you continue to play great shows when you’ve played forty shows in fifty nights?
MS: I just move around a lot more. I’ve noticed I used to be pretty stiff when I played, and it’s not really fun like that. So now I move my head a lot and it makes it easier when we stick to the same set every night.
AS: When you tour, it’s also like a cycle in that your day is so routine and you’re experiencing the same thing every day so your one thing to live for is that hour that you have to do that. So it’s really gotta be your favourite part of the day.
Sunbathing Animal came out pretty quickly after Light Up Gold. Are there any plans for a follow up? Does Parquet Courts want to be the type of band that just keeps releasing records at such a fast rate?
AS: One of my favourite things about the band is how active it is and how many opportunities we get. So to be entirely honest, I have been thinking about it. I know there should be at least one more record this year. We like to keep as busy as possible and we’re figuring out how to keep staying busy with the way people’s lives are changing.
You’ve been playing the Light Up Gold songs for almost three years now. Are you a little sick of them yet?
AS: Not really. I think we’ve found different ways to apply them. The song 'Light Up Gold' to me feels like an anthem for the band. There’s ones from that album we don’t play anymore, ones we’ve never played. You learn what songs work and what songs don’t.
We were discussing Total Control before. Can you ever imagine Parquet Courts becoming like them, and essentially being a studio only project?
MS: I love touring so much that I wouldn’t really like that at all.
Sean Yeaton (Bass): The conversations about that have been about ways to make sure we tour pretty much as much as possible, given that I’m having a baby in September and Max has to finish school. It tends to be that we talk more about how we can consistently make the band have a live presence. With the amount of touring we’ve done, I think we can feasibly find a position where we won’t play as many shows all the time, but I can’t see us ever stopping touring.
AS: The way we live our lives is really fitting for what we do, in that we tour for a while and then have at least that amount of time off to work on something new. Three months seems like a long time to be away from home but when you’re at home with just the purpose of thinking what to do next, it’s kind of a trade-off.
Is it ever hard to reconcile the DIY ethics of the band with playing major festivals?
AS: We can’t really call ourselves a true DIY band in the sense of the word anymore. I like what our friends in Protomartyr said- ‘We’re a Do-It-Yourself-Unless-Someone-Can-Do-It-Better-Band’. In many ways, we are still DIY in that we’re involved in the artwork and the booking but there’s a lot of things that people are just better at us than doing for us.
SY: That said, coming from a DIY background I think allows us to have more control over how we interact with people. We’re not DIY in the strictest sense, but…
The ethos still drives the band though?
AS: That’s how I learned about music was through that scene. That’s how I learnt how to book a tour, how to put out a record. It’s the way that I experience music. This kind of style, with a booking agent and such, is still pretty new to me. However, I do realise that with a band like Parquet Courts, I just can’t do all that stuff anymore.
You mentioned Protomartyr before, and Andrew, you told me today you see them as sharing a lot of commonalities with you guys.
AS: They’re brothers in arms, that’s for sure. It would be nice if we were judged by the weight of our peers rather than the music industry’s preoccupation with the era that immediately precedes it. Bands like ours are expected to live up the era that immediately preceded it when really you should just live up to your own era. There’s a lot of great bands that we share solidarities with that are doing stuff now, a lot of bands that come from DIY backgrounds like we do. We’re not alone in this, and I’d rather be put in the world of what’s happening now than the world of what happened then. I think Protomartyr are a good example of what’s happening now.
Sean, you and I spoke about hardcore before this interview. Do you think Parquet Courts would be the same band without an abiding love for hardcore?
AS: Absolutely not. Max too, his first band covered Limp Wrist and Gorilla Biscuits.
MS: Gorilla Biscuits’s Start Today was my first record.
What was the band called, Max?
MS: God…we went through so many names. TV Dads, I think?
SY: I feel that it’s the best avenue to travel down and really honoured and privileged to come from the hardcore scene. I think it gives you a certain level of appreciation when you know you can book your own tours and put out your own records and do things yourself. I guess it just made me feel less beholden to people.
It’s just like saying ‘Why should we care about a booking agent when we can do this better?’
AS: That’s even how Sean and I met. He played my house with his old band, on the house show circuit in 2007.
SY: And so many of those relationships, Andrew obviously being the most notable, are now some of my closest friends and people I wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for growing up in that scene. I still look up so much to the people that helped rear me in that scene, and for me I still want to make the ‘elders’ of that community proud in a way. I just think, for all that we’ve done that seems so obviously outside the realm of the community, people that we look up to still see how we’ve gotten to where we are now as something that happened on our own terms.
AS: You build your own world. You make that aware to people and we definitely know that we have control over this.
I think it also defines the essentially genre less nature of punk.
SY: For me, it’s less of a genre and more of a way of rules to live or a set of ideals to base your life on. It’s still something I feel I apply to the way we do our band and the way I live my life personally. It’s just an inescapable way of how we grew up. I see it as being like a boy scout- Instead of learning how to make a fire, you learn how to put on a show.
AS: I read a quote from Merchandise recently that said ‘We’re transitioning into being a pop band’. I think that’s cool because it doesn’t have the existential dread that a lot of punk has towards pop. It was nice for me that they don’t have this judgemental view of pop and understand the underlying influence of it all. Hardcore kids love David Bowie too, you know?